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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Influential Comic Book Writer

Mr. Wein wrote for Batman, the Flash, Superman, the Justice League of America and numerous other comics series. He was also a comic book editor, perhaps most notably on DC’s pivotal Watchmen series in the 1980s. He had writing credits on numerous television shows, many of them based on characters he had helped create.

“I first met him in 2008,” Hugh Jackman, who played Wolverine in films, said on Sunday on Twitter. “I told him — from his heart, mind & hands came the greatest characters in comics.”

Ms. Valada said Mr. Wein was aiming to become an artist until someone at DC, assessing his offerings, told him, “I don’t think the art’s quite there, but I kind of like these stories.” He and Mr. Wolfman sold their first work to DC in 1968.

Mr. Wein found success relatively quickly when he and the artist Bernie Wrightson created Swamp Thing, who first appeared in 1971. (Mr. Wrightson died in March.) The creature, a humanoid, plantlike superhero, made a strong impression, especially on others who were writing comics or aspired to.

The character proved both durable and adaptable, turning up over the years on television and in film. And Mr. Wein became an early example of a change that would wake up the somewhat predictable world of comics, one that made the stories deeper and more ambitious.

“For more than a decade, from the early ’70s to the mid-’80s, as both a writer and an editor, he really sat on the leading edge of what the comics medium could be as it was growing up,” Paul Levitz, author of “75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking,” said in an interview on Monday.

In 1975, Mr. Wein joined with the artist David Cockrum to relaunch Marvel Comics’ X-Men, the team of mutant superheroes created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Mr. Wein and Mr. Cockrum created new characters, including Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus.

Wolverine, who first appeared in an “Incredible Hulk” story Mr. Wein wrote, also joined the X-Men universe, which yielded not only many comics but also a profitable series of movies.

Mr. Wein was an editor for Marvel, DC and Disney Comics. He brought the British writer Alan Moore into the Swamp Thing series in the early 1980s, and in 1986 he was editor on the Watchmen series by Mr. Moore, the artist Dave Gibbons and the colorist John Higgins. That work, Mr. Levitz, said, was “arguably the most important comic published by a traditional comics publisher in the ’80s” and helped usher in the era of the graphic novel.

Mr. Wein and Ms. Valada were married in 1991. Mr. Wein’s previous marriage, to Glynis Oliver, a colorist who worked with him, ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a stepson, Michael Bieniewicz-Valada.

Ms. Valada said Mr. Wein had recently returned to writing Swamp Thing. But his favorite characters to write, she said, were two he did not create: Batman and the Incredible Hulk.

That suggests a fondness for tradition, but Mr. Wein in fact helped bring a younger, innovative sensibility to the art form. Years ago, barely in his 20s, he got a sense of the generational divide in the comic-book-making world of the time when he worked on the television-tie-in comics for “Star Trek” being published by Gold Key. The staff there, he once said at a panel discussion, was on the older side.

Chief Executive to Step Down

The financial technology start-up known as SoFi, which has been accused of having a toxic office culture, joins a substantial list of companies grappling with cultural issues in the workplace.

Mr. Cagney wrote in a letter to employees that “the combination of HR-related litigation and negative press have become a distraction from the company’s core mission.”

• Several former employees said that Mr. Cagney had inappropriate relationships with SoFi employees. Mr. Cagney often overstepped personal and business boundaries, according to interviews with more than 30 people familiar with the company.

• In 2012, Mr. Cagney sent sexually explicit text messages to an executive assistant named Laura Munoz. The company and its board agreed to pay Ms. Munoz a $75,000 settlement. The same year, he also pursued a relationship with another employee.

• A spokesman for SoFi said that the board had investigated a dispute between Mr. Cagney and a former employee and found no evidence of a romantic or sexual relationship. The company reached a settlement after the investigation.

• A former employee of SoFi filed a lawsuit in August saying that he had witnessed female employees being harassed by managers and was fired after he reported it. The lawsuit did not initially name Mr. Cagney, but he was added later as a defendant and accused of “empowering other managers to engage in sexual conduct in the workplace.” SoFi said in September that it was investigating the allegations.

• Mr. Cagney may have been overaggressive in expanding the business, skirting risk controls and compliance rules, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The SoFi spokesman disputed this.

• There were also questions about one of its initial products. The company said it had raised $90 million in debt financing for one of the loan products that it sold to investors in 2012, but that financing never took place. The issue was brought to the board, which made no changes. SoFi eventually bought the loans back from investors.

• Employees who spoke to The Wall Street Journal also described a culture in which they felt pressure to work extra hours for fear of being fired. One said that Mr. Cagney would tell workers that if they weren’t waking up twice a week in a cold sweat, they weren’t working hard enough. These employees also described angry executives breaking furniture and throwing telephones.

