Starbucks treats employees to higher-education help

Starbucks to offer financial assistance to 135,000 employees seeking higher-education degrees; Medtronic to buy Covidien in $49 billion deal; How HBO is cashing in on Game of Thrones.

Starbucks treats employees to higher-education help  
Coffee giant Starbucks is set to announce on Monday that it will help its employees pay for a college degree. The chain will offer financial aid and tuition reimbursement to staffers who enroll in online degree programs at Arizona State University.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is scheduled to announce the program at a New York event on Monday, along with US Education Secretary Arne Duncan and more than 300 employees and their families.

The initiative covers employees who work 20 hours a week or more in its cafes, plants, and corporate offices. The program will be open to 135,000 staffers, who can pick any of 40 study areas as a focus. Employees who take advantage of the program will not be required to stay at Starbucks after they receive their degrees.

Medtronic agrees to buy Covidien; Deal could boost scrutiny of overseas tax bases
Medical device-maker Medtronic agreed to buy Covidien on Sunday night in a $42.9 billion deal. The combined company’s headquarters would be located in Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is significantly lower than the US. Medtronic is now based in Minneapolis.

The acquisition could raise scrutiny of US companies striking deals in part to move their tax bases to more favorable countries. Medtronic is emphasizing that it will be able to invest more in US-based technologies as a result, and that its tax rate will remain nearly the same at about 18%.

Three other things to know Monday morning:
A former marketing executive for the Lotus Formula 1 team is saying he was fired for tweeting a message in support of gay athletes before the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The tweet was deleted shortly thereafter.

Shocked by the season four finale of Game of Thrones? (No spoilers here). HBO is cashing in big time on the series, which averaged 18.4 million viewers this season to usurp The Sopranos as its most popular show ever. The network has agreements with more than 60 companies that are making GoT-themed products, from beer to jewelry brands.

Former BuzzFeed president and COO Jon Steinberg has resurfaced running the Daily Mail’s US operation, according to Re/code. He reportedly left the startup media company after BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti declined to sell it to Disney.

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