A Mighty Ant

Private equity with a Southern touch: Roark was founded in 2001 by Neil Aronson, who started his career in the hospitality industry. Described by bankers as more low-key than the stereotypical New York financier, he named the firm after the protagonist in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead.” Since its beginning, Roark has focused on franchised businesses, like Auntie Anne’s, Batteries Plus, Carvel Ice Cream and Cinnabon. It’s held many of those purchases longer than the typical private equity investor — in some cases, for more than a decade. Still, it has had notable exits, like the well-received I.P.O. of Wingstop in 2015. Roark’s increasingly ambitious deals have enticed more bankers from New York to make the trip to Atlanta to get in on the action.

In an open letter published yesterday, more than 600 business school professors — including the Nobel laureates Alvin Roth and William Sharpe, as well as Angela Duckworth, Bill George and Adam Grant — declared opposition to President Trump “an act of conscience” for corporate leaders. They are weighing in on the increasingly contentious debate over how much business and politics should mix in these hyperpartisan times.

“‘Stay in your lane’ is a good metaphor for ‘business as usual,’” said Deepak Malhotra, a Harvard Business School professor who drafted the letter. He said that the professors were modeling behavior for others who may want to engage: “We’re not just scholars. We’re their teachers.”

  • Professor Malhotra, a negotiations expert, knows that sharp language will convince some and repulse others, and he said that he wasn’t trying to sway voters. “It’s a call to action for business leaders,” he said. “They recall that we haven’t made this ask before.”

Others are taking sides — or actively choosing not to. David Barrett, Expensify’s C.E.O., recently sent an email to 10 million customers, stating that “anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy.” That contrasts with executives like Coinbase’s Brian Armstrong, who took a stand by discouraging anything “unrelated to our core mission” at the workplace, stressing that politics isn’t their business.

This week, DealBook is highlighting how corporate America is preparing for a momentous election. Today, MGM’s C.E.O., Bill Hornbuckle, tells Lauren Hirsch how Nevada’s largest employer is encouraging its workers to exercise their voting rights.

Bill Hornbuckle says it’s important for every employer, particularly large ones, “to step up and step in” when it comes to encouraging people to vote. “It’s really important to us that people understand the issues at stake because they impact them and therefore their employment,” he adds.

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