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Amazon shareholders face two big risks from Jeff Bezos’ divorce

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For the last 25 years, Jeff Bezos has been the steady hand on the tiller for Amazon, guiding the company through both rough patches and calm seas to ever-richer ports of call.

Now his personal life threatens to rock the company’s boat.

Bezos announced Wednesday that he and his wife, MacKenzie, are getting a divorce. Investors will likely be watching closely to see how the dissolution of his marriage affects Bezos’ running of the company and his stock holdings in it, said Mark Harrison, an advisor with consultancy Marcum, who has served as an expert witness in numerous financial disputes.

“Investors care mostly about uncertainty,” he said. He continued: “The market will look for signs of emotional upheaval between the two of them.”

For now, investors seem to be taking the news of the divorce in stride. Amazon’s shares closed Thursday down well less than 1%, and the company retained its title as the world’s most valuable corporation. But things could change if the proceedings become protracted or start to get ugly, Harrison said.

That may already be starting. In a statement on Twitter announcing their plans to divorce, Bezos and his wife portrayed it as a friendly parting. But subsequent reports in the National Enquirer and the New York Post that Bezos was carrying on an affair before he and his wife officially separated threatened to sully that narrative.

The Bezoses’ divorce has two big risks for shareholders

The risk of the Bezoses’ breakup to Amazon and its shareholders is two-fold.

As the company’s founder and sole CEO since its launch, Bezos is widely seen as the driving force behind the tech giant, which dominates the e-commerce market, has become the leading player in the cloud-computing industry, and has become the number-3 player in digital advertising behind Google and Facebook. Many investors likely consider him to be critical to the company’s continued success, and may rightly worry that Amazon’s business could suffer if Bezos is distracted by the divorce.

Discussing the potential danger, Harrison paraphrased hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones’ feelings on the topic.

Since the Bezoses announced their divorce, the National Enquirer has reported Bezos has been carrying on an affair with former television anchor Lauren Sanchez.
Stefanie Keenan/WireImage

A person going through a divorce is “worthless to him, because they’re completely unfocused,” Harrison said.

But the other danger comes from Bezos’ vast holdings of Amazon stock. He owns about 79 million shares, or about 16% of the company. That stake, worth about $131 billion, represents about 95% of his total wealth.

Washington state, where Amazon is headquartered and the Bezoses have long made their primary residence, will likely be where they end up filing for divorce. The state’s community property laws don’t mandate that MacKenzie will get a 50% cut of his Amazon stake in the divorce, but they likely will result in her getting ownership of a sizable portion of it, potentially up to half, legal experts said.

Read more:Jeff Bezos’ divorce could soon make MacKenzie Bezos one of Amazon’s biggest shareholders

The concern for investors is what kind of control she will have over the shares she gets, how they get transferred to her, and what she does with them.

“Investors are going to be spooked if any member of the family starts selling significant amounts of stock,” Harrison said.

The divorce won’t cause a change of control at Amazon

Amazon representatives did not respond to emails seeking comment about the Bezoses’ divorce. Representatives for Vanguard and BlackRock, the two largest Amazon shareholders after Bezos, declined to comment on the divorce proceedings or their impact on shareholders.

Unlike Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Bezos does not have a controlling stake in his company.
REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

One thing that’s not a concern in the Bezos divorce is how it will affect control of the company. Other tech CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet’s Larry Page, hold shares that give them or a small cohort of insiders control over their companies because they come with super-sized voting rights.

But Bezos holds the same kind of shares as everyday Amazon investors. Although he’s Amazon’s largest shareholder, its CEO, and its chairman, he doesn’t have unchecked sway over it. So, no matter how many shares MacKenzie ends up with, or how her holdings are structured, it won’t affect the balance of power at the company.

“I am very happy that Amazon has a one share, one vote structure,” said Rosemary Lally, an editor at the Council of Institutional Investors, which advocates for stronger corporate governance and shareholder rights, in an email. “If McKenzie [sic] Bezos does become a major shareholder and tries to do something that other Amazon shareholders oppose, they can [hold] her accountable.”

Legal experts expect them to keep shareholders in mind

To be sure, Harrison, who has worked on divorce cases among other affluent couples, and other legal experts expect the Bezoses to be very aware of investors’ potential worries and to do whatever they can to alleviate them. Because so much of their wealth is tied up in Amazon’s stock, it’s in the best interests of both of them to do so.

“I think you’re going to find that both parties here want to get the investor world comfortable that nothing’s going on,” Harrison said.

Indeed, he and some other legal experts expect the divorce process to go relatively smoothly, not just because it’s in both sides’ interest, but because the amount of wealth they have is so immense. In some divorces, even among wealthy individuals, one side or the other stands to be materially hurt by the division of their assets, particularly if most of their wealth is in their homes, said Ira Garr, a family-law attorney in New York who represented Rupert Murdoch and Ivana Trump in their respective divorce cases. Such cases can be particularly rancorous, just because of that.

But that’s just not applicable with the Bezoses.

“When you’re talking about numbers this vast, no matter what you get, you’re set for the rest of your life,” Garr said. In that respect, he continued, “cases like that are easier to settle.”

The two will likely structure their divorce settlement so that they don’t have to sell shares all at once and depress the market, legal experts said. Instead, they’re likely to put provisions in place that limit MacKenzie’s ability to sell stock — and perhaps even allow Jeff Bezos to retain control over the voting rights of her shares, Harrison said.

Indeed, Brian Weiser, a financial analyst who covers Amazon for Pivotal Research Group, doesn’t think investors have anything to worry about when it concerns Bezos’ divorce.

“I’m not aware of any reason why anyone should assume there’s any meaningful risk of any meaningful problem,” he said.

But emotions can sometimes get in the way

Much of this assumes that the Bezoses will act rationally and will be able to set their emotions aside. But many divorces don’t work out that way. And if Bezos or MacKenzie starts acting out of emotion rather than rationality, all bets may be off in terms of the ease of the divorce, his state of mind in running Amazon, and what happens to his shares.

“When [a divorce] gets salacious and a little crazy … all kinds of bad things can happen,” Harrison said.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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