For sale, on eBay (EBAY): "Complete staff of ZDNet Tech Update...currently available to instantly implement professional Web site or print magazine." Bidders compete for the r?sum?s of the 10-member team, which expects an eventual offer for salary and benefits in the high six figures. Highest bid as of press time: $21. Airbus, the european archrival to Boeing (BA), may set up a manufacturing plant in Wichita--not to build commercial jets but to make air tankers for the U.S. military, officials familiar with the plan tell BusinessWeek.
The plant would draw on a vast number of unemployed aerospace workers in the area laid off from Boeing, Cessna, Raytheon (RTN), and Learjet. (Another site being considered is Kansas City, Kan.) An ongoing $10 million feasibility study calls for hiring at least 1,000 workers to make A330 tankers for the Pentagon, the officials say. The planes would replace 600 aging KC-135 tankers--old Boeing planes from the 1950s.
Airbus' parent, EADS, hopes to become a big U.S. defense contractor. Philippe Camus, co-CEO of EADS, has said that an industrial presence in the U.S. is key to long-term success--and that if Airbus and EADS won a large contract, he would consider building a final-assembly plant here. Airbus has a research facility in Wichita, and EADS supplies helicopters to the U.S. Coast Guard. EADS officials declined to comment on the study.
Boeing, sure to be chagrined by having its rival hire its former workers, already has won one round of bidding to replace 100 of the old tankers. Now comes the competition to replace the remaining 500. Just when Wall Street firms thought New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was done with them, BusinessWeek has learned he's investigating charges that investment banks colluded to manipulate initial public offerings.
Spitzer's office has filed a letter in a Manhattan court saying he intends to weigh in by Feb. 5 on whether Wall Street should be subject to antitrust law. An antitrust suit by aggrieved investors alleges that the top 10 investment banks conspired to overcharge people who bought the IPOs of tech companies (BW--Feb. 3). Banks deny the allegation, and say they are immune from antitrust scrutiny, since they are regulated under securities laws and by the Securities & Exchange Commission.
Spitzer's decision to take a side--most likely that of the investors--doesn't look good for the banks. It could mean that he will later bring his own antitrust charges against them. Spitzer's office says there is no legal reason banks should be immune from antitrust law. Since President Bush took office two years ago, the economy has lost some 1.7 million jobs, making job creation a sore point around the White House. Now, either by coincidence or by design, two agencies have taken actions that make the Administration's unremarkable record on jobs a little harder to spot.
The President's own Council of Economic Advisers has yanked off its Web site a study predicting mediocre job growth from Bush's proposed $674 billion economic stimulus plan. The study forecast a modest 170,000 more jobs than would otherwise be created--0.1% of the workforce--every year through 2007, on average. The study was pulled within two days of Bush's Jan. 7 speech. In spite of its action, the council says it stands behind the numbers.
And on Christmas Eve, the Bureau of Labor Statistics quietly announced that it would no longer publish the mass-layoff statistics it had been putting out since 1994. The stats used to be used by states to help determine where to spend on job-retraining programs. "We're losing information we really need," complains Henry Jackson, director of Illinois' Division of Economic Information & Analysis. Labor officials say that the resulting savings of $6.6 million annually will be diverted directly to states for job training. How strong is support for President Bush's tax plan? BusinessWeek's Cover Story "Class Warfare?" (Jan. 20) asked people to vote on our Web site, and the results are in.
With 2,411 respondents one week after the cover date, it seems most BusinessWeek readers are lined up against it:
-- 52% oppose the Bush plan.
-- 44% favor it.
-- 4% are uncertain.
Posing the question, which was based on the assumption that the Bush tax cut would boost the economy but worsen income inequality, also generated a ton of mail, both for and against (page 14).
Support was stronger than in another recent poll, from The Wall Street Journal/NBC News, which showed 41% in favor, and 50% opposed.
Our sample wasn't scientific: The poll was open to anyone, including nonsubscribers. Site visitors' median household income was $85,000, about twice the national level, and may have produced a bias in favor of a tax cut.
In the end, it looks as if the President's economic program is facing an uphill battle. Bureaucrats in Brussels have long enjoyed the kind of fringe benefits that would make even Jack Welch envious. Special tax rates, generous pensions, unchecked expenses, and payments for simply showing up to work are just a few.
Now, pampered Eurocrats can add cut-price rations of Viagra to their list of lavish perks. The European Union's in-house medical insurer, La caisse des eurocrates, which covers the 45,000 officials who work for EU institutions, said late last year it would refund 85% of the prescription cost. Unlike the U.S. or Britain, most European countries do not cover Viagra under their government-funded medical plans. Loath to miss a chance to impose a quota, though, the EU is covering the cost of only six Viagra pills, or about $56, each month.
Although the EU will not reveal the number of impotent Eurocrats using the new benefit, a spokesman stresses that coverage is limited to those whose condition results from a serious illness, such as diabetes or prostate trouble. In looking to relaunch The Rawhide Kid comic book series popular in the 1950s, the folks at Marvel Comics realized the character was too well-dressed and too put-together to be just any old rye-swilling, dusty cowboy. So on Feb. 5, the Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather will appear ($2.99 per monthly issue) with a new twist: He's gay.
He'll be the first gay lead character for Marvel, whose long list of comic book heroes includes Captain America, the X-men, the Incredible Hulk, and Spider-Man. "We wanted to do a tongue-in-cheek comedy about the West, and we thought having a gay protagonist was an interesting way to approach that," says Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada.
Could this be risky? No, says Quesada, Marvel is counting on the Kid to lure new readers. Plus, the stories won't focus directly on sexuality, says Quesada: "He just happens to be gay." Wall Street analysts agree that any potential backlash wouldn't dent Marvel or parent Marvel Enterprises (MVL), which has had a blockbuster year since the Spider-Man movie hit last summer. Its share price has doubled, to 10. Perhaps a celluloid version of the Rawhide Kid isn't too far off.