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Closing Bell: Avon Products


She must love a challenge. After struggling to reverse a ratings decline at CNBC when the dot-com bubble burst, Pamela Thomas-Graham is leaving the world of TV business news for fashion. Thomas-Graham, 42, will start work as a group president at Liz Claiborne (LIZ) on Oct. 10. She has to pump up brands like Liz Claiborne and Emma James at a time when department stores are reeling from mergers and increased competition.

While selling women's clothing to department stores may seem miles away from managing a news operation, Liz Claiborne Executive Vice-President Trudy Sullivan notes that the company has hired outside the industry before. "We're excited to have someone with fresh eyes," says Sullivan. Thomas-Graham became CNBC's chairman in February after relinquishing the role of president and CEO. Liz Claiborne isn't Thomas-Graham's only new corporate gig: On Sept. 21, Clorox (CLX) announced that she joined its board of directors.

The Masters of the Universe are walking tall at Goldman Sachs (GS). True, some of the credit for the brokerage's gangbuster third-quarter earnings of $1.62 billion -- an 84% rise over last year -- goes to its investment banking division. The unit contributed its best quarterly showing in four years. Even asset management chipped in with a 23% revenue gain. But the real lucre came from trading and principal investments, where net revenue soared 88%, to $5.06 billion. Goldman is clearly thinking big, announcing a plan to buy back 60 million shares for an estimated $7.1 billion -- the largest share repurchase in Wall Street history.

Former Tyco International (TYC) CEO Dennis Kozlowski, once one of the highest-paid CEOs in history, now faces the prospect of working for less than the minimum wage in a New York state prison. Kozlowski and former Tyco Chief Financial Officer Mark Swartz each received sentences of 8 to 25 years on Sept. 19 for looting over $150 million in the dealmaking frenzy that made Tyco one of the bull market's hottest stocks. The judge also ordered Kozlowski to pay $167 million in fines and restitution and Swartz to pay more than $70 million. Both were jailed on Sept. 19, but they are seeking release on bail while they appeal.

The Food & Drug Administration has notified Inamed (IMDC) that its controversial silicone gel breast implants may be approved if certain conditions are met. The agency sent a similar letter to rival implant maker Mentor (MNT) in July. In April an FDA advisory panel voted that Inamed's devices should be kept off the market because they are potentially unsafe. The FDA says Inamed has since addressed undisclosed safety concerns and agreed to take its riskiest implant off the market. Even if both companies meet the FDA's requirements, there is still no guarantee the agency will approve the implants. Other than for women who have had mastectomies, the implants were banned in 1992 on concerns -- later proven unfounded -- that they caused autoimmune diseases.

During its 129-year history, Eli Lilly has been run by CEOs with backgrounds in marketing, finance, and administration. Soon it may have its first CEO trained as a scientist. Lilly has promoted John Lechleiter, 52, to president and chief operating officer, effective Oct. 1. Lechleiter, who joined Lilly in 1979 as an organic chemist, most recently was executive vice-president of pharmaceutical operations. Chairman and CEO Sidney Taurel, 56, hasn't announced plans to retire, but he's expected to leave in the next few years. As COO, Lechleiter says his priority is to pump up sales. Although Lilly has launched a record nine drugs in the past four years, most have fallen short of expectations.

-- Ford Motor (F) will increase its hybrid output tenfold, to 250,000 vehicles, by 2010.

-- Nike (NKE) reported a 32% jump in first-quarter profits on an 8% sales gain.

-- Kirk Kerkorian is hiking his stake in General Motors to 9.9%, from 9.3%, and may seek a board seat.

Shares of Avon Products, off 40% from their February high, took an ugly 11.8% dive on Sept. 21, to $27. Avon cut its earnings forecast by 15%, citing Katrina, weakness in China, and shortfalls in onetime strongholds like Eastern Europe and Latin America.


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