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TIMES WIRE
Published June 9, 2004

NORTHWEST WORKERS PICKET AIRPORT: Northwest Airlines employees picketed at Tampa International and other airports Tuesday to protest that the carrier has assigned skycaps to help passengers use automatic check-in machines. The move means fewer jobs for ticket agents, who have been assisting passengers, and denies tips to skycaps working inside the airport terminal, says the International Association of Machinists. The union and airline are arguing the issue before an arbitrator this week.

WELLCARE GROUP FILES IPO PLANS: WellCare Group Inc. of Tampa has filed plans for its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WCG. No date was given for offering. The company, which operates the largest Medicaid HMO in Florida, New York and Connecticut, intends to sell up to 8.4-million shares at $14 to $16 per share. The offering could raise up to $134.4-million for the company, which it intends to use to fuel growth. George Soros, a private investor in WellCare, will remain a majority shareholder following the IPO.

RITE AID EX-EXEC GETS PROBATION: Timothy J. Noonan, the former Rite Aid Corp. COO and president whose secret tapes helped prosecutors convict several colleagues in the billion-dollar-plus accounting scandal at the drug store company, was sentenced to two years' probation Tuesday. Noonan also was fined $2,500 and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. Noonan had pleaded guilty in July 2002 to withholding information from the company's internal investigators. U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo credited Noonan with "breaking the case for the government" by providing crucial information to federal prosecutors that he captured on audiotape.

MICROSOFT APPEALS EU DECISION: Microsoft Corp. said Tuesday it has filed its appeal of the European Union's antitrust decision, charging that the changes in business practices demanded by EU regulators would undermine innovation and growth. The appeal, filed Monday, asks the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg to annul the European Commission's decision of March 24, court and company officials said. Microsoft also was to file for a suspension of the EU sanctions, which include a record $606-million fine and an order to sell a version of Windows minus its Media Player. The appeal process couldtake several years.

BURGER KING EXPANDS CFO'S ROLE: Burger King Corp. appointed John Chidsey president of its North American business to boost sales less than four months after he was named chief financial and administrative officer at the No. 2 U.S. hamburger-restaurant chain. Chidsey, 42, will be in charge of franchise operations and marketing as well as the company's Canadian restaurants, the Miami company said in a statement. He will continue to oversee the financial and information technology departments on an interim basis. Chidsey was an executive at Cendant Corp. before becoming Burger King CFO in February.

AARP JOINS PHONE RATE CASE: AARP, the senior citizens group, appealed to the Supreme Court on Tuesday to throw out a large phone rate increase approved in December by the Public Service Commission. The PSC approved rate hikes for basic, local service for BellSouth, Sprint and Verizon, which the companies argue is needed to spur competition. Attorney General Charlie Crist and the Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers in phone rate and utility cases before the PSC, appealed the decision to the Supreme Court and the PSC has since refused to reverse its order.

VIDEO GAMER PREDICTS LOSSES: Take-Two Interactive Software, maker of Grand Theft Auto carjacking video games, said it will take a loss in the third quarter of as much as 33 cents a share after noting sales had fallen 21 percent in the second quarter. Chairman Richard Roedel said he will become CEO as the company seeks a game that matches its hit series.

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