Who's In Hot Seat For 2021? WeWork's Sandeep Mathrani, Trump's Empire

But massive headaches await. U.S. sales fell 10% in the final quarter of 2020, plagued by low inventory of a redesigned F-150 and a complicated factory changeover.

Who's In Hot Seat For 2021? WeWork's Sandeep Mathrani, Trump's Empire

Donald Trump won the votes of more than 70 million Americans in 2020.

Jim Farley

The newly installed president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co., Farley, 58, finds himself squarely in the bull's-eye during a critical year for Detroit's beloved blue-oval brand.

On the positive side, Ford's F-Series line of pickup trucks has been America's bestselling vehicle for more than 40 years; its money-minting light trucks (pickups and SUVs) have done so well, the company is exiting sedans to focus on reinvigorating icons such as the Bronco.

But massive headaches await. U.S. sales fell 10% in the final quarter of 2020, plagued by low inventory of a redesigned F-150 and a complicated factory changeover. The brand announced on Jan. 11 that it's closing three factories in Brazil and cutting 5,000 workers in South America; in China, the world's largest auto market and best opportunity for selling electric vehicles, it has only a nominal presence. Meanwhile, Ford is spending $11.5 billion to electrify its lineup, starting with the battery-powered Mustang Mach-E that just went on sale and an electric F-150 coming in 2022. 

Boris Johnson

On Dec. 31 the U.K. finally completed its divorce from the European Union. It should have been the moment Prime Minister Boris Johnson began to reveal his plans for "Global Britain," translating his slogan into a new mission for the faded imperial power.

But Britain has had to retreat into crisis-fighting mode as the Covid-19 death toll rises. In the early days of 2021, Johnson canceled his first trade mission to India and imposed a third lockdown on a recession-battered economy. While the government is now on course to vaccinate its 15 million most vulnerable people by Feb. 15, a new, highly infectious strain of the virus threatens to delay the easing of restrictions.

For U.K. businesses trying to trade with the EU, the first few weeks of life after Brexit have also been a struggle. Haulers are being overwhelmed by new customs paperwork, while some Scottish fishermen have decided to land their catches in Denmark because prices back home have collapsed. That risks fueling further calls for Scotland to separate from the rest of the U.K.

If the pandemic recedes, there are opportunities this year for Johnson to show what Britain can do. In June he hopes to hold the Group of Seven summit in a picturesque seaside resort, and in November the U.K. will host the COP26 global climate talks in Glasgow. And Johnson wants to nail down a trade deal with Joe Biden's new administration and other trade partnerships around the world.

After his recovery from Covid-19 last spring, the 56-year-old premier insisted he was "as fit as a butcher's dog." With so much on his plate, he'll need to be. 

Sandeep Mathrani

A year ago, Sandeep Mathrani inherited a high-profile but unenviable job: running WeWork Cos. after its former chief executive officer, Adam Neumann, had been ousted in a blaze of infamy and its initial public offering collapsed. The coworking company was bleeding $2 billion a year even before the pandemic made the idea of mingling in a communal office seem reckless. Mathrani, a real estate veteran known for turning around ailing mall mega-owner General Growth Properties, has moved quickly. WeWork slashed its workforce to 4,800, down from a peak of 14,500, and cut ties with 100 of its office locations. Throughout the pandemic, Mathrani has rosily maintained that once the virus is quelled, newfound interest in semi-remote work will make companies seek WeWork's flexible office spaces. Now that vaccines have made a return to the office seem possible, he'll have to spend 2021 proving that he was right. Mathrani recently promised that WeWork will be profitable by the end of the year. But he also seems to know getting there will be stressful, saying at a conference in January that the one habit he's picked up during the pandemic has been meditation.

Vlad Tenev

This could be a spectacular year for Robinhood Markets Inc.'s chief executive officer. The zero-commission online brokerage he started with Baiju Bhatt helped ignite a retail trading boom, and an initial public offering is widely anticipated. The company is considering selling some of its shares directly to its users.

But Robinhood's name has become shorthand for everything worrisome about this market: an influx of inexperienced investors, lots of trading, and more risk-taking. Other brokers have embraced Robinhood's free-trades model, but its fast growth and mission to "democratize finance" keep the company in the spotlight.

Tenev, who was named sole CEO in November, has vowed to address technical glitches that have frustrated some users. Robinhood says it tripled the size of its customer support team in 2020 and invested in making its systems more resilient. The company also faces criticism for making trading on its phone app feel too much like a game. That's the subject of a complaint by Massachusetts regulators, who point to one novice who made 12,700 trades in about six months. The company says it disagrees with the complaint's allegations and plans to defend itself. 

Trump Organization

Donald Trump is returning to a business empire that's suffering in ways that were unimaginable when he entered the White House. The pandemic has ravaged some industries he's biggest in-apartments, commercial office space, hotels-and New York officials are looking into his past business dealings and taxes. Adding to the troubles is the blacklisting of Trump by much of the corporate world for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol after he failed to win re-election. Favored lender Deutsche Bank won't work with him anymore. Golf's PGA of America nixed plans for its 2022 championship to be played at a Trump course. And New York City is ending its contracts with his Trump Organization.

Trump won the votes of more than 70 million Americans in 2020, so he's likely to have other post-White House options, such as a book deal or a tie-up with a TV channel. Having been U.S. president could help him win deals in some foreign countries, regardless of his clouded exit from Washington. But for a man who built a career around a persona of being a perennial winner, 2021 could be the year his famed ability to rebound is put to the test.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)