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"I want to turn the keys over to my successor with the machine running very well."

---William Smithburg, announcing his resignation as Quaker Oats CEO, on the heels of the Snapple debacle.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top


A NEW TOY CRAZE IS ON ITS way toward the U.S. from Japan. Called Tamagotchi and dubbed the "virtual pet," the item is a tiny video game tucked inside an egg-shaped pendant. The fun comes from making a cute video creature grow from hatchling to adult, feeding and cleaning it by pressing buttons. Miss feedings and it dies and disappears into a cybergrave.

Japanese toymaker Bandai, which has given the world the Power Rangers, plans to spend $2 million on U.S. ads for the $15 Tamagotchi (translation: "watch cute egg"). American retailers are gearing up for a new fad. F.A.O. Schwarz will host the official kickoff May 1. Says Michael Goldstein, CEO of Toys `R' Us, America's No.1 toy merchant: "This is the next Beanie Babies."

Toys `R' Us planted several thousand in its West Coast stores to test demand. Two days later, without promotion, they were gone. Big department stores, ranging from Neiman Marcus to J.C. Penney, are aiming to cash in, too. They're busy building boutiques for Tamagotchi T-shirts, sweatshirts, and baseball caps.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT I. Jeanne DuganReturn to top


WOMEN'S STATUS IS A HOT topic at Harvard business school. A task force is meeting with Dean Kim Clark to recommend changes aimed at making the school friendlier to women. Among the problems they see are a fraternity-style atmosphere in some first-year sections and a lack of day-care facilities for students who are mothers. Clark says he's looking forward to meeting with the task force, made up mostly of students. "We are committed to changes that will make a difference," he says.

Since formation of the task force last summer, another issue has popped up: declining female enrollment. Harvard's 913-member class of '98 is just 24% female, the lowest level since 1983; it's down from 29% in the '96 class. At other elite B-schools, women make up a larger portion. Stanford's first-year class, for instance, has been about 30% female for years. And generally, there's a 50-50 balance at medical and law schools.

The school calls the dip in women an anomaly that next fall's class will reverse. Some say it may stem from a huge surge in male applicants for the '98 class.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT Nadav EnbarReturn to top

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KAISER PERMANENTE, THE nation's largest HMO, has long had union problems. So guess who its new ally is? The AFL-CIO, which has brokered a peace agreement with Kaiser's eight unions. Kaiser gets the federation's help in signing up union members nationwide for its health plan.

The nonprofit HMO, most recently hit with a one-day nurses' walkout in Oakland, would give labor input into all levels of decision-making, right up to the executive suite. Union members would gain layoff protections. And Kaiser's unions would be able to organize new employees without management opposition--a key concession.

Having the AFL-CIO promote it among member unions would be a great boon to Kaiser, which is fighting well-funded efforts from for-profit HMOs trying to swipe its business. Kaiser's target: 16 million union households, particularly those of Midwestern factory workers. The AFL-CIO's pact also may bolster Kaiser's image, which has been damaged by lawsuits over quality issues in California and Texas. Kaiser settled the Texas suit Apr. 18 by paying a $1 million fine while not admitting wrongdoing.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT Aaron BernsteinReturn to top

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