Pacific Northwest Microsoft said Bruce Jaffe, who heads its acquisitions, is leaving as the company gives individual unit leaders more control...

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Pacific Northwest

Microsoft said Bruce Jaffe, who heads its acquisitions, is leaving as the company gives individual unit leaders more control over deals.

Jaffe, a vice president and 12-year Microsoft veteran, will leave Feb. 29, spokesman Bill Cox said Wednesday. He declined to comment on Jaffe’s plans. Jaffe, 43, didn’t return a call or e-mail.

Microsoft has increased the size and pace of purchases amid stronger competition from rivals such as Google. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer is pushing more responsibility to the company’s three presidents to find deals and keep the company nimble as it grows.

Microsoft closed about 50 deals in the past two years, Cox said. Jaffe served as vice president of corporate development for the past two years. Before that, he was chief financial officer for Microsoft’s MSN Internet unit. He also held roles in MSN business-development and corporate strategy.

Coldwater Creek

Corporate office lays off 51 workers

Coldwater Creek laid off 51 people at its corporate headquarters in Sandpoint, Idaho, Tuesday after a rocky year in the women’s apparel industry.

A total of 65 positions were eliminated companywide, including six jobs in Coeur d’Alene, two each in Seattle and New York, and four in other locations. The cuts will save Coldwater Creek about $6 million.

Coldwater Creek, with more than 300 retail stores, employs about 10,000 full- and part-time workers at more than 300 retail stores. About 600 of them work in Sandpoint.

Nation / World

Alcoa

Pending unit sale pushes profit up

Aluminum producer Alcoa said Wednesday its fourth-quarter earnings soared 76 percent, buoyed by the pending sale of its packaging and consumer businesses.

The results, released after the stock market closed, easily beat Wall Street expectations. Alcoa shares rose $1.30 to $32.55 in after-hours trading.

Alcoa is the first member of the Dow Jones industrials to post fourth-quarter financial results.

FCC

Wireless safety network set back

Government and public safety officials said Wednesday they remain committed to plans for a national wireless network that could solve critical communication problems during emergencies, even though the most likely builder of the network has shut down.

Frontline Wireless, backed by Silicon Valley heavyweights and co-founded by former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, was the only bidder that voiced interest in buying the spectrum and sharing it with public safety. But Hundt said this week the company has ceased operations.

Research firm Stifel Nicolaus said the startup was unable to raise financing.

The Federal Communications Commission auction of wireless airwaves starts Jan. 24. “We are still hopeful there will be someone who will emerge as being willing to take on this challenge,” the FCC said in a statement.

The FCC is offering to sell relatively cheaply a chunk of spectrum to a carrier that will agree to share the airwaves with police and fire agencies during crises. Public-safety agencies often have been unable to communicate with one another during disasters because they use different frequencies.

Matsushita Electric

Company changing name to Panasonic

Japanese electronics giant Matsushita Electric Industrial will drop the founder’s name and adopt the brand name Panasonic as the company name, public broadcaster NHK TV reported today.

The reported decision marks a dramatic shift for the manufacturer founded in 1918 by Konosuke Matsushita, widely respected in Japan for his managerial, manufacturing and political thinking.

The company is far better known outside Japan as Panasonic.

Brocade

No retrial for exec in stock-option case

A former Brocade Communications Systems executive who was convicted in a landmark stock-options case won’t get a new trial, despite a key prosecution witness recanting some testimony.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer on Wednesday denied ex-CEO Gregory Reyes’ motion for a new trial, saying the witness’s new statements would not likely have altered the outcome.

Reyes, the first executive to be tried over improper accounting of stock-options backdating, was convicted in August of securities fraud. A jury found he doctored Brocade’s options records to hide the true costs from investors.

Backdating refers to retroactively pricing stock-option awards, picking a date when the stock price was low and making it appear the options were awarded that day.

CNet

Dissident investors beef up challenge

An investment group that wants to shake up CNet Networks has boosted its holdings in the online technology news and entertainment provider in an effort to overcome CNet’s resistance to a proposed overhaul of its board.

New York hedge fund Jana Partners and its allies exercised options that increased their voting interest to 10.6 percent from 8.1 percent, documents filed Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission show.

Another investor backing the uprising, Sandell Asset Management, converted derivatives into a 1.5 percent voting stake in San Francisco.

Jana and Sandell still hold contracts that can be converted into stock that would give them a combined 21 percent.

The dissidents hope to seize control of CNet’s board so they can wring more profits out of the company.

Compiled from Bloomberg News, The Spokesman-Review, The Associated Press and USA Today