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Alamo Drafthouse new co-owner embroiled in child abuse scandal

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Alamo Drafthouse new co-owner embroiled in child abuse scandal

Alamo Drafthouse revealed it is selling itself as the dine-in cinema chain filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday — and one of its new co-owners is a private-equity firm that has been engulfed in a child-abuse scandal.

Altamont Capital Partners — which alongside Fortress Investment Group and Alamo’s founder will buy the Texas-based movie chain after the coronavirus shuttered its 18 theaters nationwide and spurred a “liquidity crisis” — is also the owner of Sequel Youth and Family Services, an operator of taxpayer-funded foster-care facilities that have been accused of widespread abuse and neglect.

According to an explosive report last fall by American Public Media in collaboration with Oregon Public Broadcasting, Sequel has operated facilities nationwide where children were abused, neglected, sexually assaulted and physically mistreated.

The shocking report alleged that at least 40 states at one point sent their most vulnerable children to Sequel’s facilities, which were run by “inexperienced, low-wage” employees. The reports detailed sexual and physical verbal abuse, including beatings from staff, as well as feces-infested living quarters.

“While instances of sexual assault by a staff member are extremely rare among the thousands of kids we help around the country, even one case is unconscionable,” Sequel said in a statement at the time. It also said it had initiated “better hiring practices, background checks, and the installation of cameras and other security measures” to prevent such incidents.

Meanwhile, Altamont Capital has pumped $40 million into Sequel over the past three years to fund its expansion. Sequel operates 44 programs in 19 states including a Michigan facility where a 16-year-old boy died last April after being restrained by staff members.

In February, several members of Congress requested that the Office of Inspector General in the US Department of Health and Human Services investigate youth care and residential facilities, including those operated by Sequel in Oregon.

Altamont did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Alamo — which sold its assets to a group of lenders that includes existing investor Altamont, affiliates of Fortress Investment Group, and company founder Tim League — did not return requests for comment.

League did, however, comment early Wednesday on Alamo’s prospects. The company plans to keep most of its theaters open after it emerges from bankruptcy, according to reports.

“Because of the increase in vaccination availability, a very exciting slate of new releases, and pent-up audience demand, we’re extremely confident that by the end of 2021, the cinema industry — and our theaters specifically — will be thriving,” League said in a statement to news outlets.

Josh Kosman contributed reporting.

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

Soho House — the London-based group of posh private clubs — is planning to go public across the pond, a new report says.

The British company filed confidential paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission this week to list itself on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation of more than $3 billion, the UK’s Sky News reported Thursday.

The filing comes about three years after the iconic chain last mulled plans for an IPO in 2018, according to reports from the time.

The latest bid has been in the works since at least February, when The Times of London reported that Soho House had hired Wall Street stalwarts JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley as it looked to take advantage of the frothy US stock market.

The company raised a batch of private funding last summer but decided to pursue more capital through the public market as it expands, according to Sky News.

Soho House declined to comment Thursday.

Soho House runs 27 clubs in 10 countries, including three in New York City, along with event venues and a group of co-working spaces dubbed “Soho Works.

The chain’s business has reportedly held up through the coronavirus crisis. Just about 10,000 of its 110,000 members — whose ranks include Prince Harry and supermodel Kate Moss — canceled their memberships even as the pandemic shuttered its venues, the Financial Times reported last year.

While Soho House shares its name with the London neighborhood where its first club opened in 1995, the company is mostly owned by billionaire American investor Ron Burkle.

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Elon Musk says he supports COVID vaccines after questioning safety

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Elon Musk says he supports COVID vaccines after questioning safety

Tesla chief Elon Musk expressed support for COVID-19 vaccines despite previously raising questions about their safety and saying he wouldn’t get the jab himself.

The world’s second-richest man tried to clear up his vaccine views on Twitter after drawing ire last month for his vocal skepticism about two-dose regimens.

“To be clear, I do support vaccines in general & covid vaccines specifically,” Musk tweeted Wednesday. “The science is unequivocal.”

The 49-year-old electric-car tycoon sparked controversy last month by saying there was “some debate” about the safety of the second of two shots people must get to complete their Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations.

Musk claimed there had been “quite a few negative reactions” to the second doses as he encouraged elderly and immunocompromised people to take the vaccines.

While allergic reactions to Pfizer’s vaccine have been more frequent after the second dose than the first, they’re still rare overall with just 4.5 incidents reported for every million doses administered, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

Musk acknowledged Wednesday that allergic reactions happen “in very rare cases,” adding that they’re “easily addressed with an EpiPen.”

In September, the Tesla “Technoking” told The New York Times that neither he nor his family would get a vaccine because “I’m not at risk for COVID, nor are my kids.”

Musk ended up contracting what he called a “moderate case” of the virus in November, comparing his symptoms to a “minor cold.”

In response to a Twitter reply, Musk indicated that he decided not to get a vaccine because someone else could benefit more from the shot given that he already had some immunity to COVID.

Last month wasn’t the first time Musk has stoked controversy with his opinions on the pandemic.

He wrongly predicted last year that there would be “probably close to zero new cases” in the US by the end of April 2020 and called coronavirus lockdown measures “fascist” after fighting to keep Tesla’s California factory open.

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744,000 filed in stubborn increase

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744,000 filed in stubborn increase

The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits stubbornly jumped again last week even amid hopes that the labor market was getting back on track, the feds said Thursday.

Last week’s 744,000 initial jobless claims brought the total for the COVID-19 pandemic to about 79 million — a number more than triple the size of North Korea’s population.

New filings have ticked up for two consecutive weeks after dropping below the pre-coronavirus record of 695,000 in mid-March.

The latest total once again defied the predictions of economists, who expected 690,000 claims last week as vaccinations added fuel to the nation’s economic reopening, according to Wrightson ICAP.

“The biggest reason to temper optimism is a negative turn in the course of the pandemic, including new variants” of the coronavirus, Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said.

Weekly jobless claims have bounced up and down in recent weeks while struggling to stay below the pre-pandemic record after a year of painfully high readings.

The four-week moving average, which smooths out the volatility, also ticked up to 723,750 a week after reaching its lowest level since March 2020, when the pandemic first gutted the American economy.

The latest US Department of Labor data came a week after a blowout jobs report that showed the economy adding 916,000 jobs in March.

“To put this week’s level of claims in perspective, a year ago this shocking number topped 6 million,” said Mark Hamick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “It wasn’t until August that it consistently stayed below 1 million. So, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to return to pre-pandemic levels.”

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