A Trump Memoir Would Sell. Will Publishers Buy It?

But blowback from within the industry to a Trump memoir, especially as he refuses to concede that he lost the election, is likely to be severe.

Celeste Ng, the author of the best-selling novel “Little Fires Everywhere,” said she wouldn’t hesitate to speak out against her publisher, Penguin Random House, if it struck a deal with Mr. Trump.

“We have every reason to believe a Trump memoir would be primarily misinformation, ungrounded opinions and flat-out lies,” she said in an email. “Don’t pay him to do it and don’t give him the legitimacy of a contract with a major publishing house. If you’re going to set yourself up as a gatekeeper, you have a responsibility for what goes through your gate.”

Some prominent writers who have been outspoken critics of the president said they would not object if a publisher took on the project. Stephen King, who has frequently denounced Mr. Trump on Twitter, said in an email that Mr. Trump should be given the opportunity to release his book, as a matter of principle.

“Anything he wrote would be a pack of self-serving lies, but I believe in the freedom of people to read what they want, and I hate censorship,” said Mr. King, who is one of Simon & Schuster’s top-selling authors. “Let him publish, if he wants. I hope my publisher won’t be the one to do it, but in any case I can’t wait to see the critics take him apart.”

Literary agents were also divided on whether the industry should embrace Mr. Trump. Esther Newberg, co-head of ICM Partners’ publishing division, said that while she hoped none of the major houses would buy Mr. Trump’s book, she could not afford to stop doing business with them if they did. But, she said, she represents authors she expects would take their work elsewhere.

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Dining News

Friendly’s Will Sell to Investment Group for Less Than $2 Million

Friendly’s files for bankruptcy a second time, plans to sell restaurants to investor group

Friendly’s, the East Coast restaurant chain known for its ice cream and diner fare, has filed for voluntary bankruptcy amid declining revenue due to the pandemic.

“Over the last two years, Friendly’s has made important strides toward reinvigorating our beloved brand in the face of shifting demographics, increased competition, and rising costs,” Friendly’s CEO George Michael said in a press release. “Unfortunately, like many restaurant businesses, our progress was suddenly interrupted by the catastrophic impact of COVID-19, which caused a decline in revenue as dine-in operations ceased for months and re-opened with limited capacity.”

The 85-year-old chain intends to sell its assets to Amici Partners Group, an investor group affiliated with Brix Holdings, the restaurant company behind Red Mango, Smoothie Factory, and other franchises. Restaurant Business reports that the selling price will fall just under $2 million. Friendly’s boasted more than 500 locations a decade ago, before it first filed for bankruptcy in 2011; currently, the chain is down to 130. Nearly all of those locations are expected to remain open as the bankruptcy and sale proceedings continue; afterward, Amici expects to retain employees at corporate-owned restaurants, per the release.

And in other news…

  • The company that owns Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons plans to equip 10,000 of its restaurants with “predictive selling” drive-thru screens, which will use a variety of factors to personalize menu options and promotions. [NY Daily News]
  • The deal between Inspire Brands and Dunkin’ Brands, rumors of which were previously reported, has gone through for approximately $11.3 billion, creating one of the world’s largest restaurant companies as a result. [NRN]
  • Nestlé has acquired NYC-based subscription meal service Freshly for up to $1.5 billion. [TechCrunch]
  • Costco is the latest retailer to drop Chaokoh coconut milk following a PETA report accusing Chaokoh’s Thai suppliers of using monkeys as forced labor. The maker of the milk, Theppadungporn Coconut Co., denies the allegations. [USA Today]
  • Growing huge vegetables is the new windowsill scallions of pandemic gardening. [Modern Farmer]
  • Eating at Joe Biden’s favorite hometown restaurants. [F&W]
  • Actual Halloween horror:

• All AM Intel Coverage [E]

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Breaking New

Huawei says Qualcomm has applied for a license to sell it chips

The logo of Chinese company Huawei at their main U.K. offices in Reading, west of London, on January 28, 2020.

Daniel Leal-Olivas | AFP via Getty Images

Huawei said that Qualcomm has applied for a license to sell it chips and will use them in smartphones if permission is granted by the U.S. government. 

China’s Huawei was put on a U.S. blacklist last year that restricted American businesses from selling products to the Chinese phonemaker. U.S. companies, including Qualcomm, were required to get a license from the government to export goods to companies on that list. 

Then in May this year, Washington amended a rule to require foreign manufacturers using U.S. chipmaking equipment to get a license before being able to sell semiconductors to Huawei. The U.S. government tightened this rule in August, a move which could lead to a “near-total” cut-off for Huawei from key semiconductor. 

