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Howard Solomon, 94, Dies; His Business Success Had a Personal Connection

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“Forest Pharmaceuticals deliberately chose to pursue corporate profits over its obligations to the F.D.A. and the American public,” Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said when the settlement was announced.

The company denied the allegations. In a statement at the time, Mr. Solomon said, “We remain dedicated to ensuring that we operate in full compliance with all laws and regulations.”

In 2011, Forest Labs won a proxy fight against the shareholder activist Carl C. Icahn, who had argued that the company had, among other things, lost billions of dollars of shareholder value over the previous decade. Mr. Icahn continued to pursue Forest Labs with a second proxy fight in 2012, which ended with one of his nominees elected to the company’s board.

In a letter to Mr. Icahn during that fight, Mr. Solomon wrote: “Your discourse thus far has shown a striking lack of strategic ideas. Instead, it has been replete with wild and baseless accusations, innuendo and distortion of facts.”

Still, at some point, Mr. Solomon reached out to Mr. Icahn, and they had a series of dinners.

“We got friendly,” Mr. Icahn said in a phone interview. “I thought he was a nice gentleman, a courtly guy.” He added: “I didn’t agree with the way he ran the business necessarily, but he was a nice guy who was thrilled with the outcome. He made a lot of money.”

In 2013, Mr. Solomon announced his retirement as chief executive and was replaced by Brent Saunders, an executive friendly with Mr. Icahn. Then, in early 2014, Actavis (now Allergan) paid $25 billion to acquire Forest Labs. Mr. Solomon, still the chairman, left after the acquisition and formed a family investment firm with his younger son, David, who had been a Forest Labs executive.

In addition to his sons, Mr. Solomon is survived by his wife, Sarah Billinghurst Solomon, a former assistant general manager of artistic affairs at the Metropolitan Opera, and five grandchildren. His first wife, Carolyn (Bower) Solomon, died in 1991.



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Credit Suisse Chairman Resigns After Inquiry

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The chairman of the Credit Suisse Group, António Horta-Osório, is stepping down immediately after an investigation involving breaches of Covid protocol.

Mr. Horta-Osório, who has been in the position for less than a year, reportedly broke quarantine rules in traveling on a London-to-Zurich flight in November and in attending the Wimbledon finals in July. The board later commissioned an investigation into his conduct. The bank announced his resignation on Sunday.

“I regret that a number of my personal actions have led to difficulties for the bank and compromised my ability to represent the bank internally and externally,” Mr. Horta-Osório said in statement.

“I therefore believe that my resignation is in the interest of the bank and its stakeholders at this crucial time,” he added.

Mr. Horta-Osório will be succeeded by Axel Lehmann, a former senior executive at the Swiss investment bank UBS. Mr. Lehmann joined the Credit Suisse board last year, where he has been the chairman of the risk committee. Before his time at UBS, he spent nearly two decades at Zurich Insurance Group.

Mr. Horta-Osório, a former chief of the Lloyds Banking Group, took over as chairman in April. He was tasked with a turnaround after the bank lost $5 billion over soured trades that a small unit of its investment bank made with Archegos Capital Management. It was just one in a string of recent body blows.

“I have worked hard to return Credit Suisse to a successful course, and I am proud of what we have achieved together in my short time at the bank,” he said.

Shares of Credit Suisse are down 22 percent over the past year, giving it a market capitalization of $28 billion.



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China’s Economy Slowed Late Last Year on Real Estate Troubles

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BEIJING — Construction and property sales have slumped. Small businesses have shut because of rising costs and weak sales. Debt-laden local governments are cutting the pay of civil servants.

China’s economy slowed markedly in the final months of last year as government measures to limit real estate speculation hurt other sectors as well. Lockdowns and travel restrictions to contain the coronavirus also dented consumer spending. Stringent regulations on everything from internet businesses to after-school tutoring companies have set off a wave of layoffs.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics said Monday that economic output from October through December was only 4 percent higher than during the same period a year earlier. That represented a further deceleration from the 4.9 percent growth in the third quarter, July through September.

The world’s demand for consumer electronics, furniture and other home comforts during the pandemic has kept exports strong, preventing China’s growth from stalling. Over all of last year, China’s economic output was 8.1 percent higher than in 2020, the government said. But much of the growth was in the first half of last year.

The snapshot of China’s economy, the main locomotive of global growth in the last few years, adds to expectations that the broader world economic outlook is beginning to dim. Making matters worse, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is now starting to spread in China, leading to more restrictions around the country and raising fears of renewed disruption of supply chains.

The slowing economy poses a dilemma for China’s leaders. The measures they have imposed to address income inequality and rein in companies are part of a long-term plan to protect the economy and national security. But officials are wary of causing short-term economic instability, particularly in a year of unusual political importance.

Next month, China hosts the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which will focus an international spotlight on the country’s performance. In the fall, Xi Jinping, China’s leader, is expected to claim a third five-year term at a Communist Party congress.

With growth in his country slowing, demand slackening and debt still at near-record levels, Mr. Xi could face some of the biggest economic challenges since Deng Xiaoping began lifting the country out of its Maoist straitjacket four decades ago.

“I’m afraid that the operation and development of China’s economy in the next several years may be relatively difficult,” Li Daokui, a prominent economist and Chinese government adviser, said in a speech late last month. “Looking at the five years as a whole, it may be the most difficult period since our reform and opening up 40 years ago.”

As costs for many raw materials have risen and the pandemic has prompted some consumers to stay home, millions of private businesses have crumbled, most of them small and family owned.

That is a big concern because private companies are the backbone of the Chinese economy, accounting for three-fifths of output and four-fifths of urban employment.

