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Is This "The HP Way"?


Hewlett-Packard ((HPQ)) shuffled its boardroom chairs on Sept. 12 in a bid to cool down a furor over the company's probe into press leaks. HP admitted that outside investigators, led by Chairman Patricia Dunn, used a potentially illegal tactic in which they impersonated directors, journalists (including three at BusinessWeek), and two employees to obtain personal phone records. Dunn will cede the chair to CEO Mark Hurd but remain on the board. George Keyworth, fingered as the director who blabbed to the press, will quit, and former longtime HP exec Richard Hackborn will become "lead independent director."

But the imbroglio won't die down soon. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said on Sept. 12 that his office has enough evidence to bring charges against people inside and outside HP. Three federal agencies as well as a House subcommittee are circling. And investors? After shrugging off the scandal for days, they sent the stock down nearly 1.5% on Sept. 13, an up day for the market.

See "Charges on the Way at Hewlett-Packard?"

Crude slid to $63.97 a barrel on Sept. 13, down from $77 in early August. Behind the decline: diminishing fears of supply snarls from hurricanes and strife in the Mideast. Futures traders are betting oil will move back up, but some analysts figure it's headed toward $50.

Steve Jobs unveiled a slew of new products on Sept. 12, including—in an unusual move for Apple ((AAPL))—one that isn't ready yet, dubbed iTV, which is meant to link Macs wirelessly to TVs. It's Apple's first big play for the couch-potato set, but making it work won't be easy.

See "Apple's Latest Fruits"

Dell, ((DELL)) thy name these days is glitch. On Sept. 11 the world's largest computer maker announced it will delay filing second-quarter numbers as it cooperates with an SEC accounting probe. Dell noted the "possibility of misstatements" that "may affect the company's previously reported financial results," which in the past year have been less than stellar. It also said the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has joined the inquiry. The possible accounting snafu is having a domino effect: Dell suspended its stock buyback program and canceled, for the second time this year, its confab with Street analysts.

Motorola ((MOT)) shareholders were underwhelmed when they got about one share of Freescale Semiconductor for every nine shares they owned in parent Motorola at the time of the spin-off. But those who held on are about to have a pleasant payday. When it was launched as an independent company in late 2004, distressed Freescale traded at a measly $13, 50% below its expected price. Its stock soared, however, as the company rolled out new technologies and gained market share. Now business is so promising that Freescale is discussing an LBO with two buyout groups. Wall Streeters expect a deal to fetch $16 billion, or $40 per share, netting shareholders triple their money in just 22 months.

See "Bidding on Freescale Sets Off Alarms"

By now, Broadcom ((BRCM)) must be wishing it had never heard of options. The Irvine (Calif.) chipmaker said on Sept. 8 that it will have to restate results all the way back to 1998, boosting expenses by at least $1.5 billion, to reflect new wrinkles found in its books. Broadcom, which is being probed by the SEC and the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles for alleged backdating of options, estimated in July that it would restate by around $750 million. The new number is the largest yet in the scandal.

See ``Broadcom's Options Bombshell"

The backlash against the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms rolls on. On Sept. 12 a group of executives, accountants, and academics, many with ties to the Bush Administration, formed the Committee on Capital Markets Regulation. By late November the group, which has no official standing, will be offering up to policymakers its ideas on how to improve SarbOx, presumably by easing its regulatory strictures, which some think are leading global players to steer clear of U.S. public markets. Meanwhile, the SEC will tackle a different reform task on Oct. 18, when it will review whether investors should be able to petition corporations for the right to nominate board candidates directly. Today boards themselves select who will run.

Has Nelson Peltz drawn blood at H.J. Heinz, ((HNZ)) or just ketchup? The food giant said on Sept. 8 that the hedge fund manager and one of his four running mates have been elected to the board despite a $14 million campaign by the company to elect its own slate. Peltz, CEO of Trian Fund Management, owns a 5.5% stake and wants Heinz to trim costs. Earlier this year, Peltz got Wendy's ((WEN)) to agree to spin off its Tim Horton's ((THI)) doughnut chain and possibly dump its Baja Fresh unit as well. But Heinz isn't capitulating: It plans to enlarge its 10-member board by 2, putting the dissidents in an even smaller minority.

Peter Chernin, president of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., calls it "the most powerful media company on the Web," and he's looking to extend the franchise. On Sept. 12, News Corp. ((NWS)) paid $188 million for controlling interest in VeriSign's Jamba! ringtones unit. Allied with News Corp.'s cell-phone entertainment company Mobizzo, it will offer lots of mobile content in the U.S. and 30 other countries. First up besides ringtones: cartoons from Fox's MySpace site and Simpsons videos from Fox.

See "A New Risk Tone for News Corp."

Ford's ((F)) factory workers have absorbed the news of upcoming plant closings and 30,000 job cuts; now it seems white-collar staff will get their turn. The Wall Street Journal said on Sept. 12 that Ford will soon reveal a speeded-up slim-down plan to cut white-collar salary and benefits outlays by a painful 30%. Ford may also adopt a new pricing approach aimed at keeping prices paid closer to what's on the sticker.

It was a bumpy five-year tenure, and on Sept. 12 came the biggest bump: Bristol-Myers Squibb ((BMY)) CEO Peter Dolan got the heave-ho after an external review raised concerns about how Bristol negotiated a patent dispute. The company has been monitored by an ex-federal judge since last year, when it settled charges that it "stuffed the channel" -- gave improper sales incentives to drug wholesalers. Now the Justice Dept. is looking into potential violations of antitrust laws in a deal between Bristol and Canadian drugmaker Apotex. The deal fell apart, paving the way for Apotex to launch a generic version of Bristol's blockbuster anti-clotting drug Plavix. (Sales of the generic have been halted, but the move already cost Bristol a bundle.) Bristol General Counsel Richard Willard has also left, and the board named director James Cornelius as interim CEO, leaving Wall Street abuzz with takeover speculation. Says Chairman James Robinson III: "We concluded it was time for a change."

See "Patent Fight Bounces Bristol-Myers CEO"


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