The daily business briefing: June 17, 2016

Brexit campaign halted after UK lawmaker's murder, Sumner Redstone removes five Viacom board members, and more

Soda cans sit on a store shelf
(Image credit: JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Brexit campaign suspended after UK lawmaker's murder

The UK's Brexit campaign was halted on Thursday after the murder of Labour lawmaker Jo Cox, and remained suspended on Friday, a week ahead of the scheduled referendum on whether Britain should exit the European Union. Cox was an outspoken advocate of staying in the EU, and a champion of Syrian war victims. Witnesses said the man who shot and stabbed Cox shouted "Britain first" or "Put Britain first" during the attack. The latest opinion polls gave the "Vote Leave" side a lead of several percentage points after an increasingly bitter debate.


2. Redstone replaces five Viacom board members

Sumner Redstone moved to remove Viacom Chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman and four others from the company's governing board, the Redstone family's National Amusements Inc. announced Thursday. National Amusements said that the five ousted directors were being replaced by five newly elected directors, none of them affiliated with Redstone. The media company's non-voting stock soared on hopes the news signaled an end to boardroom infighting. One of the fired directors filed a lawsuit saying the ailing Redstone's daughter, Shari, orchestrated the move like a "puppet master" to "improperly seize control of Viacom."

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3. Microsoft partners with software firm serving legal marijuana industry

Microsoft announced Thursday that it was partnering with software firm Kind Financial, which makes "seed to sale" software for cannabis growers. Tech startups have rushed to get a piece of the booming legal marijuana industry, but Microsoft is the first major tech company to get involved. "Nobody has really come out of the closet, if you will,” said Matthew A. Karnes, the founder of marijuana data company Green Wave Advisors. "It's very telling that a company of this caliber is taking the risk of coming out and engaging with a company that is focused on the cannabis business."

The New York Times The Washington Post

4. Revlon to buy fellow cosmetics maker Elizabeth Arden

Revlon said Thursday it will buy rival cosmetics giant Elizabeth Arden for about $419 million in a cash deal that represents a 50 percent premium over Elizabeth Arden's closing stock price. Revlon also will take on the unprofitable Elizabeth Arden's debt, making the deal worth about $870 million. Elizabeth Arden's celebrity-branded fragrances are not selling like they used to, but Revlon, which is controlled by billionaire Ron Perelman, is betting it can boost both aging companies' brands.


5. Philadelphia becomes first big city to approve soda tax

Philadelphia's City Council approved a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet drinks on Thursday, becoming the first major U.S. city to do so. Two previous efforts to impose a local soda tax failed. This time, Mayor Jim Kenney (D) told the council the estimated $91 million in new tax revenues would pay for pre-K programs, community schools, and recreation centers. The beverage industry spent millions of dollars on a campaign to block the tax, and is expected to sue if it is enacted.

The Associated Press NBC Philadelphia

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