St. Petersburg Times
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Biz bits

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003

Wal-Mart is firmly entrenched at the top of the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. corporations. Fortune magazine says the massive retailer won't fall from No. 1 -- unless regulators bless the creation of ExxonMobilChevronTexaco, or Ford and GM merge, or if consumers start drinking 284 cups of Starbucks coffee a day.

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Moving? Don't get taken by unscrupulous movers. Some 4,000 complaints result from the nearly 1.4-million interstate moves each year. says. Adding to the problem are "brokers," Internet companies that take customers' money and contract with other companies to do the heavy lifting. Brokers aren't subject to federal regulations governing movers, and because customers don't directly contract with the movers, they can't touch them. A critic of the broker system, Florida assistant attorney general Robert Julian, says the Internet funnels people to about the 10 worst offenders he knows.

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Give Warren Buffett a book, he'll take a company. University of Tennessee finance club members visit billionaire investor Buffett in Omaha each year and give him a school souvenir. This year, it was a signed copy of the autobiography of James Clayton, founder of Clayton Homes Inc. in Knoxville, Tenn., the nation's largest mobile home manufacturer. Two months later, Clayton's company accepted Buffett's takeover offer of $1.7-billion in cash.

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Industry monthly Toy Book says the war in Iraq has boosted sales of military toys, particularly G.I. Joes. A spot check of stores shows other big sellers include plush hamsters in military garb. And some Kmart stores are selling Easter baskets stuffed with toy soldiers.

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