TokyoTokyo Mon - Fri 10:00-18:00 +81 (368) 662-975
info@mountequitygroup.com

Blog

Apollo co-founder Josh Harris to step down, will remain on board

Private equity firm Apollo announced Thursday that co-founder Josh Harris will step down from his day-to-day role at the company, but keep his seat on the board of directors. 

Harris is expected to fully step down upon completion of the firm’s deal to buy insurance company Athene, likely to close in the first quarter of 2022, Apollo said.

“After nearly 31 years at Apollo, it is time for me to start the next chapter of my career, where I will focus full-time on the platforms I’ve created outside of the firm as well as deepen my commitment to philanthropy and social impact,” Harris said in a statement.

Harris will focus on growing his family’s foundation and building Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the sports and entertainment company he founded in 2017 with David Blitzer of private equity firm Blackstone.

Camden, New Jersey-based HBSE owns the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Devils and other sports and entertainment assets. 

The announcement of Harris’ departure comes after Harris was passed over to succeed fellow Apollo co-founder and former CEO Leon Black, who left the firm in March, relinquishing his title as chairman, amid scrutiny over his ties to pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Josh Harris is a co-owner of the New Jersey Devils and managing partner of the Philadelphia 76ers.Getty Images

Marc Rowan, the firm’s third co-founder, was named Black’s successor in January.

“Josh has been an amazing partner and it has been my privilege to work side by side with him for nearly 35 years as we helped build the firm into a leading financial services company,” Rowan said in a statement. “I am fortunate to be leading a business with an incredibly strong management team which Josh had a significant role in helping develop.”

Harris’ departure has been speculated on ever since Rowan’s appointment was announced. Earlier this month, Harris was absent from the firm’s first-quarter earnings call, spurring a question from an analyst. 

Marc Rowan was picked to succeed Leon Black as CEO over Josh Harris.REUTERS

In response, Rowan called Harris “an active and productive and senior member of the Apollo team.”

And the same day, The Post reported that Harris was buying a $32 million mansion in Miami in an off-market deal. While Apollo and other financial companies are opening offices in South Florida, sources told The Post at the time that the purchase was a sign that Harris was already on his way out at Apollo.

Harris “will be out in six months,” an Apollo insider told The Post.

Bitcoin briefly tops $40,000 as it struggles to recover from brutal sell-off

A customer uses a bitcoin automated teller machine (ATM) in a kiosk Barcelona, Spain, on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.Angel Garcia | Bloomberg | Getty ImagesBitcoin fluctuated between gains and losses Thursday, as the world’s largest cryptocurrency struggled to recover from a major sell-off during the previous session.The digital currency initially climbed Thursday morning, trading as high as $40,700 at one point, before slipping down as low as $38,965, according to data from Coin Metrics. It was last up 2.6% at a price of $39,980.Some of bitcoin’s younger alternatives also attempted a comeback Thursday, with ether up 2.2% at $2,676 and litecoin rising 3% to $209.It comes after a brutal plunge for cryptocurrency markets. On Wednesday, bitcoin dived 30% to nearly $30,000 at one point, before paring some of those losses later in the session. The entire crypto market lost hundreds of billions of dollars of value in a single day.The move lower was likely driven by mixed signals from Tesla CEO Elon Musk — who came out as a believer in bitcoin earlier this year — and a regulatory clampdown on the market in China.On May 12, Musk said his electric car firm had suspended vehicle purchases with bitcoin due to environmental concerns over the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin uses more energy than entire countries like Argentina and Ukraine, according to Cambridge University researchers. This is due the energy-intensive “mining” process which releases new bitcoins into circulation.Earlier this week, Musk suggested Tesla may have sold his bitcoin holdings, only to later clarify that the firm had “not sold any bitcoin.” On Wednesday, he tweeted the “diamond hands” emoji, implying that the electric vehicle maker would not shed any of its bitcoin.Also weighing on bitcoin’s price Wednesday was the news that China had banned financial institutions and payment firms from providing cryptocurrency-related services, reiterating its tough stance on digital currencies.”If you look at the history of bull markets, a correction of this size, between 30-40% of bitcoin price, tends to be part of the bull market,” Alyse Killeen, founder and managing partner of bitcoin-focused venture capital firm Stillmark Capital, told CNBC Wednesday.Institutional investors jumping ship?Bitcoin investors say the cryptocurrency has become a kind of “digital gold,” providing protection from rising inflation as central banks around the world print money to soften the economic blow of the coronavirus crisis. They say that this has led to increased buying from institutional and corporate investors.However, in a note to clients this week, analysts at JPMorgan said institutional investors were dumping bitcoin in favor of gold, reversing the trend that’s played out over the last two quarters.”I did talk to friends in the institutional bitcoin buy and custody space … and what I heard from them is that folks aren’t selling,” Killeen said.”What you saw was newer buyers were exiting and long-term holders were accumulating or ‘hodling,’ and that’s what we have historically seen at these more significant drawdowns in bull markets,” she added.Meanwhile, there have been various signs of froth in crypto market lately. Dogecoin, a meme-inspired digital currency, saw a stunning rally earlier this year, propelled by supportive comments from Musk and other celebrities like Mark Cuban and Gene Simmons.Crypto skeptics would argue that all digital assets are in a speculative bubble. In a closely-watched fund manager survey, Bank of America found “long bitcoin” was the most crowded trade. According to the firm, 75% of fund managers said the cryptocurrency was in bubble territory.