Kang Shiqing invested much of his savings nearly three years ago to open a women’s clothing store in Nanping, a river town in southeastern China’s Fujian Province. But when the pandemic hit a year later, the number of customers dropped drastically and never recovered.

As in many countries, there has been a broad shift in China toward online shopping, which can undercut stores by using less labor and operating from inexpensive warehouses. Mr. Kang was stuck paying high rent for his store despite the pandemic. He finally closed it in June.

“We can hardly survive,” he said.

Another persistent difficulty for small businesses in China is the high cost of borrowing, often at double-digit interest rates from private lenders.

Chinese leaders are aware of the challenges private companies face. The central bank is taking steps to encourage the country’s state-controlled commercial banks to lend more money to small businesses. Premier Li Keqiang has promised further cuts in taxes and fees to help the country’s many struggling small businesses.

The building and fitting out of new homes has represented a quarter of China’s economy. Heavy lending and widespread speculation have helped China erect the equivalent of 140 square feet of new housing for every urban resident in the past two decades.

This autumn, the sector faltered. The government wants to limit speculation and deflate a bubble that had made new homes unaffordable for young families.

China Evergrande Group is only the largest and most visible of a lengthening list of real estate developers in China that have run into severe financial difficulty lately. Kaisa Group, China Aoyuan Property Group and Fantasia are among other developers that have struggled to make payments as bond investors become more wary of lending money to China’s real estate sector.

As real estate companies try to conserve cash, they are starting fewer construction projects. And that has been a big problem for the economy. The price of steel reinforcing bars for the concrete in apartment towers, for example, dropped by a quarter in October and November before stabilizing at a much lower level in December.

The decline in home prices in smaller cities has hurt the value of people’s assets, which in turn made them less willing to spend. Even in Shanghai and Beijing, apartment prices are no longer surging.

There have been faint hints of renewed government support for the real estate sector in recent weeks, but no sign of a return to lavish lending by state-controlled banks.

The financial distress of Evergrande “is a signal that money will be pushed from real estate to the stock market,” said Hu Jinghui, an economist who is the former chairman of the China Alliance of Real Estate Agencies, a national trade group. “The policies can be loosened, but there can be no return to the past.”

The slowdown in the housing market has also hurt local governments, which rely on land sales as a key source of revenue.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that government land sales each year have been raising money equal to 7 percent of the country’s annual economic output. But in recent months, developers have curtailed land purchases.

Starved of revenue, some local governments have halted hiring and cut bonuses and benefits for civil servants, prompting widespread complaints on social media.

In Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, a civil servant’s complaint of a 25 percent cut in her pay spread quickly on the internet. The municipal government did not respond to a fax requesting comment. In northern Heilongjiang Province, the city of Hegang announced that it would not hire any more “low-level” workers. City officials deleted the announcement from the government’s website after it drew public attention.

Some governments have also raised fees on businesses to try to make up for the shortfall.

Bazhou, a city in Hebei Province, collected 11 times as much money in fines on small businesses from October through December as it did in the first nine months of last year. Beijing criticized the city for undermining a national effort to reduce the cost of doing business.

Exports are setting records. Families around the world have responded to being stuck at home during the pandemic by spending less on services and more on consumer goods now made mainly in Chinese factories.

Some areas of consumer spending have been fairly robust, notably the luxury sector, with sports cars and jewelry selling well.

Few anticipate that the government will allow a severe economic downturn this year, ahead of the Communist Party congress. Economists expect the government to soften its restrictions on lending and step up government spending.

“The first half of the year will be challenging,” said Zhu Ning, deputy dean of the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance. “But then the second half will see a rebound.”

Li You contributed research.



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Custom 1951 Mercury Sells at Auction for $1.95 Million

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A customized 1951 Mercury coupe astonished aficionados over the weekend, selling for $1.95 million at the Mecum collector car auction in Kissimmee, Fla., outpacing the vehicle’s presale estimate of up to $1.25 million.

The two-tone green coupe — known as the Hirohata Merc for the 21-year-old Japanese American Navy veteran, Masato Hirohata, who commissioned it in 1952 — is a prime example of the custom car scene that blossomed in Southern California at that time.

“This sale is a record for a 1951 Mercury, and the highest-selling custom car that wasn’t a movie or TV show car,” John Wiley, manager of valuation analytics at the classic car insurer Hagerty, said on Sunday. “The continuing relevance of the Hirohata Merc thrills us. A car that was customized almost 70 years ago, within the context of an emerging American art form, is still revered today.”

Few cars share the Merc’s pedigree. It was built by many of the most prominent names in the midcentury Southern California custom car scene, including George Barris, who went on to design iconic cars for TV shows such as “The Munsters,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Batman.” It went on to win scores of awards and trophies.

The sellers were Scott and Darla McNiel, son and daughter of Jim McNiel, who bought the car in 1959 for $500, saved it and eventually restored it to its original glory before his death in 2018. The automotive historian Ken Gross and the classic car expert Wayne Carini helped the McNiel siblings broker the sale. The buyer’s name has not been disclosed.

The McNiels were long-term stewards of the car, and they hoped to maintain their family’s narrative connection to the Merc. “The thing that’s most important to me is that my dad’s impact on the history and legacy of the car stays attached to it,” Scott McNiel said. “And my fear that once it moves away from our family, it becomes just a Barris Kustom and Jim McNiel gets left out of the storytelling process.”

Apparently, this connection will persevere. “Darla kept a $10 bill that her father gave her at an early age,” Mr. Carini said. “Before the car went over the block for sale, Darla and I hid that same $10 in the car, so Jim will always be a piece of the car.”



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