Huawei designs its own smartphones chips called Kirin, via its HiSilicon subsidiary. But Kirin is manufactured by Taiwanese contract chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. From Sept. 15, TSMC was no longer able to supply chips to Huawei. 

“The U.S. has been continuously attacking us … and that has posed great challenges to our production and our operation,” Guo Ping, rotating chairman at Huawei, said on Wednesday. “We got the last batch of chipsets in middle of September, we are still evaluating more details.”

Guo said that the company has “sufficient stock” of chips for its business to business divisions, which would include its networking equipment. He did not comment on how much stock is left for its smartphones.

Due to the U.S. sanctions, Huawei has very few options when it comes to procuring the chips it needs now. 

Qualcomm has been lobbying the U.S. government to allow it to export chips to Huawei, according to a Wall Street Journal report in August. The U.S. chip giant argued in a presentation seen by the WSJ that the export restrictions will hand billions of sales to Qualcomm’s competitors. 

I’ve noticed Qualcomm has applied for a license to export products to Huawei from the U.S. government and if they get the license we are willing to continue to procure from them and use their chipsets in our smartphones

Guo Ping

rotating chairman of Huawei

During the company’s second quarter earnings results last year, CEO Steve Mollenkopf blamed the export restrictions on Huawei for weakness in its numbers at the time. 

Huawei has more recently used its own Kirin chip in its smartphones. But now that it cannot get those semiconductors, Qualcomm could fill the gap if it gets an export license. That would be a big boost for Qualcomm’s business. 

“Qualcomm has always been a very important partner of Huawei. Over the past decade and more, Huawei has been procuring chipsets from Qualcomm. I’ve noticed Qualcomm has applied for a license to export products to Huawei from the U.S. government and if they get the license we are willing to continue to procure from them and use their chipsets in our smartphones,” Guo said. 

Qualcomm was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC. 

Meanwhile Intel has been granted a license by the U.S. to sell certain products to Huawei, according to Reuters

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Netanyahu Privately Condoned U.S. Plan to Sell Arms to U.A.E., Officials Say

WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel privately went along with a plan for the Trump administration to sell advanced weapons to the United Arab Emirates, despite publicly saying later that he opposed the arms deal, according to officials familiar with the negotiations.

Mr. Netanyahu chose not to try to block the deal as he took part in a broader effort in recent months to secure a diplomatic breakthrough normalizing relations between Israel and the Emirates, the officials said. President Trump announced the initiative to great fanfare last month, without mentioning the arms discussions that were proceeding on a parallel track.

But after news of the arms sale became public late last month, the Israeli prime minister repeatedly denied that he had given assurances to the Trump administration that Israel would not oppose the Emirati arms deal. The officials said Mr. Netanyahu’s public statements were false. He then stopped publicly complaining about the proposed arms sale after a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem last week that brought the Israeli prime minister back in line, the officials said.

The White House has accelerated its push in recent weeks to sell a package of cutting-edge weapons to the Emirates, including F-35 fighter jets and Reaper drones. The deal also includes EA-18G Growler jets — electronic warfare planes that pave the way for stealth attacks by jamming enemy air defenses. That element of the package has not previously been reported.

The United Arab Emirates has long sought more advanced weapons, but Israelis have feared a shift in the balance of military power in the Middle East. A public admission of agreement by Mr. Netanyahu would have most likely prompted an outcry in Israel, as the disclosure of the proposed arms sale did, including from members of Mr. Netanyahu’s own cabinet.

Mr. Trump’s announcement on Aug. 13 of the diplomatic breakthrough came as Mr. Netanyahu was struggling to manage multiple crises: the coronavirus pandemic, a fraying governing coalition with political rivals, tense budget negotiations and an ongoing corruption trial.

American officials are careful to insist that the new push to sell the weapons to the Emiratis is not a direct reward for their role in the agreement, in which the Emirates became the third Arab nation to recognize Israel in exchange for Israel suspending plans to annex occupied West Bank territory. But they do not dispute that after years of American refusals to sell F-35s to the Emiratis, the change in position is linked to the diplomatic initiative.

The arms deal could face significant resistance in Congress; by law, weapons sales must not weaken Israel’s military edge in the Middle East. But Trump administration officials have discussed bypassing a critical part of the lawmakers’ review process, which might improve their chances of pushing through the arms sales before the election in November.

Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement that it “is not true” that Mr. Netanyahu gave approval to American officials for a weapons deal involving F-35s. He added that he was confident the Trump administration “is fully committed to maintaining” Israel’s military advantage in the region.

The State Department declined to comment. A spokesman for the National Security Council did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Dozens of Emirati officials traveled to Washington last week to meet with counterparts at the Pentagon and the State Department to discuss the arms package and their diplomatic initiative with Israel.

Hussein Ibish, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said officials from all three nations had told him that Mr. Netanyahu had given approval for the arms sale, but he had then publicly denounced it because of the anger that erupted in Israel, including from defense officials, when the quiet arrangement became public.

“I’ve heard it from parties on all three sides that he gave a green light on this,” Mr. Ibish said, adding that Mr. Netanyahu had previously indicated to the Emiratis and the Americans that “there would not be substantive and categorical opposition.”

He said the Emiratis were stunned at Mr. Netanyahu’s public disavowal. They responded by canceling an Aug. 21 meeting with American and Israeli officials at the United Nations. (Axios first reported the episode.)

But the Emiratis calmed down after being reassured that the sale would remain on track. “They’ve come to understand there’s a lot of Kabuki theater in all this,” Mr. Ibish added.

The Emirates and Saudi Arabia have a close relationship with the White House. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, views the two nations as important in efforts — which thus far have failed — to broker a peace deal between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Moreover, Mr. Trump has embraced them as significant buyers of American weapons despite resistance in Congress over the killing of thousands of civilians in the Saudi-led air war in Yemen, often with American bombs.

Some Pentagon and State Department officials are uncomfortable with the influence that the Emiratis wield within the White House and National Security Council, and they were unhappy that Emirati military officials received a classified briefing about the F-35 in July.

Some members of Congress and their aides have expressed similar worries, pointing to the Emirati military’s role in the catastrophic Yemen war. The Emirates withdrew most of its forces last year, but it has deployed jets in the Libyan civil war, raising new concerns among American lawmakers.

Trump administration officials say the détente between the Emirates and Israel — and possibly future deals between Israel and other Arab nations — are also part of a wider effort to counter Iran. Administration officials have tried to placate Israeli concerns about an Arab nation getting the F-35 by emphasizing that the Emirates, like Israel, is an avowed enemy of Iran and that strengthening the Emirati military will help Israel’s security.

The regional moves have urgency in Washington because Mr. Trump’s strategists see efforts to bolster Israel as helping strengthen support from evangelical Christian voters as he seeks re-election.

Advisers also fear that if the president loses to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the next administration would halt the deal.

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported last month that the Emirati arms deal was directly tied to the peace agreement with Israel. In response, Mr. Netanyahu’s office issued a detailed statement listing government efforts over the summer to convey to Washington its opposition to the sale of F-35s to any country in the region.

“The peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates does not include any reference to arms sales, and the U.S. has made it clear that it will always take strict care to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge,” the statement said.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office said Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, a former chief of the Israeli military, had been told in late July of communications with American officials opposing the sale of F-35s.

But Mr. Gantz responded angrily to the reports of a secret arms deal, saying in a news conference on Tuesday that he had not been informed of the normalization agreement in advance and that “it is forbidden to take security risks.”

On Monday, Mr. Kushner was aboard a ceremonial flight between Israel and the Emirates. He addressed the arms deal after touching down in Abu Dhabi.

“The military relationship America has with the U.A.E. is very special — just like the relationship between Israel and America,” he said. He added that the United States was committed to maintaining Israel’s military advantage in the Middle East even as it sold advanced weaponry to the Emirates.

Mr. Pompeo traveled last week to Israel, the Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Sudan. The State Department said in a statement that he and Mr. Netanyahu spoke about countering Iran and establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. In that meeting and in a separate one with Mr. Gantz, the department said, Mr. Pompeo reiterated Washington’s commitment to the security of Israel.

The State Department has yet to notify Congress of a new proposed arms package to the Emirates. But some lawmakers and aides have already quietly signaled disapproval to the administration after news reports in August detailed the proposal, officials said.

Many lawmakers from both parties are likely to oppose the package if the Israeli government does not officially support it. Some aides also say it would take months for the United States to take mandatory steps to technically ensure that the proposed weapons do not compromise Israel’s military edge in the region.

The EA-18G Growler, made by Boeing and displayed in November at the Dubai Air Show, is the Navy’s most advanced electronic attack platform. It can blind radars and communications systems, operates an advanced radar for locating targets and can carry long-range missiles. Australia is the only other nation that has the jet.