Virgin and O2's $44 billion telecoms merger cleared by UK competition watchdog

In this articleTEF-ESLBTYAA person walks past a Virgin Media mobile phone store, closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in London on May 4, 2020.Tolga Akmen | AFP via Getty ImagesLONDON — Virgin Media and O2’s £31.4 billion ($44.4 billion) merger has been approved by U.K. competition regulators.Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority said Thursday it had greenlit the deal after finding that it was unlikely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the telecoms market.The CMA had earlier expressed concern that the tie-up may lead to price increases or reduce the quality of wholesale services, which it says would have negatively impacted consumers.The watchdog said there was sufficient competition in the leased-line market from players like BT Openreach, meaning the combined company would “still need to maintain the competitiveness of its service or risk losing wholesale custom.”At the same time, the CMA said O2 faces stiff competition in the mobile networks market.”O2 and Virgin are important suppliers of services to other companies who serve millions of consumers. It was important to make sure that this merger would not leave these people worse off. That’s why we conducted an in-depth investigation,” said Martin Coleman, CMA panel inquiry chair.”After looking closely at the deal, we are reassured that competition amongst mobile communications providers will remain strong and it is therefore unlikely that the merger would lead to higher prices or lower quality services,” Coleman added.The deal between Liberty Global’s Virgin and Telefonica’s O2 will lead to the creation of a new giant in the U.K. telecoms industry. The new group will have a total of 46 million video, broadband and mobile subscribers and £11 billion in revenues, the companies said in May last year when they announced the transaction.”This is a watershed moment in the history of telecommunications in the U.K. as we are now cleared to bring real choice where it hasn’t existed before, while investing in fibre and 5G that the U.K. needs to thrive,” Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries and Telefonica chief José Maria Alvarez-Pallete said in a joint statement Thursday. “We thank the CMA for conducting a thorough and efficient review.”Shares of Telefonica were down 1.3% in early deals on Thursday.The combination of the two companies will also allow Virgin Media to tap O2’s experience in developing next-generation 5G mobile networks, which are expected to be a significant driver of sales for telecommunications companies in the future.

Facebook's EU-U.S. data flows are under threat — that may spell trouble for other tech giants

