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Talking Points: N.J. biotech plans to manufacture vaccines in new Mass. plant

Seth Lederman is the CEO of Tonix Pharmaceuticals.
Seth Lederman is the CEO of Tonix Pharmaceuticals.Photo courtesy of Tonix Pharmaceuticals


N.J. company to start work on vaccine plant in the New Bedford Business Park

A New Jersey biotech is starting construction on a vaccine manufacturing plant in the New Bedford Business Park where its executives hope to develop new vaccines for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Tonix Pharmaceuticals of Chatham, N.J., is holding a ceremony on Tuesday to highlight its plans for a 45,000-square-foot facility, to be built in a part of the park that’s actually within the town of Dartmouth. The company expects to hire 70 people, including researchers and scientists, to staff the facility during the next two years. CEO Seth Lederman said that when the pandemic hit in 2020, Tonix was unable to ramp up with its vaccine technology because the company uses contract manufacturers and the backlogs were too long. This prompted Lederman to decide to build up the firm’s in-house manufacturing capability by acquiring the former warehouse in Dartmouth to prepare for clinical trials, and to search for land that could accommodate a larger manufacturing complex to produce vaccines for commercial use. Lederman wanted to open the plant near Boston because of the talent in the life sciences industry here, but didn’t want to be too close to the city because of traffic congestion and real estate costs. Lederman said it’s becoming increasingly likely that vaccines, such as the viral vaccines he hopes to produce at Tonix, will be needed for the long-term to manage COVID-19, especially as new variants emerge. ― JON CHESTO



Foot Locker buys sneaker chains in two deals worth $1.11 billion

Foot Locker Inc. agreed to buy a pair of footwear companies in two deals with a combined value of $1.11 billion, expanding the chain’s presence in North America and Asia. The athletic-goods retailer will pay $750 million for Eurostar Inc., the operator of WSS stores primarily on the US West Coast, according to a statement Monday. Foot Locker also agreed to acquire Text Trading Co., the Japanese parent of the Atmos brand, for $360 million, the companies said in a separate news release. The deals will be funded with available cash. The agreements mark a considerable expansion as Foot Locker tries to navigate a changing retail landscape. Widespread lockdowns because of the pandemic hurt apparel retailers, many of which had to temporarily close stores, though the work-from-home trend fueled demand for so-called athleisure wear and other comfortable clothes. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS



Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo will raise prices ‘considerably’

The owner of Michael Kors and Jimmy Choo says prices at both brands will increase during the coming months as the company eschews the major discounts that have dinged revenue in the past. “We’re raising prices on Michael Kors,” said John D. Idol, chief executive officer of Capri Holdings Ltd., which also owns Versace. “We’re going to raise prices again for spring season next year ― prices are going to go up considerably. And also at Jimmy Choo.” Kors and rival brands like Coach and Kate Spade are trying to raise the prices of their handbags and accessories as they wean themselves off discounts and promotions, which boosted volume but eroded revenue and profitability in past years. Selling merchandise at full price is seen as the hallmark of a high-end brand. Luxury companies are benefiting as consumers continue to splurge after squirreling away savings during the pandemic. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS


Exxon Mobil’s oil production is at its lowest level since the 1999 merger

North America’s biggest oil company is not as big as it used to be. Exxon Mobil Corp.’s production sank below 3.6 million barrels a day in the second quarter, the lowest since the 1999 merger that created the giant in its modern form. But that may be a good thing. COVID-19 forced CEO Darren Woods to abandon a $200 billion growth strategy and slash spending to levels insufficient to hold output steady. That put the driller in a strong position to reap the benefits of this year’s crude rally while also reducing its overall emissions. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS



Zoom agrees to $85 million settlement over ‘Zoombombing’ lawsuit

Zoom Video Communications, the videoconferencing company whose Internet app became a mainstay of American life during the coronavirus pandemic, has agreed to pay $85 million and improve its security practices to settle a lawsuit claiming it violated the privacy of its users. Filed in March 2020, the suit claimed that Zoom shared personal data with third-party Internet services and allowed hackers to interrupt online meetings through so-called “Zoombombing,” a phenomenon in which Internet trolls exploit a screen-sharing feature on the videoconferencing app to show offensive messages or images. Under the settlement, which still requires the approval of a federal judge, Zoom subscribers would be eligible to receive a 15 percent refund on their primary subscriptions or $25 — whichever is greater. Other users could receive a refund of up to $15. The company also agreed to notify users when others use third-party apps during meetings and to provide training on privacy and data handling to its employees. “The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us,” the company said in a statement. In agreeing to settle the case, it denied any wrongdoing. In the spring of 2020, 14 class-action complaints were filed against the company over Zoombombing, a widely discussed phenomenon in the early weeks of quarantine that often involved pornography and racist language. This included, for instance, posting white supremacist messages during a webinar on antisemitism. In May, the US District Court for the Northern District of California consolidated the complaints into a single class-action suit. ― NEW YORK TIMES



It’s official: Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates are divorced

Three months after they announced their split following 27 years of marriage, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates are officially divorced. The marriage’s dissolution was finalized by a judge Monday in King County, Wash., according to court records, which detailed that neither party will receive “spousal support” or change their names. The judge ordered the Gateses to divide their property according to the terms of a separation contract, which remains confidential under the terms of the divorce. Washington laws stipulate a 90-day waiting period between when a divorce is filed and finalized. TMZ earlier reported the official conclusion of the marriage. Since the split was revealed in May, more than $3 billion worth of shares held by Gates’s Cascade Investment has been transferred to French Gates’s name. That’s a fraction of their $146 billion fortune at the time of the announcement, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, though it may never be known how the ex-couple’s private assets are being divvied up. Gates, 65, is now worth more than $150 billion, according to the index. While Washington is a community property state, which means anything accumulated during marriage is considered both partners’ equally, the separation contract can supersede that as long as both parties agree and the court deems it fair. In Monday’s filing, the judge called the plan to split property “just and equitable.” ― BLOOMBERG NEWS