2 years The companies that will be devastated by the economy this year     

For a while, wishful thinking suggested a “v-shaped” recovery would follow the coronavirus-imposed economic downturn. We now know that won’t happen. Instead our preoccupation is justifiably focused on the next few months: When and how can we re-open? When will testing improve? When will a treatment or a vaccine be ready? What will the new normal look like?

All this neglects the most important topic: the overall resizing of the global economy. We know the recovery won’t be swift. We can see that even in China, where at minimum, anecdotal evidence suggests infection transmission has mostly ceased. I fear in coming weeks we’ll be coming to grips with a fundamental (downward) reset of the economy, with an unknown but protracted time to return to previous levels.

We’ll feel this acutely at Fortune, where our staff is in the process of assembling the current issue of the Fortune 500 based on 2019 revenues of the biggest publicly listed U.S. corporations. It feels obvious that the aggregate revenues of the Fortune 500 will decline in 2020, and the ramifications will be devastating.

Technology companies, despite the cheery news of late, won’t be immune. Apple and Google experienced sales growth in 2009, amidst the financial crisis. Cisco did not. Any company big enough to reflect the behavior of the macroeconomy will be challenged. Think: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Cisco (again).

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A perfect sentence in an interesting article about Eric Schmidt’s efforts to remake the U.S. military: “In an interview, Mr. Schmidt — by turns thoughtful, pedagogical and hubristic — said he had embarked on an effort to modernize the U.S. military because it was ‘stuck in software in the 1980s.’”

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Gil Schwartz, the longtime head of communications for CBS and famously a Fortune columnist under the pseudonym Stanley Bing, died over the weekend. He was an intellectual, a raconteur, a witty drinking companion, and a mensch. Andrew Nusca wrote a lovely remembrance of him here.

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I finally finished my first book since the lockdown began, a reflection that I’m blessed to be busy with work. I read Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, the second installment in her historical fiction treatment of Henry VIII’s hatchet man, Thomas Cromwell. I liked it, but I wish I’d read it on vacation, not a few pages at a time before going to bed.

Also, after initially not being able to watch anything remotely disturbing on TV, I completed The Man in the High Castle on Amazon and am halfway through The Plot Against America on HBO. Both are really good. And disturbing. As a Chicagoan present in that great city for most of the Michael Jordan era, I’m also enjoying ESPN’s Last Dance.

Adam Lashinsky

@adamlashinsky

[email protected]

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.

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