In this articleFBIn this photo illustration, the Facebook logo is seen on a smartphone screen with the EU flag in the background.Chukrut Budrul | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty ImagesLONDON — Facebook faces a potential ban on the transfer of Europeans’ data to the United States. That would be a “massive blow” to the social networking giant and could impact other large American tech firms, according to analysts.Last week, Ireland’s High Court dismissed a challenge from Facebook over a regulatory inquiry that could lead to a ban on the flow of its user information from the European Union to the U.S. It comes after a landmark ruling from the EU’s top court invalidated the use of Privacy Shield, a framework for the transatlantic sharing of data.The decision was a victory for Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy activist who has taken Facebook to task over how it handles data on European citizens. Schrems argued that, in light of revelations from American whistleblower Edward Snowden, U.S. law did not offer sufficient protection against surveillance by public authorities.In September, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission sent Facebook a preliminary order to stop using an alternative tool, known as standard contractual clauses, to send user information from the EU to the U.S.Facebook said this measure would threaten its European operations and secured a temporary freeze on the order.Now, the way Facebook transfers data from the EU to America is once again under threat. On Thursday, the Irish High Court will hold a short hearing where it is expected to lift a stay on the DPC’s order and its inquiry into Facebook’s EU-U.S. data flows.”Like other companies, we have followed European rules and rely on Standard Contractual Clauses, and appropriate data safeguards, to provide a global service and connect people, businesses and charities,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.”We look forward to defending our compliance to the DPC, as their preliminary decision could be damaging not only to Facebook, but also to users and other businesses.”‘Massive blow’In the event that Facebook is forced to stop transferring Europeans’ information to the U.S., experts believe the company will likely be required to process EU data within the bloc. And the fallout from the European Court of Justice’s original ruling could affect many more U.S. tech firms.”In reality Facebook would have to ‘split’ its service into a European and a U.S. service,” Schrems told CNBC by email.”The absolutely ‘necessary’ transfers (e.g. when a U.S. user is sending a message to an EU user) can still happen between these two systems. The rest needs to stay in Europe (or in another safe country). Obviously Facebook will do everything to avoid that.”The move “could be a massive blow for the revenue model of Facebook,” which has more than 400 million monthly active users in Europe, according to Cillian Kieran, founder and CEO of data privacy software start-up Ethyca.”The recent ruling, and the potential suspension of Facebook’s data flows, suggest serious challenges for other U.S. companies to conduct international business, especially those with fewer resources than Facebook to navigate legal procedures,” Kieran told CNBC.Many U.S. internet giants — including Apple and Google — have established their European headquarters in Ireland. Ireland’s DPC is the lead privacy regulator for these companies.”The news raises the stakes for U.S. businesses to meet global standards for data protection, not only to earn users’ trust in the marketplace but also — on a more fundamental level — to be able to bring their product to important markets in the first place,” said Kieran.The European Data Protection Board — an independent European body tasked with ensuring consistent application of the EU’s GDPR privacy rules — is expected to soon issue its final guidance on how businesses must comply with the ECJ’s decision when it comes to international data transfers, cloud use and remote processing.

Singapore orders Facebook, Twitter to correct false claims on a 'new' Covid variant

