Among other items: Loud Technologies has purchased St. Louis Music, a distributor, importer and manufacturer of audio products and musical instruments; supercomputer maker Cray yesterday appointed Peter Ungaro as president; and Microsoft, Time Warner and Xerox were sued by the chief executive of ContentGuard Holdings over a plan to buy the company.

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Jane Baxter Lynn, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, resigned yesterday for personal reasons, the commission said.

Baxter Lynn’s abrupt departure is effective immediately.

Her predecessor, Steve Burns, will become the commission’s interim director while the group searches for her replacement.

Baxter Lynn joined the commission in July after running the Long Island Wine Council for four years.

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During her tenure, Baxter Lynn helped launch the commission’s national marketing and public-relations campaign to promote Washington wine.

Loud Technologies acquires audio-products firm in St. Louis

Loud Technologies purchased St. Louis Music, a distributor, importer and manufacturer of audio products and musical instruments, for $40 million last week.

The Woodinville company bought the 300-employee, St. Louis-based company, which makes musical instruments, accessories and equipment, to expand its product range.

Loud, which makes audio products under the Mackie, EAW and TAPCO brands, does not plan any layoffs or moves related to the purchase.

Loud has 160 employees in Woodinville and 240 worldwide.

Cray names Ungaro president

Seattle supercomputer maker Cray yesterday appointed Peter Ungaro as president.

Ungaro had been senior vice president of sales, marketing and service.

The 36-year-old Washington State University graduate joined Cray in 2003 from IBM.

Ungaro will continue to head sales. All functions other than finance, legal and government relations will report to him.

Cray Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Rottsolk had served as president since the former president and chief executive resigned in 2002.

Rottsolk said in a news release that yesterday’s change is part of the company’s “drive to become more market-focused” and would “allow me to devote more time to shaping Cray’s long-term strategy and corporate governance while continuing to work with our large customers, senior-level government officials and investors.”

Aventail services unit being sold to Ga. company

Aventail, a Seattle-based network-security company, said it will sell its services business to Netifice Communications of Atlanta for an undisclosed amount. Both companies are privately held.

Aventail said it will use the proceeds to develop and expand its appliance products.

Netifice said it will operate the acquired business as a separate unit, keeping the 33 employees and maintaining the office in Seattle.

Aventail has 200 other employees in Seattle.


Jury in trial of WorldCom’s Ebbers views video again

Jurors at the fraud trial of former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers saw a videotape for the second time yesterday in which Ebbers told an interviewer that WorldCom’s accounting was “very conservative.”

The jurors, in their second day of deliberations, asked to review the six-minute tape, played as evidence earlier in the trial. They have also asked for a slew of exhibits and transcripts of testimony from many key witnesses.

The interview happened long after the government contends Ebbers was aware that WorldCom was hiding expenses by classifying them as capital expenditures, part of the $11 billion accounting fraud that ultimately sank the company.

Consumer borrowing surprises economists

Buyers increased their borrowing on credit cards, auto loans and other types of consumer debt at an annual rate of 6.6 percent in January, the fastest pace in three months, the Federal Reserve said yesterday.

That represented an increase of $11.5 billion in borrowing from December, which was double what many economists had been expecting. It came after an increase of $8.7 billion in borrowing in December, which was revised up significantly from an initial estimate that borrowing had risen by just $3.1 billion in December.

The 6.6 percent rate of increase in January compared to a 5 percent rise in December and was the fastest advance since consumer debt rose by 8.2 percent in October.

Microsoft, others face ContentGuard Holdings buyout lawsuit

Microsoft, Time Warner and Xerox were sued by the chief executive of ContentGuard Holdings over a plan to buy the company, which makes software to block illegal copying of music and films.

In a suit filed Friday in Wilmington, Del., ContentGuard CEO Michael Miron says that, “rather than buy out” closely held ContentGuard at a fair price, the three companies are offering a “wholly inadequate” $2.098 per share.

ContentGuard began as a Xerox research project in the early 1990s and was spun off in 2000, the lawsuit says. Microsoft purchased part of the company in 2000, and Time Warner bought into the company in 2004.

Microsoft and Time Warner wouldn’t comment on the suit. A spokesman said Xerox “will vigorously defend” itself.

$3.25 billion Circuit City takeover rejected by directors

Circuit City Stores Inc. yesterday declined a $3.25 billion takeover offer from Highfields Capital Management LP, saying the deal would not be in the best interest of its shareholders.

The electronics retailer said its directors unanimously decided not to explore Highfields’ unsolicited $17-per-share bid or any sale alternatives. Instead, its board decided the company can maximize shareholder value with strategic, operational and financial initiatives currently planned or under way.

Highfields, Circuit City’s third-largest shareholder, said it was “disappointed” but remains willing to negotiate a transaction.

Capital One to buy regional bank in La.

Credit-card issuer Capital One Financial has agreed to pay about $5.35 billion in cash and stock for the Louisiana regional bank Hibernia in an effort to expand from direct-mail marketing to branch banking outlets.

The deal announced Sunday will make the company the nation’s ninth-largest consumer lender and will put it in the top 20 in terms of deposits, Richard Fairbank, Capital One chairman and CEO, told analysts in a conference call yesterday.

McLean, Va.-based Capital One has wanted to buy a commercial bank to bolster its credit-card distribution — almost entirely through direct mail — to compete with large institutions such as Bank of America, which can sell cards through its 6,000 branches.

Hibernia shares soared $5.67, or 21.3 percent, to close at $32.24 yesterday, while Capital One shares fell $2.08, or 2.7 percent, to close at $76.

Alliance agreement leads to Sumitomo Trust court fight

Sumitomo Trust & Banking filed a demand in Tokyo District Court yesterday for $955 million from major Japanese banking group UFJ Holdings in compensation for a failed alliance.

Sumitomo Trust and UFJ had agreed on a broad tie-up under which Sumitomo Trust would take over UFJ’s trust-banking operations. But UFJ scrapped that agreement last year and decided to merge with Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, The Associated Press and Bloomberg News