LAST WE SAW, FINANCIER Bennett LeBow's New Valley was emerging from bankruptcy protection last January, shorn of its Western Union money-transfer business but still with $300 million in cash at the bank. Now, LeBow, a man with some money to spend, is back to do some business: On Aug. 29, RJR Nabisco disclosed that New Valley had received approval from the Federal Trade Commission to buy up as much as 15% of RJR's stock. Analysts say that LeBow is pressuring RJR to spin off its tobacco operations or buy out his Liggett unit, a producer of cheap cigarettes.

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