People walk on their lunch break at the Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore on May 5, 2021.Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty ImagesSINGAPORE — Singapore has ordered Facebook, Twitter and a local publisher to correct what it says is a false statement circulating that implies a new coronavirus variant originated in the city-state and risks spreading to India.Under a law aimed at preventing the spread of falsehoods online — officially named POFMA, or Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act — Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung instructed the two social media giants and SPH Magazines to issue a correction notice to their users in Singapore. SPH Magazines owns a popular forum called HardwareZone.”There is no new ‘Singapore’ variant of Covid-19. Neither is there evidence of any Covid-19 variant that is ‘extremely dangerous for kids,'” Singapore’s Ministry of Health said.”The strain that is prevalent in many of the Covid-19 cases detected in Singapore in recent weeks is the B.1.617.2 variant, which originated from India,” it added. “The existence and spread of the B.1.617.2 variant within India predates the detection of the variant in Singapore, and this has been publicly known and reported by various media sources from as early as 5 May 2021.”The Covid variant B.1.617 was first detected in India last year. The World Health Organization recently dubbed the B.1.617 a “variant of concern,” which indicates that it’s become a global health threat.What happened?The move from Singapore came after unsubstantiated comments from an Indian politician this week sparked a diplomatic incident between the two countries.Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday tweeted that a new coronavirus variant in Singapore is said to be extremely dangerous for children and could result in a third wave in India. He did not provide any evidence to back his claims.Instead, he appealed to the Indian central government to suspend flights with the Southeast Asian country immediately and prioritize vaccination options for children. His claims were carried by major Indian news outlets.Singapore’s health ministry dismissed the claims, saying there was “no truth whatsoever in the assertions.”What was the reaction?Kejriwal was publicly rebuked by the foreign ministers of both countries.”Politicians should stick to facts! There is no ‘Singapore variant,'” Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s foreign minister, said in a tweet in response to Kejriwal’s claim.Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday it regrets the “unfounded assertions” made by Kejriwal.”MFA is disappointed that a prominent political figure had failed to ascertain the facts before making such claims. MFA met the High Commissioner of India P Kumaran this morning to express these concerns,” the foreign ministry said.India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the two countries have been “solid partners” in the fight against the pandemic.”However, irresponsible comments from those who should know better can damage long-standing partnerships. So, let me clarify — Delhi CM does not speak for India,” he said on Twitter. Jaishankar previously served as India’s high commissioner to Singapore.India’s civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri responded to Kejriwal’s comments on Twitter, and pointed out that international flights to India have been suspended since March 2020.He also pointed out that India and Singapore do not have an air travel bubble and that New Delhi only runs repatriation flights from the city-state to bring back stranded Indians.”Still, we have our eyes on the situation. All precautions are being taken,” Puri said, according to a CNBC translation of his remarks in Hindi.Covid in India and SingaporeSingapore has seen a recent spike in locally transmitted cases, which prompted the government to step up social restrictions again.While a number of children in the city-state have been recently infected with Covid-19, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said Sunday that none of them are seriously ill but the situation is still worrying, according to the Straits Times.Still, Singapore announced Tuesday it will allow children aged between 12 and 15 to be inoculated.Singapore has reported more than 61,600 cases so far and 31 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.India is the second worst-infected country in the world behind the United States and is facing a devastating second wave. So far, India has reported more than 25 million cases and over 287,000 deaths, but experts suggest the numbers have been severely undercounted.Delhi has been one of the worst-hit regions in the country where hospitals have faced shortages in hospital beds, oxygen supply and medicines to treat Covid-19 patients.

CEO of TikTok owner ByteDance to step down and move into a new role

A symbol of TikTok (Douyin) is pictured at The Place shopping mall at dusk on August 22, 2020 in Beijing, China.VCG | Visual China Group | Getty ImagesGUANGZHOU, China — Zhang Yiming, co-founder of ByteDance, will step down as CEO and transition to a new role, the company said on Thursday.Another co-founder, Liang Rubo, who is currently head of human resources, will take over as CEO of ByteDance globally and Zhang will move into a key strategy role at the end of 2021.”There are still many things that we need to improve, and I think someone else can better drive progress through areas like improved daily management. The truth is, I lack some of the skills that make an ideal manager,” Zhang said in a note to employees.”I’m more interested in analyzing organizational and market principles, and leveraging these theories to further reduce management work, rather than actually managing people. Similarly, I’m not very social, preferring solitary activities like being online, reading, listening to music, and daydreaming about what may be possible,” he said.ByteDance said Zhang and Liang “will work side by side over the next six months to ensure the smoothest possible transition.”U.S. troublesThe move comes after a tumultuous nine months for ByteDance after it was dubbed a national security threat by former President Donald Trump’s administration last August and ordered to divest its TikTok business in the U.S. This sparked a bidding war between companies including Microsoft and Oracle.TikTok is ByteDance’s wildly popular short-video app.In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that a deal to sell TiKTok to Oracle and Walmart had been shelved indefinitely.Despite the trouble with the U.S., ByteDance has continued to expand its business empire under Zhang. The company was founded in 2012 when it launched a platform for sharing jokes in the form of short videos, memes and written posts.In China, short video app Douyin has racked up hundreds of millions of users. The international version called TikTok has also done the same. In January, ByteDance launched a new payments service within Douyin to experiment with financial technology.And in March, ByteDance acquired major gaming studio Moonton to push into the lucrative mobile gaming market and challenge the likes of Tencent and NetEase.Management reshuffleByteDance has had a number of management changes over the past few months. Last August, Kevin Mayer who was hired from Disney to be the TikTok CEO, stepped down as pressure from Washington grew on the social media app.TikTok’s U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas took over the role on an interim basis.In March, Chew Shou Zi, the former finance chief at Xiaomi, was poached by ByteDance to become the company’s chief financial officer.Just last month, Chew was appointed the CEO of TikTok, taking over from Pappas, who is now the chief operating officer.

