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Pacific Northwest

Microsoft

Microsoft has signed a deal with two film studios to make a movie based on its popular video-game series “Halo,” Universal Pictures said yesterday.


Universal and Twentieth Century Fox agreed to pay Microsoft $5 million plus a percentage of movie-ticket sales.


Universal spokesman Paul Pflug said the studios are aiming for a summer 2007 release of a movie based on “Halo” and “Halo 2,” a science-fiction series about an alien-fighting warrior named Master Chief.


Microsoft spokesman Carlos de Leon declined to comment on the terms of the movie deal as well as on speculation that the software giant would launch its “Halo 3” game title alongside the movie.

Washington Mutual

Providian deal moves closer


Washington Mutual said yesterday it has won regulatory approval from the Office of Thrift Supervision to acquire credit-card issuer Providian Financial. WaMu said the acquisition should close Oct. 1 if it is approved by Providian shareholders, who are scheduled to vote on the merger next week. One large Providian investor, Putnam Investments, has said it plans to vote against the merger.


Burien

Land to be sold to hotel developer


In another phase of its downtown revitalization, the Burien City Council has voted to sell a piece of downtown land to a developer who intends to build a hotel and convention center.


The 1.25-acre property, at Southwest 150th Street and Second Avenue Southwest, is being sold for $1 million to Federal Way-based Park Hospitality Management, which has developed hotels in Tacoma and Lynnwood.


The property sale follows a planned $120 million project to create a hub for Burien with new shops, restaurants, a movie theater, library and condominiums.


Digeo

Ex-Sony executive named president


Kirkland-based Digeo said it has hired former Sony executive Greg Gudorf as president and chief operating officer in charge of overseeing daily company operations. Bert Kolde, the previous chief operating officer, will lead the company’s sales and marketing team. Gudorf was most recently vice president of television marketing at Sony.


Earlier this month, Digeo named former Sony executive Mike Fidler as its chief executive. Fidler had been a senior vice president of Sony Electronics’ home-products division, responsible for marketing home audio and video products.


Weyerhaeuser

Profit to fall after shares redeemed


Lumber company Weyerhaeuser said it will redeem $840 million of 6 percent notes due in 2006.


The cost of redeeming the notes on Sept. 23 will reduce third-quarter profit by 6 cents a share, the Federal Way firm said yesterday.


Compiled from Reuters, Seattle Times staff and Bloomberg News

Schnitzer Steel Industries

SEC investigating improper payments


Schnitzer Steel Industries, a Portland metal recycler, said the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating improper commissions the company paid to purchasing managers of customers in Asia.


The SEC notified the company in a formal order of investigation received Tuesday, Schnitzer said yesterday.


In November 2004, Schnitzer started investigating its practice of paying the commissions and notified the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice. The payments were halted after Schnitzer determined they may violate U.S. and foreign laws, according to a Nov. 30 regulatory filing.


The company’s shares fell 77 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $27 yesterday.

Charter Communications

Bonds, stock soar after debt exchange


Charter Communications’ shares and bonds soared on a plan to swap $8.4 billion in debt for new bonds to conserve cash and help avert bankruptcy for the cable operator controlled by billionaire Paul Allen.


Charter, with about $19 billion in debt, will exchange notes maturing from 2009 to 2012 for securities due in 2015, the company said in a statement yesterday The exchange would reduce outstanding bonds by as much as $1.65 billion, according to UBS analyst Aryeh Bourkoff.


Speculation that St. Louis-based Charter, with only one profitable quarter in the past four years, would run out of money to pay its debts had driven the fourth-biggest U.S. cable company’s stock down 49 percent this year as of Tuesday.

America Online

Customer-service practice to change


America Online (AOL) agreed to pay a $1.25 million fine and change its practice of discouraging consumers from canceling service, after New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer started an investigation into the company’s behavior.


Spitzer’s office received about 300 customer complaints since 2000 and found that AOL’s customer-service personnel were given a financial incentive to prevent subscribers from leaving the service.


AOL did not admit wrongdoing but agreed to alter its practices and to use a third-party company to verify whether customers wish to continue getting the service. The company also agreed to refund up to four months’ worth of service to all New York consumers who claim harm based on improper cancellation procedures.


Hollinger International

Former executive


faces fraud charges


A former executive of the company that owns the Chicago Sun-Times pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges that he participated in a scheme to wrongfully divert $32 million in company funds.


Mark Kipnis, 58, who was the top in-house lawyer for Chicago-based Hollinger International, entered the plea during his arraignment on fraud charges in federal court. Kipnis, who resigned in 2003, is free on a $250,000 personal-recognizance bond. He did not comment to reporters as he left court with his attorneys.


Kipnis, former Sun-Times publisher David Radler and Toronto-based Ravelston, a private company owned until this spring by Conrad Black, were each indicted Aug. 18 on five counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. They were accused of cheating shareholders in the United States and Canada, as well as Canadian tax authorities.


Compiled from Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service and The Associated Press