Other items: Former Federal Home Loan Bank CEO returns as interim; Deal gives institute more efficient tools; and others.

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Online advertiser closes share offering

Marchex said yesterday it has closed the public offerings of its common and preferred stock and finalized its $164.2 million acquisition of the assets of Name Development, a Virgin Islands company that owned thousands of Web domains.

The online-advertising company said that, after expenses, it expects to receive $222.2 million from the offerings, which it will use for general purposes and to fund the Name Development acquisition. Marchex had expected to receive $199.4 million but said yesterday that the total rose because its underwriters had exercised their option to buy 1.2 million additional shares.

Federal Home Loan Bank

Former CEO returns as interim

James Faulstich has returned to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle as interim president and chief executive, effective yesterday. He is the predecessor of Norm Rice, who headed the bank for the past six years. Rice, a former Seattle mayor, will officially retire March 15. Faulstich ran the bank from 1979 to 1999.


Deal gives institute more efficient tools

Lumera, a Bothell-based nanotechnology company, said yesterday it will give scientists at the Institute for Systems Biology access to a pair of Lumera’s high-speed protein-analysis technologies. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Tim Londergan, a technical-marketing manager for Lumera, said the tools enable scientists to capture data without adding fluorescent protein labels, which will reduce the cost, time and complexity of the research. Until now, the institute has considered the labels a “road block” in systematic protein research.

Eddie Bauer

After bankruptcy, new board planned

Spiegel, the bankrupt mail-order marketing pioneer, will disband its board of directors and empanel a new board with six independent members after the company exits bankruptcy protection.

The company is searching for applicants, Spiegel said in court papers in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

Spiegel is negotiating the terms of a plan to exit bankruptcy proceedings by retaining Redmond-based Eddie Bauer, its lone remaining unit. Spiegel decided to keep the Eddie Bauer stores after it failed to receive satisfactory offers during several months of marketing the chain.


Big-box stores target of measure

The Montana state Legislature is targeting big-box megastores, weighing a special tax to offset welfare costs for low-paid employees of the retailers.

A bill up for debate today calls for taxing retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Costco for each store with more than $20 million in sales.

State Sen. Ken Toole, D-Helena, the bill’s sponsor, says Montana residents are tired of subsidizing big-box stores whose low prices depend on paying workers low wages. “When you don’t pay workers, they get public assistance,” he said. “Guess who pays for that?”

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, Bloomberg News and Reuters

Nation/World WorldCom

Trial of former CEO suspended for a day

A federal judge suspended the fraud trial of former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers until tomorrow, postponing the crucial cross-examination of the government’s star witness.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones in New York did not explain her decision, but told jurors not to draw any conclusions from it.

Prosecutors had just completed their questioning of Scott Sullivan, the former finance chief of WorldCom, after 23 hours of testimony in which he implicated Ebbers in the company’s $11 billion accounting fraud.


Insurance company receives subpoenas

Insurance giant AIG said yesterday it has received subpoenas from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the Securities and Exchange Commission related to nontraditional insurance products and “certain assumed reinsurance transactions.”

The company said it will cooperate with the probe. Spitzer previously accused the insurance industry of bid-rigging and price-fixing in an investigation that focused on contingent commissions, which are incentive fees paid to brokers by insurance companies in exchange for getting more business.


Retailer’s CEO quits; more woes disclosed

Retailer OfficeMax announced the resignation yesterday of CEO Christopher Milliken and acknowledged misstating 2004 results.

The struggling office-products retailer also said it had fired two more employees, increasing to six the number terminated for sending $3.3 million in bogus bills to a supplier over a two-year period.

The disclosures were the latest in a series of problems for the company since last fall, when it changed its name from Boise Cascade and moved its headquarters from Idaho to Itasca, Ill. That move followed the 2003 acquisition of OfficeMax.

Milliken, a former Boise Cascade executive who had been president and chief executive officer of OfficeMax since November, departed in what OfficeMax characterized as a “mutual decision” of the CEO and the board of directors related to the company’s poor recent performance.

ForeSee Results

Satisfaction drops with E-commerce

Consumer satisfaction with Internet commerce sites including Amazon.com and eBay fell in the fourth quarter for the first time since measurements began being taken in 2000, according to a study.

