Ravi Suria, the 30-year-old Lehman Brothers (LEH) convertible-bond analyst who gained notoriety for his sharp-penciled analysis of Amazon.com (AMZN), resigned this week to become a managing director of Duquesne Capital. The $4 billion hedge fund is run by George Soros' former chief investment officer, Stanley Druckenmiller. Says Suria: "I'm really excited about this new opportunity and leave Lehman on very good terms." He was sometimes at odds with his equities counterpart, Holly Becker, at the firm.
Suria was among the first analysts to enlighten investors on the shaky nature of dot-com financing. In his initial report on Amazon last June, he raised doubts about its long-term profitability. In his most recent report, dated Feb. 6, Suria questioned the company as a "going concern," focusing on Amazon's tightening liquidity. In response, the e-tailer criticized everything from Suria's methodology to his math ability.
Sources say that Suria was also approached by Soros, Maverick Capital, and other top hedge funds. The Bush administration is putting out feelers in an attempt to fill the two empty slots on the Federal Reserve Board. At least two bankers in Chicago have been approached for Fed governor positions, according to people who are familiar with the search. One is Verne Istock, the retired president of Bank One, who isn't interested in the job. The other: Norman Bobins, president and CEO of LaSalle Bank. Bobins, who donated money to the Presidential campaigns of both George W. Bush and Bill Bradley, is a former member of the Federal Advisory Council, which is a group of banking leaders that meets regularly with the Fed. Both Istock and Bobins declined to comment. Will ALZA provide a patch for what ails Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)? On Mar. 27, J&J purchased the fast-rising drug-maker--inventor of the dosage delivery system behind Glaxo-SmithKline's NicodermCQ patch--for about $10.5 billion. That's a 39% premium over ALZA's value before news of the deal leaked and far more than Abbott Laboratories' aborted $7.3 billion bid in 1999. With its Propulsid heartburn drug pulled off the market and other offerings facing tough competition, J&J hopes ALZA drugs such as Concerta, for attention deficit disorder, will lift sales. It also plans to use Nicoderm-style technologies to deliver J&J drugs for anemia, schizophrenia, and other illnesses. Et tu, Mickey? Walt Disney (DIS) plans to lay off as many as 4,000 people, a 3% cut of its worldwide staff of 120,000 employees. Disney expects to take one-time charges of less than $250 million over two quarters. It said that job cuts would be voluntary at first. The layoffs, announced in an e-mail from Chairman Michael Eisner and President Robert Iger, are in sharp contrast to the company's fourth-quarter earnings release, when company execs said they expected ad spending to revive in early 2001. Like other TV networks, Disney's ABC has been suffering from a sluggish ad market. Analysts say a continued soft economy could affect bookings this spring and summer for the Disney theme parks and cruise line. Lucent Technologies (LU), which is determined to raise cash and keep its bond rating above junk status, pressed ahead with an initial public offering of its optical component business. Agere Systems shares finally hit the market Mar. 28 at $6 after being originally priced at a range between $15 and $20. The Agere IPO allowed Lucent to reduce its debt by $2.5 billion. But the company isn't out of the woods. Analysts originally expected Lucent to cut its debt by $5 billion. And if Lucent can't find a way to raise the additional cash, its bond rating could still be downgraded. As Delta Air Lines (DAL) tries to reach an agreement with its pilots, the Atlanta-based carrier faces labor woes on another front. On Mar. 26, pilots at its wholly owned unit, Comair, walked out after mediated talks fell through. On the third day of the strike, the regional airline said it was canceling all of its flights through the morning of Apr. 5. Management and the union remain far apart on key issues, including pay, work rules, and rest time. While Comair says it's offering the industry's best regional jet contract, pilots say they want the benefits of working for a $1 billion carrier. -- The California Public Utilities Commission voted to raise electric rates by 30%.
-- Hellman & Friedman will pay $240 million for 9.8% of the Nasdaq Stock Market.
-- Mitsubishi Motors expects a net loss of $2.21 billion for the year ended Mar. 31. Investors gave Palm (PALM) shares the thumbs-down after the popular maker of handheld organizers warned that red-hot demand has cooled. The stock tumbled 48% on Mar. 28, to $8.06, after Palm said its fiscal fourth-quarter revenues will be about half of what Wall Street was expecting because of slowing demand. Also, Palm announced plans to reduce its workforce by 10% to 15% and to postpone construction of its new corporate headquarters.