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"I'm sure that's going to be the most profitable night in the history of television" --CBS Television President Leslie Moonves, commenting on the final episode of the network's SurvivorEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Ford's PC Plan: Slow to Boot

As if Ford Motor didn't have enough problems with those Firestone tires on its SUVs, now it has hit a snag keeping a promise made to most of its 350,000 employees in April.

That was when CEO Jacques Nasser decided to give each Ford worker a free desktop personal computer and cheap Internet access, almost as an afterthought to the 1999 negotiations with the United Auto Workers. So far, Ford has ordered about 77,000 PCs and delivered 44,000. More than 90% of eligible Ford hourly workers have asked for a PC. The highest usage is on Saturdays--when workers have been devouring Ford and Firestone stories on the company's portal.

But Ford has had to run a gauntlet of tax rules before its 105,000 European workers get PCs, negotiating in each country to ensure that the computers aren't taxed. "It wasn't something we expected when we first rolled this out," says a spokeswoman. Tax laws are not a problem outside Europe. There, pilot programs will finally begin in Germany and Britain in September, with the rest of Europe to follow. By Jeff Green; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Banana Republic Storms the Office

Depending on your point of view, it's either a new frontier in retailing or a way to keep employees from taking really long lunch breaks. Or maybe both. In September, Banana Republic, a division of Gap, unveils its @yourservice concept, which sets up shop--from shirt racks to dressing rooms--right in the workplace.

For one to three days, employees in the New York City offices of Home Box Office, Credit Suisse First Boston, and Scient will enjoy 20% discounts, free tailoring, and other shopping perks. Says Banana Republic events-marketing executive Cindy Capobianco: "Companies are wrestling with the decision they made to change their dress code to business casual" and want "to bring some clarity to the issue." Capobianco won't say how much that clarity is costing Banana Republic, but she notes that the 1,000-to-2,000-square-foot mini-stores will be "highly staffed" and offer "preview" cocktail parties.

The companies are copacetic about it all. "We get a chance to give our employees something nice," says Byers Watt, a marketing exec at Scient. If the concept flies, Banana Republic hopes other employers sign up in time for the holidays. By Joan Oleck; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

From a Rocky IPO to a Happy "I Do"?

Six months after World Online's initial public offering became one of the biggest embarrassments in European financial history, the Dutch company's prospects may soon brighten.

Industry sources say Italian Internet and telecom startup Tiscali may announce a merger in early September with World Online, once headed by Nina Brink. A deal would create Europe's second-largest Internet company, with 4.5 million subscribers, behind only Deutsche Telekom's T-Online.

Both Tiscali and World Online had set out to be European leaders in high-speed Internet access. But World Online's March IPO turned into a fiasco after investors found that Brink had sold shares at a discount before the listing. After bitter accusations and shareholder suits, she quit.

Tiscali is now valued at $7.4 billion, vs. $4.4 billion for World Online. Any merger will likely be a stock deal, and the combined group would have about $2 billion in cash reserves. Tiscali declined to comment, but World Online Chairman James Kinsella said in early August that both companies were talking.

If the merger is indeed pulled off, it would be a blow to Deutsche Telekom, which is also in the market for European Internet companies. By Gail Edmondson; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

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