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Seattle-based ePartners, a consultant for Microsoft Business Solutions, said yesterday that it raised $25 million in venture capital.

The lead investor was Needham Capital Partners. Also participating were previous investors: Mobius Venture Capital, Madrona Venture Group, Austin Ventures, Liberty Mutual, Texas Growth Fund, Rustic Canyon Partners and Capital Resource Partners.

EPartners said it will use the money for growth. Currently, it has 23 offices in North America and London.

In addition, the company said its chairman, Howard Diamond, will become chief executive. Previously, Diamond was chairman and CEO of EYT, which merged with ePartners in 2004.


Funds to expand sales operations

Seattle-based Verdiem, which develops software to manage power usage by computers, said yesterday that it raised a second round of venture capital.

The company did not disclose how much money was raised, but said it has raised $6 million to date. Investors include Catamount Ventures, Angeleno Group, Phoenix Partners and Falcon Partners.

Verdiem said it plans to use the money to expand its sales operations.


Former CFO joins EMC board

Data-storage equipment maker EMC said yesterday that its board has elected Michael Brown, a former chief financial officer at Microsoft, to EMC’s board.

The company said it has expanded the number of members of its board to 11 with the naming of Brown. He is the fifth independent director to join the board of Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC since 2001.

Brown joined Microsoft in 1989 as its treasurer and became its chief financial officer in 1993. He retired in July 1997.


Kodak out, Shutterfly in

Online retailer Amazon.com dropped Eastman Kodak’s photo-processing services, switching to smaller rival Shutterfly.

Photo developing, custom-printed mugs and T-shirts, online albums and photo storage now are available from Shutterfly through Seattle-based Amazon, Shutterfly said yesterday in a statement. Amazon spokeswoman Jani Strand declined to comment on the arrangement with the Redwood City, Calif.-based photo processor.

Kodak spokesman David Lanzillo said the decision to end the agreement was mutual and that Amazon remains an important sales outlet for Kodak cameras and printers.

The U.S. market for online photography and related merchandise will increase by 53 percent this year to about $460 million, according to the Photo Marketing Association. Shutterfly, a closely held company, ranks second in market share to Kodak’s EasyShare Gallery in offering prints of digital photos and other products and services.


Agreement near in tax-shelter abuse

KPMG is nearing agreement on a deal with federal prosecutors that would avert an indictment against the nation’s fourth-largest accounting firm for its sale of abusive tax shelters, according to sources familiar with the pact.

The agreement calls for KPMG to pay between $300 million and $500 million and to open up its operations to independent review, according to people briefed on the deal. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the settlement, known as a deferred prosecution, has not yet been publicly announced.

The conditions require KPMG to stay out of trouble for a set period of time. If the firm succeeds, the charges will be dropped by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. A federal judge must approve the agreement, which is likely to be presented in court later this week.

Several former KPMG partners could face criminal charges lodged by a New York grand jury within the next few days related to their work on tax-avoidance schemes that helped wealthy clients create more than $1.4 billion in tax losses.

DVD format

Report: Toshiba, Sony talks halted

Electronics giants Sony and Toshiba have failed to agree on a unified format for next-generation DVDs, according to a newspaper report today.

Talks have been suspended indefinitely between a group of companies led by Sony, which supports the Blu-ray format, and the Toshiba-led bloc, which backs the HD DVD format, Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper reported.

Spokesmen from both firms refused to verify the report, each saying they have not ruled out the possibility of further talks.

Sony’s Blu-ray disks have a more sophisticated format and play back 25 GB of data compared with HD DVD’s 15, but are more costly to produce.

The two blocs developed their DVD formats separately, but growing concern about confusion among consumers over the different formats prompted Sony and Toshiba to start negotiations on a unified format earlier this year.

The Walt Disney Co. and 20th Century Fox support the Blu-ray format, while Toshiba has won the backing of companies like Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures.

Maytag / Whirlpool

$1.7 billion changes hands in buyout

With a rival bidder backing away from the table, Maytag embraced a buyout offer of more than $1.7 billion in cash and stock from the nation’s largest appliance maker, Whirlpool.

As the companies announced yesterday they had signed a formal agreement, Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig offered reassurances the combination of Whirlpool and Maytag, the nation’s third-largest appliance maker, will gain approval of antitrust regulators.

A combined Whirlpool-Maytag company would capture about 48 percent of the market in major appliances in the United States, analysts say. Whirlpool-Maytag would control as much as 70 percent of the U.S. laundry market, a figure that analysts said would likely generate close government scrutiny.

Bristol-Myers Squibb

Executives face civil-fraud charges

Two former executives of Bristol-Myers Squibb, previously indicted on criminal-conspiracy and securities-fraud charges, were sued yesterday by federal regulators who accused them of civil fraud in orchestrating a $1.5 billion scheme to deceive investors about the company’s performance.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the lawsuit against Frederick Schiff, Bristol-Myers’ former chief financial officer, and Richard Lane, former executive vice president and president of the pharmaceutical company’s worldwide medicines group.

The SEC is seeking unspecified civil penalties against the two former executives. The suit accuses them of instructing staff in 2000 and 2001 to create incentive packages for the company’s biggest wholesalers to inflate sales and profit figures, while misleading Wall Street analysts and investors.

Lane’s attorney, Richard Strassberg, disputed the charges and said his client will contest them. Schiff’s lawyer, Lawrence Spiegel, couldn’t be reached for comment.


Consumer banking head to depart

Citigroup, the world’s largest financial-services firm, said consumer banking head Marjorie Magner is leaving after almost 20 years at the company.

Magner, 56, will depart Oct. 1 to “pursue her long-term interest in areas outside of financial services, including academia and philanthropy,” Citigroup said. She will be replaced by Ajay Banga, 45, and Steven Freiberg, 48.

Citigroup’s consumer-banking group, which includes branches, credit cards and consumer finance, generated 58 percent of the company’s revenue in the first half of this year. Under Magner, the unit grew at a compound annual rate of 22 percent since 2001.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, Reuters, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press and Bloomberg News