Its sale to an Arab nation would be certain to raise questions about whether it could be used to evade Israel’s air defenses in a conflict.

Analysts say Mr. Trump could help get Israeli officials and U.S. legislators on board with the sales to the Emirates by offering to provide other advanced weapons to Israel.

“The president thinks like a salesman, and this is what he wants in the Middle East,” Mr. Ibish said.

Trump administration officials could decide to bypass the informal notification process in Congress, which some have discussed backing out of altogether. Some lawmakers have used that process to hold up arms shipments to Gulf nations, mainly because of civilian casualties.

Last year, Mr. Pompeo sidestepped one hold by declaring an “emergency” over Iranian activity and pushing the sales through, infuriating lawmakers.

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Breaking New

Chick-fil-A will sell bottles of its secret sauce

Starting in April, the 16-ounce bottles will be sold in Florida at Publix, Target (TGT), Walmart and Winn-Dixie stores for around $3.49. It’s the first time that Chick-fil-A will sell its products in retail stores.

The move is part of Chick-fil-A’s broader strategy to reach people outside of the restaurant.

“Increasingly, our customers are searching for ways to enjoy our brand at home,” Michael Patrick, principal program lead for Chick-fil-A’s Beyond the Restaurant team, told CNN Business in an email.

The company has been exploring ways to break into retail for a while, said Patrick.

“We’re seeing a blurring of lines between all food channels,” he noted. Other restaurant chains — like The Cheesecake Factory, TGI Fridays, IHOP and others — sell versions of their sauces, syrups and products in retail.

“We are looking to learn more about the retail channel,” Patrick added.

There’s reason to believe that customers will buy full bottles of the sauce. Thrillist named Chick-fil-A’s signature sauce, a blend of honey mustard and barbecue sauces, the second-best fast food sauce in the country. Food blogs have recipes for copycat versions of the sauce, and Walmart (WMT) sells a “restaurant style” chicken dipping sauce which some have called a knockoff version of the product.

“Our customers love our sauces,” said Patrick. “Chick-fil-A Sauce and Polynesian Sauce are our two most popular sauces, which is why these flavors are leading the way.” For now, the pilot program is limited to Florida, but Chick-fil-A may one day roll the bottled sauces out nationally.

In addition to selling the bottles in big box stores in Florida, some Florida locations of Chick-fil-A will also offer 8-ounce bottles of its signature, Polynesian, Barbeque, Honey Mustard and Garden Herb Ranch sauces with catering orders and for purchase staring this month. All proceeds from the bottle sales will go to Chick-fil-A’s scholarship fund for employees, even if the pilot expands beyond Florida.

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Breaking New

Verizon will finally sell you TV without a contract

The company is eliminating bundles and contracts, Verizon announced Thursday. Instead, it will sell its Fios TV and internet services separately. Long-term contracts are also being trashed in favor of charging customers month-to-month. That is similar to how streaming services charge customers.
Verizon (VZ) is calling the new offers “Mix and Match on Fios.” There are now three internet packages and five Fios TV packages. Notably, Verizon will continue selling Google’s YouTube TV for $49.99 per month as a TV option under an agreement the two companies signed last year. A home telephone package will also be sold for $20 per month.

The new bundle-free packages offer more price transparency for customers, Verizon claims.

“Customers are tired of having to buy a bundle with services they don’t want to get the best rates, and then discover that those rates didn’t include extra fees and surcharges,” said Frank Boulben, Verizon’s senior vice president of marketing, in statement.

But not all surcharges are going away: Verizon will continue charging a $15 monthly fee for routers in some of its internet packages and a $12 set-top monthly fee in most of its Fios TV packages. But other fees it previously charged, including for regional sports networks, will now be included in the total Fios TV price.

Verizon, like its competitors such as Comcast (CMCSA), has been stung by customers ditching high-priced cable packages for streaming services. Verizon lost nearly 70,000 video subscribers in its most recent earnings report. However it did add 30,000 internet subscribers.

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Breaking New

Mustang used in the movie Bullitt could sell for millions

The 1968 Mustang GT, which will be offered for sale by Mecum Auctions at an event in Kissimmee, Florida, on Friday, was driven by the actor Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt.

Even if you’ve never seen the movie in its entirety, there’s a good chance you’ve seen clips from its famous chase scene. It features the Highland Green Mustang with black wheels and McQueen clearly in the driver’s seat in many shots. And there have been plenty of movie chase scenes done since that were influenced by the Bullitt chase, considered the first and still one of the best “modern” auto chase scenes. There were car chases in movies before but they looked very different.

