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MassMutual to invest in Black-owned businesses, tech startups

The Massachusetts Mutual building downtown Springfield.
The Massachusetts Mutual building downtown Springfield.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File 2018


MassMutual launches $50 million investment fund

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. is launching a new $50 million investment fund to support Black-owned businesses across the state and tech startups outside of the metro Boston area. The Springfield-based life insurer unveiled the MM Catalyst Fund on Thursday. MassMutual plans to divide the money evenly between the two groups: $25 million for equity and debt investments in Black-owned or managed businesses either based in Massachusetts or with significant operations here, and $25 million for equity investments in tech companies outside of metro Boston. The fund will make investments ranging in size from $250,000 to $2.5 million over the next four to five years. The goal is to serve as a catalyst in less economically developed areas of the state. MassMutual portfolio manager Rilwan Meeran, who is based in Boston, will oversee the fund. — JON CHESTO



Cherokee Nation asks Jeep to change the name of Grand Cherokee

The Cherokee Nation, for the first time, has asked Jeep to change the name of its Grand Cherokee vehicle, a move that the carmaker, preparing to release the next generation of the line, has so far resisted. Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said Wednesday that the name belonged to the Cherokee people and that Jeep’s use of it without permission was troubling. “The use of Cherokee names and imagery for peddling products doesn’t deepen the country’s understanding of what it means to be Cherokee, and I think it diminishes it somewhat,” Hoskin said. His opposition to Jeep’s use of the tribe’s name was reported by Car and Driver magazine last week. Stellantis, the carmaker that owns Jeep, defended its use of the name. “Our vehicle names have been carefully chosen and nurtured over the years to honor and celebrate Native American people for their nobility, prowess, and pride,” the company said Wednesday. “We are, more than ever, committed to a respectful and open dialogue with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.” Jeep introduced its Cherokee SUV in 1974. After the car was retired in the early 2000s, Jeep revived it in 2014. Since that time, the Grand Cherokee has become one of Jeep’s most popular models, with more than 200,000 sold last year. — NEW YORK TIMES



The favorite food of the pandemic loses some sheen

Pizza — the unofficial meal of 2020 for many lockdowned consumers — has finally slowed its meteoric rise. Papa John’s and Domino’s on Thursday both reported same-store sales growth that missed estimates in their home markets. Although the two chains both logged double-digit increases, the rate of growth is slowing as indoor dining resumes across the country. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Aston Martin’s first SUV a hit at $223,000

Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings climbed the most in four months after the British carmaker issued an upbeat outlook for the coming year, driven by demand for its debut SUV, which lists for $223,000. The company plans to produce 6,000 vehicles this year, up from just 3,394 in 2020, with the DBX model accounting for much of that output. Aston Martin’s quarterly revenue and adjusted earnings beat estimates, sending the shares up as much as 13 percent in London. Aston Martin spent last year restructuring itself after a rescue by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll. The 61-year-old fashion mogul has injected much-needed cash and forged closer ties with Mercedes-Benz to ensure the company survives tumultuous times for the auto industry. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Coinbase acknowledges it is under investigation

Coinbase Global Inc. said it’s facing federal and state investigations as the biggest US crypto exchange seeks to go public through a direct listing. The company, reported to be valued at more than $100 billion in recent private transactions, has been under investigation since 2017 by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Coinbase said Thursday in a filing. Coinbase also received a Securities and Exchange Commission subpoena as recently as December for information about its operations. It’s common for firms seeking to go public to disclose any regulatory probes as potential risks. The legal headaches come as Coinbase seeks to ride Bitcoin’s meteoric rise to what’s expected to be one of the biggest initial public offerings in years. Coinbase’s revenue more than doubled last year from 2019 as it swung to a profit amid a boom in cryptocurrency trading. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Zillow to offer to buy homes based on its estimated values

For years, Zillow has titillated homeowners, prospective buyers, and the voyeuristic public by estimating the value of tens of millions of US homes and publishing the results. Now the real estate giant is putting cash behind its number-crunching, turning its often controversial “Zestimates” into offers to buy homes. For more than 500,000 properties across 20 markets in the United States, the company has added language on its websites and apps inviting owners to “sell to Zillow for your Zestimate.” When an offer is accepted, Zillow sends an inspector to make sure its information on the home is accurate, then pays cash for the property, makes light repairs, and puts it back on the market. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Orders for durable goods rise for a ninth month

Orders to US factories for big-ticket goods shot up 3.4 percent in January, pulled up by a surge in orders for civilian aircraft. A category that tracks business investment posted a more modest gain, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Orders for goods meant to last at least three years have now risen nine straight months, another sign that manufacturing has proven resilient in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Warren Buffett’s annual letter Saturday could break his silence

While 2020 raged, Warren Buffett mostly held his tongue. He stayed quiet through a heated presidential election, a racial reckoning that sparked nationwide protests, and an exuberance for stocks that’s gripped millions of Americans. Not to mention a global pandemic. Now, the billionaire chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has a chance to break his silence with the release of his annual letter Saturday. The letter is an annual tradition for the 90-year-old CEO, a chance to share wisdom with his loyal following of value investors. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Economy grew slightly faster than first expected in fourth quarter


The economy grew at a slightly faster pace in the final three months of 2020 than first thought, ending a year in which the overall economy shrank more than it had in the past seven decades. Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic health — grew at an annual rate of 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter, up from an initial estimate of 4 percent growth, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The revision does alter the nation’s annual GDP, which shrank 3.5 percent, the largest decline since 1946 when the US demobilized after World War II. — ASSOCIATED PRESS