Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

December 23, 2005|By THIS COLUMN WAS COMPILED FROM DISPATCHES BY KNIGHT-RIDDER/TRIBUNE, THE ASSO- CIATED PRESS AND BLOOMBERG NEWS.

Nation: Media

Knight Ridder union seeks buyout advice

A union representing advertising, circulation and editorial workers at Knight Ridder Inc. newspapers said yesterday that it has hired financial advisers to solicit investors for a "worker-friendly" buyout of nine unionized papers in the chain. "Standing still is not an option," said Linda Foley, president of the Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America. "We are going to go after those properties and we are going to attempt to persuade others in labor, management and the investment community to join us." The union said it hired Duff & Phelps Inc. of Chicago and Ownership Associates Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., as advisers in a potential bid for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, the Monterey (Calif.) Herald and the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. Private equity firms such as Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and newspaper chains like Gannett Co. have expressed interest. Their representatives are expected to meet with managers in January, with formal bids arriving later in the winter.

Regulation

Congress blocks IRS bid to cut help hours

Congress moved yesterday to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from cutting operating hours for toll-free telephone help lines next year. The effort to block the reductions marked the latest step in a yearlong disagreement between Congress and the IRS over taxpayer service. Agency Commissioner Mark Everson planned to shave three hours off the daily telephone operating hours, for a savings of about $10 million, beginning Jan. 23. The change would have reduced daily operations from 15 hours to 12 hours a day.

Investigations

Arizona closes Taser inquiry

The Arizona attorney general's office has closed an informal inquiry into safety claims made by Taser International Inc. after the stun gun maker voluntarily changed the way it marketed the weapons, state officials said yesterday. Since the probe was opened in January, Taser altered product warnings and changed how it makes safety claims to appease officials concerned about possibly misleading marketing. Among the changes, Taser explains that it uses the term nonlethal as defined by the Defense Department - which doesn't mean the weapons can't kill someone, but that they're not intended to be lethal.

Airlines

Northwest recovery likely to be in '09-'10

Northwest Airlines Corp., which filed for bankruptcy protection in September and has lost almost $4 billion since 2001, likely won't generate "significant" money until 2009 or 2010 even though it needs to spend billions to upgrade its planes, according to an investment banker hired by the carrier to advise it through its bankruptcy. John Luth, president and chief executive officer of Seabury Group LLC, made the assessment in a declaration to the bankruptcy court in New York.

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