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"We can't blame anyone else for people losing trust in Firestone products--not our customers, not our business partners, not the media or Congress." -- John Lampe, new chairman and CEO of Bridgestone/FirestoneEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

If It Quacks Like a Tax Break...

European Union officials are irate over U.S. legislation that was supposed to end a $4 billion-a-year exporters' tax break that was declared an illegal subsidy by the World Trade Organization. The bill, awaiting Senate action, instead expands the tax break. So the EU has expressed opposition, using a gaggle of fractured animal metaphors to do so.

First, this release from Brussels: If you allow the hunting of elephants, and the court says you must not, the solution isn't to add giraffes to the list of animals that hunters are allowed to kill. Translation: Don't expand the subsidy, just end it.

John Richardson, deputy head of the EU'S Washington delegation, weighed in with: "If you call a duck a goose, but it still quacks and walks like a duck, then it must be a duck." Translation: No matter what the U.S. calls it, it's still a subsidy.

Finally, this take from the EU's envoy to the U.S., Guenter Burghardt: "Sheep's clothes do not change the wolf." Translation: The bill is good election-year politics, but poor trade policy.

One thing for sure: If the bill is signed, the U.S. and the EU will fight like cats and dogs.By Paul Magnusson; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Martha Cooks Up a Plan for Kmart

Martha Stewart, America's homemaker queen and head of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, sells more than $1 billion of household goods each year through Kmart. But cognizant of how her fortunes are tied to the giant retailer, she has given Kmart management a Martha-style dressing-down: gracious, elegant, but to the point.

At the Oct. 3 unveiling of her line of kitchenware in New York, Stewart said that she was set on working with Charles Conaway--Kmart's CEO for only three months--on such problems as poor customer service and inventory management. "Our vision is fine, but we need a dramatically new execution," concedes Conaway.

Stewart is pleased with Conaway so far. But she says that "the problems that Kmart has been experiencing have been a problem for us. We want Kmart to be the best." So Stewart is talking with Conaway about improving Kmart's stores and image and gives her blessing to new ad shop TBWA/Chiat/Day. She's also getting more involved in the promotion of her Martha Stewart line.

"It's a roller coaster, but we're chugging along," Stewart says. We? Maybe that's why folks dub the retailer "KMartha."By Diane Brady; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

How Hip Can a Bentley Be?

Bentley Motor Cars does not part ways with Rolls Royce until 2003, when the Rolls marque moves to BMW while Bentley stays with Volkswagen. But Bentley is already in high gear trying to attract a crop of younger, sportier buyers. About 600 Bentleys a year are sold in the U.S. With an economy now greased by Wall Street and dot-com wealth, Bentley wants to sell 5,000 by 2005.

Competition is increasing at the auto market's top end, says Charles Mills of auto researcher J.D. Powers & Associates, with Mercedes and BMW already in the hunt. So, at Bentley's new New York City showroom--or salon, as management refers to it--pampered buyers retire to an oak-paneled "commissioning room," adorned with photos of the vintage Bentleys that won races at LeMans in the 1920s. Then they select the wood paneling, leather, and fabrics for their $300,000 cars. Says Alasdair Stewart, Bentley chief executive, it's a "significant job" to differentiate between Rolls Royce's sedate image and Bentley's desired, younger, performance-oriented one. What next, a Bentley SUV?By Joan Oleck; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top


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