Pacific Northwest Weyerhaeuser said Thursday its directors elected Daniel Fulton, its current president, to be chief executive officer and...

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Pacific Northwest

President named CEO, joins board

Weyerhaeuser said Thursday its directors elected Daniel Fulton, its current president, to be chief executive officer and added him to the board, effective immediately.

He replaces Steve Rogel, 65, who had reached the mandatory retirement age for senior executives at the timber, forest-products and real-estate company.

Fulton, 59, was president and chief executive of Weyerhaeuser’s real-estate subsidiary from 2001 through 2007. Last January, he was named president of the entire Federal Way-based company. He has worked at Weyerhaeuser since 1975.

Rogel will continue to serve as chairman of the board.

The company also said Mark Emmert, president of the University of Washington, will join its board of directors on June 1. He replaces Martha Ingram, who served on the board for more than a decade and did not stand for re-election this year.

Puget Energy

Federal agency approves takeover

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Thursday the proposed takeover of Puget Energy by a group of Australian and Canadian investors, one day after the company’s shareholders gave their blessing to the $7.4 billion deal.

“We find the transaction will not harm competition or rate, and will not adversely affect regulation,” said FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher in a statement.

Puget Energy is the parent company of Puget Sound Energy, the state’s largest electric and gas utility.

FERC’s nod marks a significant milestone, but doesn’t seal the deal. The Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, which has scheduled public hearings on the matter starting next month, has the final word. The proposal must also clear the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., an interagency group led by the U.S. Treasury; the Department of Justice; and the Federal Communications Commission.

Boeing

Company books orders for 20 jets

Boeing booked 20 new jet orders this week: 19 for the single-aisle 737 and one for a VIP version of the 747 jumbo jet.

The orders are worth just over $1 billion, according to market-value estimates by aircraft-valuation firm Avitas.

Southwest Airlines placed a firm order for 13 of the Renton-built 737s. Boeing also said that three 737s previously listed as unidentified are going to Southwest.

Scandinavian airline SAS ordered one 737, and an unidentified customer ordered two more.

In addition, Boeing booked orders for three private VIP Boeing Business Jet versions of the 737 and one customized 747 for a private customer. Boeing typically doesn’t identify its VIP customers.

Potlatch

Firm may spin off paperboard, tissues

Spokane-based Potlatch may spin off tissue-product and paperboard manufacturing units that generate 63 percent of its revenue.

Potlatch is weighing a plan to set up a separate public company with six plants and focus instead on managing its 1.65 million acres of forestland, the company said Thursday.

Chief Executive Officer Michael Covey is responding to shareholders who want steady dividend payments from timber holdings without also owning a manufacturing business whose earnings are more volatile.

The units that may be included in the spinoff generated $1.2 billion in sales last year, the company said. Potlatch plans to retain six mills — four that produce lumber and one each that make particleboard and plywood.

Microsoft

Lobbyists hired to ease Yahoo deal

Microsoft has yet to persuade Yahoo to agree to a friendly takeover, but the software company is already hiring lobbyists to help it persuade regulators to let the deal — hostile if it has to be — go through.

Microsoft, bracing for a regulatory battle in its takeover bid, recently hired Bryan Cave Strategies to lobby the federal government on the proposed multibillion-dollar deal.

The firm disclosed the information on a registration form filed online Tuesday by the Senate’s public-records office.

Microsoft announced the unsolicited offer of $31 a share, or more than $40 billion, in February for slumping Yahoo, which rejected the initial bid and is seeking alternatives.

Nation / World

Merrill Lynch

Brokerage lists loss, to trim 3,000 jobs

Merrill Lynch, the world’s largest brokerage, on Thursday said it would cut another 3,000 jobs after more than $6.5 billion of fresh write-downs pushed it to a loss for the first quarter.

It marks the third straight quarterly loss for Merrill amid a global credit crisis that began last summer. Banks and brokerages have racked up nearly $200 billion of write-downs to date, with more feared to come.

John Thain, hired as chief executive four months ago to clean up the firm’s books, cautioned that matters were unlikely to improve in the next couple of quarters. The brokerage lost about $2 billion during the most recent quarter and has written off about $29 billion worth of risky asset-backed securities and leveraged loans.

Aviation

2 big carriers scale back growth

High fuel costs that helped drive some marginal airlines into bankruptcy this spring are also taking a toll on two of the nation’s healthiest carriers.

Continental Airlines slid to a first-quarter loss as fuel spending soared 53 percent, and Southwest Airlines — which hasn’t lost money since 1991 — saw its profit fall by two-thirds.

Both airlines say they will respond by slowing their once-ambitious growth plans, and they are raising fares.

Stubbornly high fuel prices are likely to mean billions in losses this year at the nation’s airlines. Already this year, five smaller carriers have shut down or announced plans to do so, and analysts are tossing around the B-word — bankruptcy — even in talking about the major airlines.

Labor Department

Jobless claims rise 17,000 in a week

Higher unemployment claims and weak readings from an economic index reinforced recession worries Thursday.

The Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits rose to 372,000, an increase of 17,000 from the previous week.

Separately, the New York-based Conference Board’s gauge of future economic activity rose 0.1 percent for March, reversing five months of decline. The private business group’s indicator has shown a 3.3 percent annual rate of decline since March 2007.

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