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Archive for Thursday, December 6, 2001

Business Briefcase

December 6, 2001

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Media giant: AOL Time Warner chief announces early retirement

AOL Time Warner Inc.'s chief executive, Gerald Levin, is stepping down as head of the world's largest media company and will be replaced by co-chief operating officer Richard Parsons.

Steve Case will remain as chairman, while the company's other co-COO, Robert Pittman, will become the sole COO, according to Wednesday's announcement.

Levin, 62, will retire at the company's May board meeting. The timing of his departure surprised some analysts because Levin had given no indication he planned to retire before age 65. But they said the announcement did not appear to result from friction in the company.

Wall Street: Dow surges above 10,000

Technology shares propelled the stock market higher for a second straight session Wednesday, helping to boost the Dow Jones industrials more than 220 points and giving the blue chips their first close above 10,000 since Sept. 5.

The advance also lifted the Nasdaq composite index past 2,000 for the first time since early August.

Investors were betting that the battered tech sector would trigger a new bull market, and upbeat comments from Cisco Systems and Oracle fed the growing optimism.

Still, analysts said that while breaking through milestones like 10,000 or 2,000 was important, they discounted Wednesday's performance as an indicator that a bull market had arrived.

Auto industry: Ford cites economy for expected losses

Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday that its fourth-quarter losses would be larger than expected, mainly because the deteriorating economy is leading to bigger problems in collecting on its car loans.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said it expected to report a loss of 50 cents per share, before one-time items, for the last three months of the year.

"Since September, there's been a sharp deterioration of economic conditions contributing to higher delinquencies and credit losses," said Martin Inglis, Ford's chief financial officer.

Inglis said marketing costs related to zero-interest and low-interest finance offers were higher than expected.

But he said the problem loans were those made before the low-rate loans were offered to stimulate sales in the wake of the September terror attacks.

Trial verdict: Ex-Sotheby's chair convicted in price-fixing conspiracy

In a scandal that rocked the world's two biggest auction houses, the former chairman of Sotheby's was convicted Wednesday of plotting with his counterpart at Christie's to fix commissions paid by sellers of fine art.

A. Alfred Taubman, 76, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., could get up to three years in prison. He is to be sentenced April 2.

Taubman had denied the price-fixing charges that alleged he and former Christie's chairman Anthony Tennant stole as much as $400 million in commissions from 1993 to 1999.

Customers who turn their artwork over to Sotheby's or Christie's for auction have to pay a commission on the sale price. The Justice Department said the two men illegally colluded on how much to charge, depriving the sellers of the opportunity to bargain for a lower price.

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