December 11, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! Having green eyes reportedly puts you in a pretty exclusive club: just 2% of the global population are green-eyed, making it the rarest iris shade in the world. Today we chart our way through:

  • Misaligned: SmileDirectClub's financials were never really straightened out.
  • Generational wealth: The richest (old money) families in the world.
  • Sum of departs: Immigration policy is front-and-centre.

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Not much to smile about

Brace yourselves… SmileDirectClub, the once-shiny telehealth startup that promised to straighten your teeth for a fraction of the typical price, has officially shut down its global operations after filing for bankruptcy in September.

In a statement posted on its website, SDC confirmed that it would be canceling any unshipped teeth aligner orders, and would not be honoring its popular “Lifetime Smile Guarantee” deal, which offered customers annual adjustments for life. The shutdown marks a serious fall from grace for the direct-to-consumer dental specialists — its 2019 IPO valued the company at $8.9 billion.


Founded in 2014, SmileDirectClub was an exciting presence in the orthodontal space, marketing its $1,850 teeth aligners as time-efficient and cost-effective alternatives to the dental brace courses that self-conscious smilers had been presented with for decades. They were, in hindsight, too cheap given that the company routinely racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, like so many of the D2C brands that burst onto the scene as “disruptors” around the same time.

Old money

The world's 25 wealthiest families, where wealth has been passed down over at least one generation, are now collectively worth a cool $2.1 trillion, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

At the top of the list is a new entrant to the rankings: the house of Al Nahyan, the ruling family of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and owners of the UK soccer club Manchester City. The family’s $305 billion net worth topples the lists previous leaders, America’s Walton family (heirs to the Walmart fortune, which we explored in detail in a recent Sunday deep dive).

With first-generation money excluded, the industries on this list of dynasties look quite different to most modern rich lists, which are often dominated by tech entrepreneurs. Indeed, the majority of families listed owe their prosperity to physical, rather than digital, empires.

With many fortunes tracing back to just one individual, or one company, the most interesting families on this list are arguably the ones that have passed their wealth down the most number of generations. On that measure, the Al Thani family — who have ruled Qatar since the mid-19th century — are worth noting, having maintained their enormous fortune (currently estimated at $133bn) across a staggering 8 generations.

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Sum of departs

Ahead of Zelensky’s arrival in the States, Republican senators are moving to block wartime aid to Ukraine, unless President Biden is willing to make “significant compromises” during border policy negotiations following near record-high illegal crossings earlier this year.

Although border control is likely to be a major subject in ongoing political discussions, US visa protocol may also be crucial in curbing immigration. Last year, ~170k employment visas were reportedly issued above the federal cap, and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in January already proposed substantial visa fee hikes — including a 2,050% surge in E-registration prices for H-1B visas, which allow employers to hire specialist foreign workers.

In the green

Among the suggested changes is raising prices related to the all-important ‘green cards’, which grant lawful permanent resident (LPR) status to live and work in the US. Already expensive for many applicants, the high costs associated with filing hasn't diminished applicant numbers. The number of people obtaining LPR status has grown since the pandemic, with the US accepting over a million green card applications last year, a ~38% increase from 2021.

More Data

• The reigning, unanimous MLB MVP Shohei Ohtani just signed what’s reported as being the biggest contract in US sports history, inking a 10-year deal with the Dodgers worth a mind-boggling $700 million.

• A former hotel in Nova Scotia, originally built in 1826, has been moved... but only thanks to 700 bars of soap helping the building glide 30 feet across a steel frame.

MacKenzie Scott has continued her giving bonanza, donating some $2.15 billion to 360 different charities.


• The good, the bad and the ugly: 10 new skyscrapers from around the world.

• Great visual from Axios: how the "big five" airlines came to dominate the skies.

Off the charts: As if you didn't have enough streaming services already... which TV personality announced the launch of their own streaming service in the coming days, where fans can access exclusive content for $9 a month? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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