Bitcoin's wild price moves stem from its design — you'll need strong nerves to trade it

Blend Images | Getty ImagesSo you want to play in crypto and become a millionaire overnight? Brace yourself for more days like Wednesday.Bitcoin plunged as much as 30% to about $30,000, according to Coin Metrics. Ether dropped more than 40% in less than 24 hours, breaking below $2,000 at one point. Both gained back substantial ground by the end of the day.But this is par for the course in the world of trading cryptocurrencies. Huge run-ups and equally drastic falls. Over and over.”Massive retracements are always scary, but seasoned investors tend to see them as buying opportunities,” said Mati Greenspan, portfolio manager and founder of Quantum Economics.Both crypto and market experts tell CNBC that this is the new normal of investing, and traders should just get used to it.Value and volatilityBitcoin’s volatility has to do with a lot of things.On Wednesday, for example, news of China cracking down on banks completing crypto transactions, plus the tailwinds of Tesla’s decision to no longer accept bitcoin as a form of payment, certainly helped drive the carnage among digital currencies. The overall crypto market was also probably due for a correction after weeks of tweet-inspired record climbs, courtesy of Elon Musk.But volatility is also the price that bitcoin investors pay for its limited supply and its lack of a central bank to control that supply — precisely the features proponents say give it value.Part of what makes bitcoin valuable is the fact that it is scarce. There are 18.7 million bitcoin in circulation, which is nearing its maximum threshold of 21 million.New bitcoin are created as a reward for miners, who contribute their computing power to verifying transactions across the decentralized network. Over time, the size of these rewards decreases, so each new completed block earns miners less than it used to.As a result, the supply of bitcoin is perfectly inelastic. “A rise in demand cannot result in the increase in supply of bitcoin or increase the speed at which bitcoin is issued,” wrote Ria Bhutoria, former director of research for Fidelity Digital Assets.Bitcoin’s value is also derived from its decentralized network. There is no central authority which has the power to intervene in the bitcoin market.”No central bank or government can step in to support or prop up markets and artificially subdue volatility,” continued Bhutoria. “Bitcoin’s volatility is a trade-off for a distortion-free market.”Plus, bitcoin is still very new.”[It’s] only 13 years old and thus doesn’t have much of a trading history,” explained Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “While a company that went public yesterday in an IPO doesn’t have any history, a company can at least be evaluated on its business prospects, earnings and cash flow.”Because bitcoin is still a nascent asset class, it remains in the price discovery phase. “[It’s] the most volatile of any asset’s life cycle,” said Mike Bucella, Blocktower Capital general partner.”Bitcoin has clearly established itself as a new form of value, but the terminal value is still undefined,” continued Bucella. “That information gap lends itself towards a momentum, or technically driven market, absent new information.”The path to true price discovery is often fraught with seismic price swings, but Bhutoria points out that the alternative is artificial stability, which can result in distorted markets that may break down without intervention.Zoom In IconArrows pointing outwardsGet used to itBucella thinks that today’s trading volatility will be repeated.”There will be many periods like we’ve seen today, where a negative news cycle has taken out technical levels (and momentum) in the price of BTC – and those are all the more exacerbated when the market participants start taking on leverage,” continued Bucella.What happened today is pretty typical: Spot selling breaks a key level and leverage gets liquidated, creating a more dramatic sell-off than the market would otherwise indicate. Bucella says it has been the same pattern, time and again, over the last decade, and he thinks it will remain in place until we achieve a mature level of adoption. Ultimately, “high-risk, high-reward” does tend to be the rule of investing, and it is especially true of bitcoin.”All investments carry risk, and just like stocks, crypto is subject to price swings,” said Noah Perlman, Gemini’s chief operating officer. “Bitcoin is still a young asset class, but it’s one of the best performing of the last decade.”Playing the long game is also crucial. “As with any market, crypto investors with a longer timeframe and diversified portfolio will see more consistent results,” explained Greenspan.Bitcoin’s volatility also has a sort of “halo effect” over companies with exposure to the cryptocurrency.Tesla, which has a $1.5 billion stake in bitcoin, fell roughly 2.5% Wednesday. Microstrategy, another company that holds a large amount of bitcoin for its corporate treasury, ended the day 6.6% lower, and Coinbase, the newly public crypto exchange which specifically warned in its S-1 that it was vulnerable to volatile moves in the price of cryptocurrencies, dropped 6%.But to Bucella, this type of volatility is a gift that most fund managers in traditional markets would salivate over. “As a fund manager, with proper risk management, infrastructure and tooling, this level of volatility presents enormous opportunity,” said Bucella.Whatever your risk tolerance, experts say the volatility won’t always be this bad.Bitcoin trading is no longer dominated by retail buyers. Professional money managers and corporate America have flooded the market in the last year, and they’re still getting started. As more institutional investors adopt bitcoin, it lends newfound legitimacy to the cryptocurrency, helping to erase its reputational risk. It also creates more stability overall.”With greater adoption of bitcoin and the development of derivatives and investment products, bitcoin’s volatility may continue to decrease, as it has historically,” noted Bhutoria.And as longtime value investor Bill Miller pointed out in a CNBC interview earlier this year, “One of the interesting things about bitcoin is that it gets less risky the higher it goes.”

