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Business today

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 20, 2002

US AIRWAYS INVESTMENT: Alabama's public-employee pension fund has offered to invest $240-million in a restructured US Airways Group, topping by 20 percent an offer made in August by private-equity firm Texas Pacific Group. The offer was sent Wednesday and was being filed in federal bankruptcy court in Alexandria, Va. The Retirement System of Alabama would receive a 37.5 percent stake in the airline, assuming it successfully emerges from bankruptcy.

LAW FIRM CHANGE: Labor and employment lawyer John E. Phillips Jr. has been named executive partner of Holland & Knight's Tampa office. He replaces real estate and land use attorney Jim Shimberg. Spokeswoman Karen Schoening said such leadership changes are common at the law firm. Executive partners help set local business plans, appear at civic and charitable events and sit on firmwide committees.

PSC NOMINEES: The nominating council for the state Public Service Commission has selected a list of eight nominees to fill two pending PSC vacancies. Commissioner Terry Deason was renominated for a new four-year term. But not included on the list were two potential candidates reportedly favored by Gov. Jeb Bush, commissioner Michael Palecki and deputy executive director Kevin Neal. Incoming state Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, sent a letter last month to the nine-member nominating committee recommending the renomination of "very pro-business, pro-competition" Palecki and urging that Neal, Bush's ex-legislative affairs director, be considered in place of Deason. The list of nominees will be forwarded by Oct. 1 to Bush, who will have until Dec. 1 to make his choices from the list.

POWER PLANT BID RULES: The staff of the state Public Service Commission advised the PSC on Thursday that it has the authority to amend the rules on bidding for new power plant projects in Florida. Florida Power Corp., Tampa Electric Co. and other established utilities have argued that the PSC lacked authority to change the rules, which allow utilities to evaluate which bid is most economical, even if they bid on a project themselves. Independent power companies and consumer groups have urged the PSC to change the rules, pointing out that the utilities have repeatedly named themselves the winning bidder. The PSC is scheduled to discuss the issue at a special meeting Sept. 30.

VISIT FLORIDA SEARCH: The directors of Visit Florida Inc. on Thursday agreed to hire an executive search firm to begin the hunt for a replacement for Austin Mott, president and chief executive office of the state government-backed tourist marketing company. Mott recently resigned effective Dec. 31 after heading the Tallahassee company for six years.

EX-TYCO CHIEF'S BAIL: A judge allowed former Tyco International Ltd. chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski and former chief financial officer Mark Swartz to remain free on bail Thursday, pending a hearing on whether assets pledged for the bonds came from alleged multimillion-dollar fraud. State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus set a Sept. 27 hearing to discuss the source of the money, which prosecutors contend was stolen from the company and should not be used for their bail. Assistant District Attorney John Moscow also said, "We expect to bring additional charges against additional defendants." He declined to elaborate.

GM EXTENDS 0% LOANS: General Motors Corp. added no-interest loans on remaining 2002 models to match rivals' offers as September sales slow at the world's largest automaker. The 60-month, no-interest loans cover all 2002 models and run until Sept. 30, spokeswoman Julie Hamp said. No-interest loans on most 2003 models will continue, she said.

HUIZENGA RETIRING AT AUTONATION: Billionaire financier H. Wayne Huizenga is stepping down as chairman of AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest retailer of new and used vehicles, and will be replaced by chief executive Mike Jackson. Jackson becomes chairman of the auto retailer Jan. 1, the Fort Lauderdale company said Thursday. Huizenga, who owns the NFL's Miami Dolphins, will remain on AutoNation's board of directors.

CASE KEEPS JOB: Stephen Case began AOL Time Warner's board meeting Thursday as chairman, and he was chairman when the all-day meeting ended. In between, despite pressure from some major shareholders to oust Case and some anti-Case sentiment on the board itself, the 44-year-old chairman's job status was not on the agenda and was not even discussed, company spokesman Edward Adler said Thursday evening. Case declined to be interviewed, as did several of the other 13 board members.

MORE WORLDCOM REVISIONS?: WorldCom Inc. may further revise its financial statements by about $2-billion, adding to the $7-billion in accounting errors it has already disclosed, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources close to the situation. The second-biggest U.S. long-distance phone company may present revised figures to the Securities and Exchange Commission today, the newspaper said. The new revision may relate to writedowns of assets and improper accounting, the Journal said.

MORE FLAWS IN WINDOWS: Microsoft Corp. on Thursday disclosed more flaws in its Windows operating systems, the most serious of which could let an outside attacker take over a computer. The software company advised that all users of Windows install a free patch to fix flaws in its "virtual machine" for translating applications written in the Java programming language. Microsoft termed the threat "critical." Microsoft also disclosed "moderate" flaws in Windows 2000 and XP and advises administrators of Windows 2000 servers and end users of Windows XP to download a patch. The flaws involve a failure to encrypt certain kinds of data and an error that causes Windows XP to fail when sent certain kinds of bad data. The flaws, detailed on Microsoft's Web site, are the company's 51st and 52nd security bulletins of the year.

MORE SUBPOENA POWER: The chairman of a House committee investigating Global Crossing Ltd. and Qwest Communications received greater power to issue subpoenas Thursday because the committee believes the companies are withholding information. House Energy and Commerce Committee spokesman Ken Johnson said both companies have been slow to provide documents or have refused to provide them to investigators.

ENRON CREDITORS: Judge Arthur Gonzalez on Thursday granted creditors of Enron Corp. the right to try to recover $10-million paid to former auditor Arthur Andersen LLP days before the energy company's collapse. The official committee of unsecured creditors, which looks after the interests of those owed money by Enron, sought the authority to sue Andersen on the company's behalf.

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