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Thomas Jermoluk: Excite@Home's Second Residence

In Business This Week: Headliner

Thomas Jermoluk: Excite@Home's Second Residence

When @Home said it would buy Excite in January, investors applauded the notion of combining @Home's cable-TV Internet access service with Excite's portal. But Thomas Jermoluk, chief executive of Excite@Home, is already rejiggering the combined companies.

On Nov. 22, Excite-@Home said it would create a tracking stock for Excite's content business. This should ease concerns among major shareholders, particularly AT&T, about Jermoluk's push into content, which complicates Excite@Home's dealmaking with other content providers such as America Online. Also, Excite can use the new stock to acquire content providers, as its independent rivals do. "It is a structure to allow us do our thing on the content side of the business without impacting our partners," says Jermoluk. But this may not be the last permutation. Excite could be spun off entirely. Or, more likely, the units might recombine if Excite-@Home's cable backers cut their equity stakes in the company.By Peter Elstrom; Edited by Mark FrankelReturn to top

Who Reliance Is Relying On

It's Miller Time at Reliance Group. The money-squeezed insurer, which has been threatened with a ratings downgrade, tapped turnaround specialist Robert "Steve" Miller to be its new president on Nov. 22. Most recently, Miller won kudos for his work as interim CEO of Waste Management. "What I do best is to help calm the waters, boost morale, and get things back in focus," he says. Among his first tasks at Reliance, he says, will be building better relationships with the ratings agencies and "clearing away the clouds" hanging over the company. But Patrick McGurn of Institutional Shareholder Services notes that bringing in the outsider doesn't take the heat off Chairman Saul Steinberg: "Miller may have a grace period, but if things don't turn around, then the fingers will point back to Steinberg."Edited by Mark FrankelReturn to top

Novell: Now the Hard Part

Thirty-two months after riding to the rescue of software maker Novell, CEO Eric Schmidt can take pride in a convincing turnaround. On Nov. 23, Novell announced fourth-quarter earnings of $47 million, up 76% from the same period in 1998. For the year, profits soared 86% to $111 million, on revenues of $1.3 billion, up 17%. Now, having gotten Novell back on a growth track, Schmidt faces his toughest test: moving it squarely to the center of e-commerce, just as Microsoft finally ships the much-delayed Windows 2000 in February.Edited by Mark FrankelReturn to top

This Oil Merger Is Stuck in Neutral

Oil giants Exxon and Mobil were supposed to have completed their $81 billion merger by now. But the deal has yet to pass muster with the FTC, which worries that a combined company would have too much power over customers. Now, the FTC is asking that the companies sell or divest far more of their gas stations that the companies originally expected--up to 15% of a total of 15,000 outlets. Exxon would back out of the Northeast, and Mobil would leave the mid-Atlantic states.Edited by Mark FrankelReturn to top

AOL Finds a Playmate Online

America Online isn't just playing around when it comes to gaming. On Nov. 22, the online giant announced an $81 million, five-year deal with Electronic Arts, a leading maker of interactive games based in Redwood City, Calif. Under the agreement, Electronic Arts will provide all the games for AOL's Games Channel, as well as for other AOL online services including CompuServe, the AOL.COM Web portal, Netcenter, ICQ, and Digital City. The new site launches next summer and will include both free and premium-priced games.Edited by Mark FrankelReturn to top

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