These kinds of problems have been far from rare in Silicon Valley.

Venture capitalists have faced questions about their behavior toward women entrepreneurs, while accusations of sexual harassment and questions about business tactics have led to an exodus of senior leaders at Uber.

(The ride-hailing company, which recently appointed a new chief executive after a year of turmoil, is said to be closer to selling a stake to SoftBank, according to Recode.)

If a hotel were to double the price of a room during an emergency, a family might choose to rent fewer rooms at the higher price, or they might choose to tough it out at home if their house were damaged but livable.

Either option would increase the supply of hotel rooms, making them available to those who most need them, argues Matt Swolinski, director of the Center for Ethics, Economics and Public Policy at the University of San Diego.

The arguments may make sense in theory, but when it comes to trying to protect those who can’t afford the most basic goods, they seem like an inhumane affront to our sensibilities, Andrew Ross Sorkin writes.

There could be even more insidious side effects of anti-gouging laws.

Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, warns that a black market could emerge. Customers could buy up valuable supplies and resell them at higher prices, or store employees could funnel scarce goods to friends and family.

Maybe the lesson is that during national emergencies — the ultimate distortion in daily economic activity — a free market can make the distortion worse.

The Last Old-School Restaurateur Standing

Drew Nieporent was born in 1955 and was obsessed with food by the early 1960s, before New York diners and newspaper critics became infatuated with everything French. “I had amazing exposure to restaurants of the ‘60s that nobody around today visited except my brother and me,” he recalled. “I had to parlay it into something.”

He forgot nothing, exquisite training for a child who would grow up to become one of New York’s pre-eminent front-of-the-house men and surely the most singular. Say what you will about his fellow empire builders like Danny Meyer, Keith McNally and Nick Valenti: As influential and successful as they have been as hosts, money assemblers and deal makers, none are still patrolling their restaurants with the same passion as Mr. Nieporent has.

In an age when marquee restaurants are often defined by their celebrity chefs, he may be the last of the great meet-and-greet men, a breed of owners who reigned over their personal dominions, the seemingly insignificant space between dining room and front door.

They assigned tables (momentous in Manhattan), communicated with their chefs, turned away the less fortunate (or less famous), dispensed perks of food and wine, and determined who was a V.I.P. and who was like the rest of us. At one time they personified their places of business and became as well known as their restaurants, especially if they were as revered as Sirio Maccioni (Le Cirque), Joe Baum (the Forum of the Twelve Caesars, the Four Seasons) and George Lang (Café des Artistes).

These days you will often find Mr. Nieporent on the premises when you walk into Bâtard, Tribeca Grill or one of the two Nobus in New York that he oversees. He remains intensely hands-on at a time when franchising and financing are the priorities in an increasingly difficult business. Remarkably, after more than 30 years of opening (and often closing) restaurants, Mr. Nieporent has hardly changed.

His famously cramped office has always been in TriBeCa; when his Myriad Restaurant Group was headquartered on Franklin Street, he used to sit outside, smoke a cigar and conduct business at a table brought down to the sidewalk. During business hours he is now more likely to be on the patio of Tribeca Grill.

He never hired a public relations firm, preferring personal contact. He remains the best resource for those who know him, have his phone number and need a last-minute reservation at any restaurant in town.

“If you’re a friend of Drew, you get in any door,” said the comedian and actor Paul Reiser, who took a photography class with Mr. Nieporent at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. “The whole point of getting famous is to hope for a good table, but you can end that heartache with a shortcut, just by knowing Drew. I once wanted to go to Rubicon in San Francisco while he was in Japan. He got me in. He’s hospitable from 5,000 miles away.”

Wherever Mr. Nieporent (NEE-pour-rent) appears — and he seems to be everywhere — he is a commanding figure, never content to hover in the background. He lights up a room like a bottle rocket on a birthday cake. He greets everyone he knows (and he knows everyone) in a voice that booms like a bugle call at sunrise or a ram’s horn on the Jewish High Holy Days.

“Taking care of people separates him,” said Marty Shapiro, a Myriad partner. “Others feel that way, but it’s in his soul.”

As everyone knows, attention from Mr. Nieporent can come at a price. “He will say anything that comes to mind,” his daughter, Gabrielle, pointed out. “He has no filter.”

He does it for love of a punch line, and perhaps from a certain cantankerousness that comes from knowing that what he set out to become — the Manhattan restaurateur as arbiter of everything culinary — has diminished drastically with the rise of the superstar chef.

“He loves to tell you to your face what he thought of your cooking,” said Eric Ripert, the chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin. “Mostly, it’s a compliment. He once said to me: ‘You’re the best seafood chef on the planet. Do you remember 30 years ago when you were at a charity event in New Jersey and you burned the tuna?’”

