President Biden has visited more than 100 top business executives and CEOs during his first year in office.
That comes according to a Yahoo Finance analysis of the president’s public schedule since Jan. 20. He met with leaders virtually and in person to discuss issues such as supply chains, COVID-19 vaccines, the semiconductor shortage, his legislative agenda and more.
The most frequent guests — with three interactions each — were Ford (F) CEO Jim Farley, General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon, and (perhaps surprisingly) Walmart (WMT) CEO Doug McMillon. William J. Flynn, the CEO of Amtrak’s passenger rail service, was the only other triple CEO visitor we could find for 2021.
Biden even visited Farley and Barra at Ford and GM plants, respectively, where the car-obsessed commander-in-chief was taking test drives. And it’s only natural that Biden often welcomed Flynn, given that the president’s old nickname is “Amtrak Joe,” based on his frequent train use during his time as a Delaware senator.
President Biden drives the new electric Ford F-150 Lightning at the Ford Dearborn Development Center in Dearborn, Michigan. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Notably, some other big company numbers aren’t showing up in visitor logs this year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk (TSLA) has criticized Biden’s policies and appears not to have had a meeting yet, unlike his visit to the White House in the first week after President Trump’s inauguration. The same goes for Meta (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The White House’s public schedules and pool reports don’t include all of the president’s activities, so it’s almost certain there were at least a few more phone calls or even meetings beyond those that Biden’s aides shared with reporters.
“Doug, I know you run a little outfit called Walmart”
Perhaps the most surprising White House regular this year is Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, who also regularly visited the Trump White House.
McMillon was in the Oval Office on Feb. 9 for a meeting about the US rescue plan. Then on Nov. 9 he spoke by phone with the president about supply chains. After that meeting, the White House touted partnerships with companies like Walmart, UPS (UPS), Target (TGT), and FedEx (FDX) to help alleviate supply chain problems. John Furner, the president and CEO of Walmart US, also visited the White House for an event about supply chain bottlenecks.
President Biden listens as Walmart CEO Doug McMillon speaks remotely during a hybrid virtual roundtable with CEOs and leaders ahead of the Christmas shopping season. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
During a virtual meeting with CEOs on Nov. 29, Biden noted, “I’ve spent more time walking the aisles at Walmart than I care to admit. [in years past] because there’s one down the street from where I live in Delaware.”
McMillon responded by assuring the president that “we are in good shape” ahead of the Christmas shopping season, adding that they “really appreciate the partnership.”
The friendly tone comes just a few years after the world’s largest retailer and its labor practices were an issue in the most recent Democratic presidential primaries. Biden’s then-rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, stopped by Walmart’s 2019 shareholder meeting to point out that “despite the owner’s incredible wealth, Walmart pays many of its employees starvation wages.”
Biden has also been critical of Walmart for years. But the company has gradually improved its labor record and has reached out to Democrats. This year, the chain announced pay increases for its employees with an average wage of $16.40 an hour and a minimum wage of $12 an hour.
“[T]Times have changed since the days when Biden and others presented the company as a collective force of evil,” Politico noted after one of Biden’s meetings this year.
‘I have a promise from Mary’
Another frequent group of visitors were automotive CEOs, at least those not named Elon Musk.
The 2021 semiconductor shortage left a number of new cars stuck in parking lots, and on April 12, the White House held a virtual CEO summit on the issue.
Ford and GM were represented by Jim Farley and Mary Barra respectively. Other invitees included tech leaders such as the CEO of Alphabet (GOOG), Sundar Pichai and Michael Dell of Dell Technologies (DELL).
General Motors CEO Mary Barra laughs at President Biden as he hosts an event for clean cars and trucks in August (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
The president also seemingly took every opportunity to tout electric vehicles in 2021. On May 18, he traveled to a Ford electric vehicle center in Michigan and met both Farley and William Ford, Jr., the company’s executive chairman and the great-grandson of Henry Ford.
On November 17, it was back to Michigan to visit a GM electric vehicle assembly plant. Barra joined the president for a test drive “complete with one burnout.”
Both Farley and Barra also came to Washington on August 5 for an event about clean cars and trucks. Mark Stewart of Stellantis (STLA) and Ray Curry of United Auto Workers were also in attendance. Biden praised both Farley and Barra during his remarks, praising the bipartisan infrastructure plan that will install thousands of electric vehicle charging stations in the coming years.
“I have a commitment from Mary when they make the first electric Corvette, I’ll get to drive it,” Biden said, adding “you think I’m kidding, I’m not kidding.”
Biden’s stalled Build Back Better plan also includes subsidies for union-made electric vehicles. The UAW represents employees at both GM and Ford, and they could benefit if the legislation can be lifted in 2022. Tesla’s workforce is not unionized, and Musk has publicly belittled Biden’s union efforts and proposed legislation, perhaps explaining his apparent lack of interaction with the White House this year.
The White House outreach also appears to have softened industry criticism of Biden’s plan, announced this month, to raise vehicle mileage standards to combat climate change. President Obama had previously raised standards during his administration and faced much more backlash from the industry than Biden.
‘My old buddy Jamie Dimon’ and others
Jamie Dimon was another frequent visitor.
The CEO of JPMorgan Chase has been a guest at the White House while Biden was vice president in the Obama administration. This year, Dimon discussed issues such as the US bailout on February 9, cybersecurity on August 25, and the debt cap on October 6.
“I see my old friend Jamie Dimon up there,” Biden said at a rally.
President Biden sits next to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (center) during a meeting with business leaders in February, including Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Meanwhile, vaccine manufacturers also received a lot of presidential attention in 2021. Pfizer (PFE) CEO Albert Bourla met with Biden twice. On June 10, Bourla spoke about COVID-19 vaccines at an event in the UK.
“Thank you for your commitment,” Biden told Bourla before handing over the microphone. Biden also visited Bourla when he went to a Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Feb. 19.
Other semi-regulars, the ones who had two publicly documented interactions with Biden in 2021, included 1600 Pennsylvania Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, GAP (GPS) CEO Sonia Syngal, Intel (INTC) CEO Pat Gelsinger, Samsung CEO KS Choi, Target CEO Brian Cornell and Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines (UAL).
Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.
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