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Conseco's Extreme Shopping


In Business This Week: HEADLINER: STEPHEN HILBERT

CONSECO'S EXTREME SHOPPING

Cold callers learn to live with rejection. So it's no surprise that Stephen Hilbert, the former encyclopedia salesman who heads Carmel (Ind.) insurance company Conseco, is bouncing back from his failed bid for Kemper two years ago. On Aug. 26, Hilbert unveiled four acquisitions with an aggregate value of $2 billion.

A planned $793 million stock swap for American Travelers would give Conseco strong distribution of long-term care insurance for the elderly, and a $650 million cash-and-stock deal for Capitol American Financial would bring a big cancer insurance business. Hilbert will also buy the remaining shares of two companies in which he owns stakes: Bankers Life Holding and American Life Holding. That would improve Conseco's balance sheet. The company's stock jumped 1 11/16, to 44, on the news, up 40.5% this year.

More buyouts are likely. In 15 years, Hilbert has done 25. "Beneath [Conseco's] traditional exterior," says Hilbert, "there beats the heart of a tiger." If it can just keep from biting off more than it can chew.By Greg Burns EDITED BY THANE PETERSONReturn to top

CRUNCH TIME AT ARCHER DANIELS

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IS bearing down on Archer Daniels Midland. On Aug. 27, two Japanese and one Korean company, together with three of their senior executives, signed plea agreements and agreed to pay more than $20 million in fines to settle charges of price-fixing. Executives of the three companies, Japan's Ajinomoto and Kyowa Hakko Kogyo and the U.S. unit of Korea's Sewon, also are cooperating with the Justice Dept.'s investigation of ADM's alleged role in the price-fixing of a food additive, lysine. Sources close to the situation say ADM and two of its senior executives face mid-September indictments, but that serious plea negotiations have not been started.EDITED BY THANE PETERSONReturn to top

MAJOR BUCKS FOR A MINING COMPANY

WHEN WORLDCOM MADE known its $11.5 billion deal to buy MFS Communications on Aug. 26, the biggest winners were current and former employees of Peter Kiewit Sons', an Omaha construction and mining company. Kiewit, owned mostly by employees, started MFS in 1987 and invested a total of $500 million in the telecom company. The biggest jackpot goes to Chairman Walter Scott Jr., whose 9.5 million shares are worth about $420 million.EDITED BY THANE PETERSONReturn to top

IT'S TARGET CHRYSLER IN CANADA

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: ON Aug. 28, the Canadian Auto Workers selected Chrysler Canada as its strike target. The CAW's major beef is with General Motors of Canada, which hopes to eliminate several thousand union jobs through outsourcing and selling two parts plants. But CAW President Buzz Hargrove figures Chrysler, which makes its lucrative LH models and many minivans in Canada, has more incentive to ante up a good deal before the Sept. 17 strike deadline. Hargrove's decision was closely coordinated with the United Auto Workers, which has ruled out targeting Chrysler. But the CAW still expects a strike at GM in Canada. Hargrove assesses the odds of avoiding one at no better than "a snowball's chances in hell."EDITED BY THANE PETERSONReturn to top


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