Growing Up, Eating Out

He was always going to become a restaurateur, even before he knew what the word meant. Mr. Reiser wrote in Mr. Nieporent’s high school yearbook, “Good luck with your restaurant.” As Mr. Reiser explained recently, “He was the only guy our age who knew exactly what he wanted to be when he was 17 or 18.”Mr. Nieporent’s father, who worked for the New York State Liquor Authority, received limitless invitations to dine on the house from owners hoping for an easy passage through bureaucratic channels. Such questionable largess was less scrutinized back then, although Mr. Nieporent recalls that Irwin Dubrow of Dubrow’s Cafeteria in the garment district — a restaurant he loved — would tape a $20 bill under the toilet for the health inspector, “until the wrong inspector showed up and blew the whistle.”

Mr. Nieporent said he remembers every restaurant he visited and everything he learned.

His mother taught him (wrongly, he points out) to twirl spaghetti with a fork, then capture it on a spoon, when the family was dining at San Marino. He was eating egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork at China Song, next to the Ed Sullivan Theater, the night in 1964 when the Beatles first performed there. He learned the difference between Wiener schnitzel and schnitzel à la Holstein (which is about anchovies and capers) at Janssen’s. He sighs when recollecting his first chicken Kiev and the thrill of its bursting butter, at Two Guitars, a Russian nightclub in a basement on 14th Street.

“Eating out in the ’60s was for the privileged and the wealthy,” Mr. Nieporent said. “We were neither, but we were treated so well that I wanted to be a part of it. We’d sit at the table with the old-school guys who ran the restaurants. They’d ask my father, ‘What does he want to be?’ He’d say, ‘He wants to be in the restaurant business.’ They’d reply, ‘It’s getting terrible.’ They’d moan and bellyache. They were always crabby, always in a bad mood. But I would feel the aura.”

He graduated from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, and worked on the cruise ships Vistafjord and Sagafjord during summer vacations, carrying trays of food up escalators from the kitchen. “You had to know the proper names of six kinds of potatoes, all the different soups,” he said. “And if you dropped a platter, which I once did, the other waiters were pissed at you.”

After graduation, he recalled, “I worked all the La’s and the Le’s: Le Périgord, Le Regence, La Grenouille, La Reserve.” He was assistant restaurant director at Warner LeRoy’s celebrated Maxwell’s Plum and later restaurant director at Mr. LeRoy’s Tavern on the Green.

Microchip Business

On Wednesday that it had agreed to negotiate with a group led by Bain Capital, the American investment firm, that also includes two organizations controlled by the Japanese government. They will seek to strike a deal over Toshiba’s chip business, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of flash memory chips, which are used to store data in millions of smartphones and other digital devices.

A deal, which Toshiba hopes to complete by this month, is widely expected to value the chip business at more than $20 billion — a potential shot in the arm for a company struggling with the aftermath of a disastrous bet on building nuclear power plants.

But Toshiba said the negotiations would not be exclusive. That could leave an opening for new bids from Western Digital, another potential American suitor, and Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer based in Taiwan that has extensive operations in mainland China.

Toshiba is racing to shore up its finances. Once a symbol of Japan’s technical prowess and postwar rise, Toshiba said this year that it would have trouble staying in business because of losses from Westinghouse Electric, its nuclear power business in the United States, which was slammed with cost overruns and filed for bankruptcy court protection in March.

Toshiba’s banks are keeping the company afloat, but if it does not secure a significant infusion of new capital by March, it could be expelled from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. That would essentially cut it off from a broad swath of public investors.

The chip negotiations have been complicated, however.

Western Digital shares ownership with Toshiba of a flash memory production operation in Japan and argues that the Japanese company cannot sell the chip business to an outside party without its approval. Western Digital immediately objected to Toshiba’s decision on Wednesday to name the Bain group its favored bidder.

“We are disappointed that Toshiba would take this action,” Western Digital said in a statement. “Our goal has been — and remains — to reach a mutually beneficial outcome that satisfies the needs of Toshiba and its stakeholders.”

Toshiba had already picked the Bain-led group once before, in June. But the choice provoked a furious response from Western Digital. Legal pressure from the American company prompted Toshiba to back away from its previous commitment to Bain and reopen talks with other potential bidders.

Foxconn, which makes iPhone and other devices and hardware that carry the brand names of other electronics heavyweights, has publicly pushed to be the buyer. But its heavy manufacturing footprint in mainland China has promoted fears in Japan that the business could eventually leave the country and end up on Chinese soil.

Toshiba’s microchip unit is second only to Samsung Electronics of South Korea in producing so-called NAND flash memory chips. The business has been profitable for Toshiba, which pioneered NAND technology.