Gadgets

Spaced Out Dobbs Calls It Quits

Space.com said that its founder, former business news anchor Lou Dobbs, will step down as chief executive officer and return to the CNN Moneyline Newshour on May 14.

Dobbs founded the business news program Moneyline about 20 years ago on CNN. He left Moneyline nearly two years ago and founded Space.com, which operates a website dedicated to space-related subjects while also publishing Starry Night astronomy software.

Dobbs will maintain his significant investment in Space.com and remain on its board of directors. Management is “well positioned to take the company to profitability in the next nine months,” a statement from the company said.

MSN chief resigns: Brad Chase, who spearheaded the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system, will leave his post as senior vice president in charge of MSN’s technology and operations, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

Spokesman Matt Pilla said it wasn’t immediately clear what position, if any, 40-year-old Chase was planning to take with the company.

Chase is on vacation and could not immediately be reached for comment. The change was not made public when the company announced a series of other executive shifts in its MSN division last week.

“As we were considering these organizational tweaks, he was looking at opportunities to move on to other things,” Pilla said.

Power deal in Southern California: Southern California Edison’s customers will get a break from surging electricity rates, thanks to the cash-starved utility’s agreement to a $2.76??billion deal allowing the state to buy its transmission lines.

Gov. Gray Davis announced the deal Monday, in which the state’s second-largest utility also agreed to provide low-cost power to customers for 10 years.

The deal is a key part of the governor’s plan to keep SoCal Edison (EIX) solvent. It would give the utility money to reorganize its debts and pay power generators, many of which have not been paid since November.

“This agreement proves good things can happen when the parties are responsible, resolute and stay at the table,” Davis said. “If you walk away from the table, nothing can get done.”

Pacific Gas and Electric (PCG), the state’s largest utility, filed for federal bankruptcy protection on Friday without notifying Davis of its plans.

Davis said there was still room for a deal with PG&E if the company wanted to come back to the bargaining table. But PG&E said it would continue to pursue a resolution to its problems through the bankruptcy court.

Pirates scuttled in court: Cablevision Systems said it had won $29 million in damages in its case against distributors of pirate cable decoders.

The company said in a statement that a federal court had awarded the damages in its case against Teleview, Teleview Distributors, Omega Holdings, Omega of Elgin, J.C.R. Products, C&G Electronics and Rec-Tec Electronics. Also named as defendants were the enterprise’s principals and employees. Cablevision had brought suit in May 1999.

“Including enhanced damages of $50,000 and yet-to-be-determined attorney’s fees, this judgment represents the largest monetary award ever entered under applicable law,” the statement said.

The court found that the defendants had sold one or more pirate decoders to 2,756 different Cablevision cable subscribers, the statement said. The stock (CVC) was up $1.50 to $66 in morning New York Stock Exchange trading.

Dolly firm can’t clone cash: Scottish biotechnology firm PPL Therapeutics, creator of Dolly the cloned sheep, dropped plans for a 45 million pound ($65 million) fund-raising, blaming a fall in technology markets.

PPL, which had hoped the funding would help it break even by 2004, has enough cash for around a year at its current “burn rate” of just under 1 million pounds a month.

The company added it was actively pursuing a range of financing alternatives, but its shares fell by 14 percent to their lowest level in 14 months as the financial uncertainty took its toll.

SOS, SOS, SOS: British telecommunications company Marconi plans to cut 3,000 jobs, or 5 percent of its global work force, as part of a company-wide reorganization.

The announcement came amid a slowdown in Marconi’s sales in the United States, where it generates about 40 percent of its business.

Marconi refused to specify where it would eliminate the jobs, other than to say about 1,500 cuts would be in Britain. It employs 55,000 people, about 20,000 of them in Britain.

The company added that it would outsource most of its communications networks manufacturing to Jabil Circuit (JBL) and transfer up to 2,900 employees to that Detroit-based firm.

More problems for Ericsson: Ericsson said it was withdrawing its first shipment of new-technology GPRS mobile phones due to a flawed factory installation.

The flawed phones, Ericsson’s recently launched R520 model, have been sent to retailers in Sweden and one or two other European countries.

“There’s an error in the phone’s set-up which means you get a shorter standby time than was said previously,” Ericsson spokeswoman Monica Rubensson said. She said only a small volume of phones was affected but declined to be more precise.

General Packet Radio Services technology offers mobile phone users a fast Internet connection and always-online capability. The R520 is Ericsson’s first GPRS phone.

ANTEC slashes jobs: ANTEC said it is was cutting 400 jobs, or about 17 percent of its work force, in an effort to reduce costs and return to profitable growth.

The work force reduction will eliminate positions in the company’s factories in the Southwest as well as management and support positions throughout the company. The company said it would take a one-time charge of $5 million in the second quarter related to the job cuts.

ANTEC (ANTC), a Duluth, Georgia, communications company serving the broadband industry, expects annual savings of about $10 million from the job cuts.

Kennard lends a hand: Handspring announced the addition of former FCC Chairman William E. Kennard to its board of directors.

Kennard presided over the FCC during a significant growth period in the telecommunications industry and brings broad experience and a strong commitment to innovation and better consumer services to Handspring (HAND), the company said.

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