Susan Lyne, who landed the top programming job at the ABC network on Jan. 7, got her start at the Walt Disney unit overseeing made-for-TV movies like The Three Stooges, Annie, and The Beach Boys. Now, as president of ABC's Entertainment Television Group, she'll face her own drama. The 51-year-old Lyne will be charged with turning around a network that this season has lost 21% of its audience and ranks fourth among the 18- to 49-year-olds that advertisers covet.
A former reporter for The Village Voice, Lyne founded Premiere magazine after working for Jane Fonda's production company in Hollywood. At ABC, she'll be responsible for finding new hits to offset the decline of onetime ratings champ Who Wants to be a Millionaire and faded mainstays Dharma & Greg and The Drew Carey Show. She replaces Stu Bloomberg, who suffered from recent flops such as Bob Patterson and Thieves.
For her part, Lyne is taking the long view. "There is no magic bullet," she says. "This is a process that will take quarters, not weeks, to turn around." When MerrilL Lynch (MER) Chairman and CEO David Komansky picked Stanley O'Neal as his president and heir apparent in July, everyone expected O'Neal to lay off thousands and take an ax to the bloated costs weighing down America's No. 1 broker. They just didn't expect it would cost so much: On Jan. 9, Merrill announced that 9,000 job reductions and other restructuring moves resulted in a $2.2 billion pretax charge in the fourth quarter. Merrill assured investors and analysts that the most painful cuts were over and that the firm was now the right size to take advantage of growth opportunities in a modest economic recovery in 2002. But some analysts remain skeptical that O'Neal will be able to reinvigorate Merrill's business, especially if the economy does not pick up as the firm expects. Merrill could also lose more top talent after employees receive bonuses the week of Jan. 14. If there were any doubts about how bleak this January's earnings would be, Alcoa (AA) has laid them to rest. Traditionally the first industrial giant to report quarterly results, Alcoa said on Jan. 8 it lost $142 million in 2001's final period--its first quarterly loss since 1994. The world's top aluminum producer blamed the red ink on a 21% fall in sales, to $5.18 billion, and a $241 million charge to cover plant closings and 6,500 layoffs. The good news: Analysts expect the Pittsburgh company to earn $214 million in the first quarter, as a rebounding economy lifts aluminum demand and prices. Homestore.com (HOMS) announced the resignation of founder and CEO Stuart Wolff in the wake of an accounting investigation that could result in a substantial restatement of revenues. Wolff was replaced as head of the leading provider of online home listings by Michael Long, former chairman of online health site WebMD (HLTH). Trading in Homestore shares, which had been halted for two weeks, resumed at around 2, a fraction of its former high. Thirteen lawsuits alleging profiteering by Wolff and other insiders have been filed. Among the biggest losers was Cendant (CD), which sold its online real estate business to Homestore two years ago in exchange for $641 million in stock. A Cendant spokesman said that the company may write down the value of its Homestore stake in the fourth quarter, possibly to zero. IBM (IBM), the company that put the personal computer on the map, announced on Jan. 8 that it would no longer manufacture desktop PCs in most of the world. The decision marks the latest step in IBM's retreat from the PC business. Under a three-year, $5 billion agreement, IBM's PCs will now be made by contract manufacturer Sanmina-SCI (SANM). As part of the deal, Sanmina will acquire IBM's desktop facilities in the U.S. and Europe, including 980 employees. Unable to compete against low-cost leader Dell Computer (DELL), IBM's PC group has lost money and market share for years. The Situation for venture capitalists just keeps getting worse. The latest evidence came on Jan. 8, when Barksdale Group, a Silicon Valley venture firm founded in 1999 by former Netscape Communications execs, announced it was closing. Jim Barksdale, the former Netscape CEO, blamed the difficult economic environment. "Last spring, it became obvious to us that we didn't want to raise a new fund," Barksdale said. He's not alone. Other venture firms are also concluding that only the best and brightest will survive the downturn. Venture investors say requests for new funding have all but dried up. -- Dave Thomas, founder and senior chairman of Wendy's International (WEN), died at 69.
-- Motorola (MOT) will lay off nearly 20% of its 600 top executives.
-- AT&T (T) said it plans to issue a tracking stock for its long-distance business. Investors punished Gateway after it warned that its fourth-quarter sales would be 17% below analysts' expectations. The news sent the computer maker's shares plunging 25%, to $7.69, on Jan. 8. And when Gateway's debt was downgraded to junk status, the shares fell a further 12.7%, to $6.71, the next day.