Unemployment checks are shrinking fast in nearly half of US states

Police phony jobless claims? You must be joking, Mr. President!

Fed up with generous US unemployment perks that critics say are impossible to effectively oversee for abuses, a fast-growing number of states are turning them down altogether.

Some 21 Republican governors are now looking to force workers back into the labor market by withdrawing from the federal program that provides an extra $300 in additional unemployment benefits every week, noting that it adds up to more than many employers can pay for entry-level jobs.

Last week, Arizona announced it would stop distributing the US supplement on July 10, instead offering a $2,000 bonus for those who return to work. States including Montana, Oklahoma and Connecticut are dangling similar cash incentives as they prepare to wean residents from the federal funds, which some economists say are threatening to slow down the US recovery.

“Although more people are ready to work today in Arizona than before the pandemic, many businesses are struggling to fill vital positions,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said. “We cannot let unemployment benefits be a barrier to getting people back to work.”

Some Republican lawmakers say people are ready to return to work but generous stimulus checks are getting in the way of employers being able to lure workers to take open positions.AP

Last week, Republican lawmakers in Washington led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy piled on, claiming the handouts are a major cause of the worker shortage as people draw checks while pretending to pound the pavement. White House officials countered that US companies should pay workers more to compete with the handout after getting stimulus funds themselves.

Last week, the Labor Department said US job openings soared to a record 8.1 million in March while companies struggled to recruit new workers and the economy continued to heat up. That was just days after the agency said the US economy added a paltry 266,000 jobs, sorely short of the 1 million that had been expected by economists.

In response, President Biden last week defended the federal perks, even as he admitted there was a problem.

Nobody should be able to “game the system,” Biden said, adding, “If you’re receiving unemployment benefits and you’re offered a suitable job, you can’t refuse that job and just keep getting the unemployment benefits … We’ll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits.”

US Bureau of Labor Statistics data show the total number of nonfarm job openings on the rise, to 8.1 million in March 2021.US Bureau of Labor Statistics bls.gov

He neglected to mention, however, that state governments are responsible for disbursing jobless benefits and ensuring that no one bilks the system. It’s largely an honor system, experts add, that relies on workers to self-report that they are actively looking for work.

Making matters worse, the latter requirement was lifted during the pandemic for states taking federal funds.

State agencies “don’t have the resources to confirm what filers are telling them,” said labor attorney Carolyn Richmond of Fox Rothschild.

Employers say they are struggling to find workers to fill openings, with US Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing a decline in the number of unemployed people per job opening to just 1.2 in March 2021, down from a pandemic-fueled high of 5 per opening in April 2020.US Bureau of Labor Statistics bls.gov

By June and July, millions of workers across Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming will see their unemployment checks drastically reduced as their states nix Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The checks will keep flowing to participating states through Sept. 6.

