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Jack Welch loves superlatives. Now he may have another: the world's shortest retirement. The former General Electric (GE) chief has started consulting with high-level clients and, on Oct. 2, was named a special partner at the investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. What everyone wants, it seems, is that special touch that turned GE into the world's most valuable company during Welch's 20 years at the helm. Clayton Dubilier CEO Donald Gogel speaks of "the halo effect" and says Welch is free to dabble in whatever projects spark his interest. Says Gogel: "We're looking at him for his counsel, instincts, judgment, force of personality, and character." No word on fees, but it's clear Welch's words won't come cheap. Except, of course, when he begins stumping once again for his best-selling book Jack: Straight from the Gut. His six-week book tour was to kick off on September 11--four days after he retired. On Oct. 5, he'll head to Europe for interviews and resume the U.S. push about a week later. Then it's back to work. Britain's GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will offer discounts of up to 40% to low-income seniors beginning Jan. 1, 2002. The program is the first of its kind in the pharmaceutical industry, which is coming under pressure to increase access to lifesaving medicines for low-income patients. GSK, the world's second-largest drugmaker, hopes the move will ensure access to medicines for the estimated 30% of U.S. retirees without prescription drug coverage while Congress debates Medicare. The discounts will be available to 11 million Americans age 65 and older who have no public or private prescription drug coverage and whose incomes are at or below $26,000 per person and $35,000 per couple. Seniors will receive a card that they can present at their pharmacies for discounts on such GSK drugs as antibiotic Augmentin, diabetes treatment Avandia, and asthma medicine Advair. In a move applauded by Wall Street, Motorola (MOT) promoted Edward Breen to succeed Robert Growney, 59, as president and COO as of Jan. 1. Although an outside search was conducted, Breen, currently president of Motorola's networks sector, had been the favorite. Breen, 45, was chief executive of General Instrument, which merged with Motorola in January, 2000. The no-nonsense Breen is regarded as the kind of executive who can get Motorola's sputtering businesses humming again. Eager to get travelers back into the air, the two biggest U.S. carriers, United Airlines (UAL) and American Airlines (AMR), cut advance-purchase, unrestricted coach fares by 50% on Oct. 2. US Airways quickly followed. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Continental (CAL) passed out free tickets to New York. The airlines have little choice. Most major carriers report their planes are still flying 40% empty, even after trimming their schedules by 20% since September 11. But low fares may not work. Road warriors aren't flying because their employers are trying to salvage profits. Staying put is still cheaper than buying half-price tickets. Germany's Bayer (BAYZY), one of the world's remaining chemical-and-drug conglomerates, agreed to pay $6.6 billion for Aventis CropScience (AVE), the Strasbourg-based maker of genetically modified corn. The deal will make Bayer the second-largest player in the $33 billion global agrochemicals industry. The 138-year-old company, best known for its discovery of aspirin, clearly needs help. Investors are pressuring it to sell or spin off its lackluster drugs unit. And since Bayer's new cholesterol-lowering drug, Baycol, was yanked from the market in August after 52 patients died, its shares have fallen by a third. In a surprise move, the California Public Utilities Commission announced a settlement with Edison International (EIX). The deal will pay off some $3.6 billion of the utility's debt and settle a feud over who should foot the bill for California's year-and-a-half-long electricity crisis. Electric rates, which have leapt as high as 45% this year, will be directed toward paying off debt. In return, Edison agreed not to pay dividends until 2003. The plan settles a federal lawsuit filed by Edison against the commission and bypasses state legislators, who failed to come up with a bailout. Still, consumer advocates complain that the deal prevents ratepayers from benefiting from recent declines in wholesale electricity prices. -- Merrill Lynch (MER) is replacing its foreign brokerage and investment banking unit heads.

-- Cisco Systems' (CSCO) executives were not paid bonuses in fiscal 2001.

-- Eli Lilly (LLY) will miss fourth-quarter earnings estimates because of generic competition for its antidepressant Prozac. B/E Aerospace (BEAV) soared 54% on Oct. 1 and 2, to $11.73, after the Wellington (Fla.) company said its new cockpit security system could be on the market by January. B/E shares slid 13% on Oct. 3, but insiders, who purchased 248,000 shares in September at prices ranging between $4.18 and $6.85, are still safe.


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