The current record price for a Ford Mustang sold at auction is $2.2 million paid for a 1967 Shelby GT500 at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction last year. The highest price ever paid for any muscle car at auction was $3.5 million for a ’71 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible sold at a Mecum auction in Seattle in 2014. This car could fetch more than either of those cars.

This Mustang’s uniqueness makes it difficult to predict the ultimate selling price. Ordinarily, past association with a celebrity and even appearance in a movie don’t add significantly to a car’s value. They just make for cute stories to tell when showing off an old car to friends. It’s usually the car itself, its desirability and its rarity, that contribute most to its value.

Generally speaking, a 1968 Ford Mustang GT with a 390 cubic-inch V8 engine would be worth about $70,000 in good condition, according to the Hagerty Price Guide for collectible cars.

But Bullitt, with its iconic chase scene, isn’t just any movie and McQueen isn’t just any famous actor. Because of his well-known love of cars and racing he holds a special place in the hearts of modern collectors. Asked to sign an insurance form stating he would refrain from off-screen racing during Bullitt’s production, McQueen refused saying, “There are some things that aren’t for sale — and one of ’em is my soul,” according a 1968 Daily Variety article quoted in the American Film Institute catalog.
He remains one of the very few celebrities whose past ownership can greatly increase the value of a vehicle often by three or four times or more. In 2014, a Ferrari previously owned and customized by McQueen sold for triple its ordinary value. In 2015, a vintage motorcycle he had owned became one of the most valuable motorcycles ever auctioned, going for $775,000. Other cars McQueen once owned have sold for five times their ordinary value.
The McQueen connection compounds the importance of the Mustang GT’s onscreen appearance. Not only did McQueen star in the film as San Francisco police lieutenant Frank Bullitt, he also did some of the driving in the chase scene himself. He had worked with stunt drivers and the movie’s director, Peter Yates, to script out the 11 minute scene. At times, the cars featured in the film — the green Mustang and a black Dodge Charger R/T — were going more than 100 miles an hour on hilly city streets, according to Marc Eliot’s biography on McQueen.

Adding to the car’s mystique was the fact that it largely disappeared for decades.

Just after the movie debuted the famous Mustang was sold to a Warner Bros. employee. (Warner Bros., which is now part of WarnerMedia, as is CNN, was the distributor for the film.) The Warner Bros. parking permit remains affixed to the windshield to this day. It had one subsequent owner before Robert Kiernan, responding to an ad in Road & Track, bought it for $6,000 in 1974, according to Mecum’s web page on the car.

It became the Kiernan family’s regular car, going on shopping trips and taking kids to school for years. McQueen managed to track the car down and reached out to the family, offering several times to buy it from them. He even offered to buy the family another car to replace it. Robert Kiernan refused, his son Sean said.

“This wasn’t like one of three cars that my dad had. This was it,” Sean Kiernan told CNN. “[McQueen’s] in California, my mom and dad were in Jersey so I mean the logistics alone would have been a pain. And then beyond that, leave my mom without a car.”

The Mustang was also just great fun to drive, Sean said, thanks to engine tuning and suspension modifications made for the movie at McQueen’s request. In 1980, the clutch failed and the car was put into a garage. It was moved from one garage to another, from New Jersey to Kentucky, as the family moved.

In 2001, Robert and Sean started working on the car to make it drivable again but had to stop when Robert became ill with Parkinson’s disease, according to Mecum. After Robert died in 2014, Sean returned to the garage to try again, he said.

This time he was able to restore the car to running condition. In 2016, Sean said, he reached out to Ford and had the car authenticated by an independent Mustang expert. Documentation, including the letters from McQueen begging to purchase it, along with alterations made to the car for filming — such as holes cut into the trunk for power cables — backed up the car’s authenticity.

While Ford (F) and Kiernan were preparing to unveil the car, another Mustang used in the movie, a stunt car that had been sent for scrapping after production, was uncovered in a Mexico scrapyard. It was found in far worse condition than Kiernan’s car, though.

Finally, in January 2018, at the introduction of a new Bullitt edition Mustang at the Detroit Auto Show, Kiernan’s car reemerged into public view.

Since then, Sean has been touring with the car, which has now become the 21st car added to the National Historic Vehicle Register. Now, he said he’s ready to part with the car and return to the family’s Kentucky horse farm.

“It’s perfect timing,” Sean Kiernan said, “and that’s what this car’s been all about, just timing, since the beginning.”

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