A Bear Stearns Departure, a Starbucks Return

Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne leaves under pressure and a dark subprime cloud. Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz once again takes the reins of the struggling coffee giant. And a moonshine revival is making AFT agents grumpy.


Cayne out as Bear Stearns CEO

Bear Stearns CEO James Cayne is stepping down, according to media reports, after a year of unprecedented losses for the investment bank. Cayne will stay on as chairman, and President Alan Schwartz is expected to take over as chief executive. Bear Stears shares have skidded down 53 percent in the last year, due largely to the subprime mortgage meltdown, which Bear Stearns helped spark. (The New York Times, free registration required) “Cayne stepping down will help keep Bear out of the headlines, and that’s what the firm needs to rebuild,” said Bruce Foerster of Miami-based South Beach Capital Markets. (Bloomberg)

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Schultz returns to Starbucks helm

Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz returned late yesterday as CEO of the company he built up, replacing chief executive Jim Donald. The announcement sent Starbucks stock up 9 percent in extended trading. The company’s stock shed about 50 percent last year, amid declining traffic and increasing competition. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) Schultz said Starbucks would close underperforming U.S. stores, slow its expansion domestically, and increase growth internationally. “I think investors will be more excited about Starbucks slowing store growth than the change in management,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Larry Miller. (Reuters)

Microsoft bids on Norwegian search firm

Microsoft agreed to pay $1.2 billion for Norway-based online search software company Fast Search & Transfer ASA. The per-share offering price is 42 percent above Fast Search’s Jan. 4 closing price. Microsoft said the Fast Search board and shareholders controlling 37 percent of the firm’s stock had already agreed to the deal. (MarketWatch) Fast Search provides the custom search software used by companies like Deutsche Telekom and UPS. “Microsoft is investing in enterprise software, and Web search is a central and important part of the area,” said analyst Arild Nysaether at Fondsfinans AS in Oslo. (Bloomberg)

The war on moonshine

After a crackdown in the late 1990s, moonshine is starting to make a comeback in rural Virginia. Along with its historic ties to the area, local residents like moonshine because unlike legal liquor, there are no taxes on it. The slow resurgence of the lucrative moonshine trade, which extends up and down the East Coast, has in turn led to a redoubling of state and federal efforts to quash it. “I think the only reason people like moonshine is because it has that mystical connotation from movies and the media,” says AFT agent Bart McEntire. “And this whole myth thing does nothing but just tick me off. They’re crooks. A crook is a crook.” (The Washington Post)

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