At least four states are paying residents one-time bonuses to accept jobs. Arizonians stand to get $1,000 for part time jobs and $2,000 for full time jobs after they complete 10 weeks of work while Montanans are eligible for $1,200 after they work in a full-time position for four weeks.

Oklahoma is offering the first 20,000 people who qualify $1,200 after completing six weeks of a new job and Connecticut is offering $1,000 for completing eight weeks of full time work, but it’s not opting out of the federal unemployment benefits.

Burger King builds on chicken craze with new hand-breaded Ch’King sandwich

Burger King will expand its new crispy chicken sandwich nationally across the United States on June 3, the Restaurant Brands International chain said on Wednesday.

The “Ch’King” sandwich builds on a craze that began to sweep the nation in late 2019 after the fried chicken chain Popeyes, also owned by Restaurant Brands International, started selling its first-ever sandwich.

Burger King began testing the new product in September, before rolling it out to some additional locations.

Like McDonald’s, Burger King’s new sandwich will come in three versions: regular, spicy or deluxe.

But unlike any other major US fast-food burger chain, Burger King’s filets are breaded by hand in stores.

The Popeyes chicken sandwich that kicked off the fast-food chicken wars. (Tamara Beckwith/NY Post)Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

The suggested price will be $3.99 to $4.99 depending on region, Chief Marketing Officer Ellie Doty told Reuters.

That is somewhat higher than previous launches of similar sandwiches from competitors.

Facebook director Peter Thiel invests in conservative rival Rumble

Prominent conservative venture capitalists including Peter Thiel and J.D. Vance are investing in free speech-oriented video streaming site Rumble Video, the company said Wednesday.

The deal, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, marks PayPal and Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel’s first investment in a social media company since he bought a large stake of Facebook as an early investor in 2004. It also means that Thiel is supporting a competitor to Facebook while he sits on Facebook’s board. 

The round values Rumble at around $500 million, The Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. That represents a major boost for Rumble, which aims to challenge the dominance of platforms that conservatives claim unfairly restrict free speech, including YouTube and Facebook.

Rumble’s users include popular right-wing internet personalities like Donald Trump Jr., former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, commentator Dan Bongino and writer Dinesh D’Souza.

Theil takes a large stake in Facebook in 2004.AFP via Getty Images

“Rumble is in a really good position to be competition to the larger incumbent platforms,” Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski told the Post. 

Along with Thiel, the investment round is being led by “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance’s Ohio-based venture-capital fund Narya Capital. The third sizable investor is Colt Ventures, a Texas family office led by former Trump advisor Darren Blanton. 

“We thought it was a great investment and we love the team,” Blanton told The Post. “With the Thiel group and their reach and history of investing in the space, I don’t see how it couldn’t succeed.” 

The investors approached Rumble within the past two months and the deal took shape rather quickly, a person familiar with the matter told The Post. 

Rumble was founded in 2013 and remained relatively obscure until recent months. Still, it has a long way to go if it wants to take on YouTube or Facebook. The site logged just 81 million visits in April, according to analytics firm SimilarWeb. That represents a fraction of 1 percent of YouTube’s 32.7 billion visits over the same period of time. 

But Rumble plans to use the money to quickly boost its growth. The company wants to expand availability to non-English speaking audiences, let users upload videos from its mobile app and allow all users to create livestreams, Pavlovski said. Currently, the company only lets paid users create livestreams and does not offer mobile video uploads. 

Rumble’s users include former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.Getty Images

Rumble also plans to add cloud services to businesses, bringing the firm in competition with sector leaders Amazon, Google and Azure.

Despite his site’s popularity being concentrated among conservatives, Pavlovski said he wants people with all political views to join the site. He said that Rumble does not use algorithms to sort content like other platforms, but instead displays content in a straight chronological feed, helping give smaller creators a leg-up. 

“Our value prop is quite simple: it’s to offer a platform without preferencing,” he said. 

The site bans content including racism, anti-semitism, terrorism and pornography, he added. 

Another free speech-oriented alternative to mainstream social media sites, Parler, scored a victory on Monday when Apple allowed it back into its App Store. However, the company had to agree to block posts labeled “hate” on iPhones and iPads, while keeping the content up on its site, The Washington Post reported.