E-commerce satisfaction dropped 2.2 points to 78.6, an American Customer Satisfaction Index report released yesterday said. The study by the University of Michigan in partnership with ForeSee Results surveyed more than 4,000 people.

Satisfaction with e-commerce had risen from its initial index reading of 73.2 in the 2000 fourth quarter to a high of 80 last year. The decline comes as some Web merchants “are changing business models and changing their relationships with their customers,” ForeSee Chief Executive Larry Freed said in a statement. Internet sales surged during the holiday season.

Customer satisfaction for Amazon.com, the largest online retailer, slipped to 84 from 88, while eBay, the largest Web marketplace, dropped to 80 from 84.

Amazon.com spokeswoman Patty Smith didn’t immediately have comment on the rating.

Hollywood Entertainment

Movie Gallery passes antitrust review

Movie-rental chain Movie Gallery has passed a regulatory review of possible antitrust issues in its bid to acquire larger rival Hollywood Entertainment, which also is the target of a takeover bid from industry leader Blockbuster.

Dothan, Ala.-based Movie Gallery, the nation’s third-largest movie-rental chain, said yesterday that its offer had cleared the waiting period required under federal antitrust law without objections from regulators.

It also noted that Blockbuster’s bid for Wilsonville, Ore.-based Hollywood still is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Unlike Movie Gallery, Blockbuster was asked to provide additional information to the FTC, requiring it to wait an additional 30 days before it can move forward with its offer, unless the FTC or a court intervenes, the statement said.

Texas Instruments

New chip may drop cellphone prices

Texas Instruments, which makes computer chips for more than half the world’s cellular phones, said yesterday it is testing a new technology that could drive down the price of high-end features.

The big semiconductor company said it has developed a single chipset that contains a modem and a processor on a piece of silicon, replacing two components with one.

Company officials say the new design will make it cheaper to build a phone that runs video at 30 frames per second or handles 3-D gaming, capabilities available now only on expensive phones.

The new technology, called OMAP-Vox, also would use less power than current chips, the company said. Phone manufacturers — which the company would not identify — are testing it and it could show up in store displays by the end of this year.

US Airways

Airline gets extension for bankruptcy plan

Bankrupt US Airways has agreed with its largest creditor to extend the deadline by one month for filing a draft bankruptcy-reorganization plan, the airline said yesterday.

The new timetable pushes back until March 15 a deadline that had been imposed by General Electric for US Airways to file its reorganization plan.

US Airways said in a statement that the new agreement with GE “reconfirms US Airways’ commitment” to emerge from Chapter 11 protection by June 30.

US Airways originally had agreed to a Feb. 15 deadline. On Jan. 27, a federal bankruptcy court in Virginia gave the company until the end of March to submit a plan.


Scrushy attorney questions key witness

The defense in Richard Scrushy’s corporate-fraud trial sought to poke holes yesterday in the claims of a key witness who contends the fired HealthSouth CEO was behind a scheme to overstate earnings.

Under cross-examination by Scrushy attorney Jim Parkman, former HealthSouth finance chief Bill Owens conceded Scrushy never attended big meetings of a group called “the family” that carried out the fraud, and that he didn’t previously identify Scrushy as being a member at all.

Also, jurors heard about the cloak-and-dagger mood at HealthSouth, with meetings moved to homes and cars amid worries of electronic eavesdropping. And the defense tried to refute Owens’ claim that Scrushy knew a company financial announcement in 2002 was false.


Shares increase 3% as restriction ends

Google shares rose 3 percent as the biggest and final restriction on insider stock sales expired yesterday, allowing holders of 176.8 million shares to begin selling for the first time.

The newly tradable stock represents 62 percent of Google’s 285.9 million outstanding shares. On record trading of 38.6 million shares, Google rose $5.59 to $192.99 yesterday.

J.P. Morgan Chase

$2 million settlement reached over e-mail

The securities arm of J.P. Morgan Chase has agreed to pay $2.1 million to settle regulators’ charges that it failed to preserve e-mails sought by the authorities in their 2002-2003 investigation of alleged conflicts of interest at Wall Street investment houses.

J.P. Morgan Securities neither admitted nor denied the allegations of violating record-keeping rules.

Compiled from The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Reuters