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BUSINESS NOTES.

FORMER CBS BOSS TAKES OVER SONY: Sony Corp. said Thursday that it hired former CBS network chief Howard Stringer as its top U.S. executive, filling a post left vacant in a management shake-up two years ago.

As president of Sony Corp. of America, Stringer will coordinate the Japanese company's vast entertainment businesses, which include two movie studios, with its U.S. electronics subsidiary.

He will assume the post May 5.

Stringer, 55, will be the first executive solely responsible for Sony's U.S. operations since Michael P. Schulhof was forced out in December 1995. Since then, the company has been run by executives in Tokyo.

LAWMAKERS CLOSE TAX LOOPHOLE: Despite business opposition, lawmakers moved Thursday to close a tax loophole that let companies sell off businesses worth billions of dollars without paying federal taxes.

The administration estimates the change will raise $311 million through 2002.

The bill would prevent so-called Morris Trust deals from occurring after April 16, 1997, but it wouldn't affect deals already announced, House aides said.

The current law allows tax-free acquisition of a subsidiary or parent corporations in an exchange of stock of the acquiring company. Critics say the law was intended to permit tax-free restructuring of businesses among existing shareholders, not encourage prearranged sales to avoid a taxable gain.

WEBTV PRICES SLASHED: In an acknowledgment that sales of WebTV have fallen short of expectations, makers of the set-top Internet gizmo slashed prices this week for the first time since its introduction last fall.

The price cuts come less than two weeks after software giant Microsoft Corp. bought WebTV Networks for $425 million with the intention of transforming the novel gadget into a mass-market product. The slim black boxes, which sit atop the TV set, enable users to retrieve electronic mail and surf the World Wide Web on their current television sets using a remote-control device.

Sony Electronics Inc. and Philips Consumer Electronics Co. said Thursday that they cut prices by up to 25 percent for the devices, which they produce under license from WebTV Networks.

The reductions will reduce store prices to about $250 from $330.

COURT CONTINUES LIMITS ON CREDIT UNIONS: A federal appeals court refused to lift limits on credit union membership while the Supreme Court considers a dispute over membership guidelines.

A three-judge panel in Washington on Wednesday left intact a lower court order prohibiting federal credit unions from accepting new companies and other groups of potential members into their fold.

The ruling likely means that for at least the rest of the year, federal credit unions will have less ability to recruit new members than they did in the past, when they could accept groups even if they didn't share a common bond with existing members.

Credit unions say they need to attract new members to offset attrition and ensure their long-term health. Banks, which would suffer from credit union expansion, say credit unions are seeking to emulate banks without giving up their tax-exempt status or their exemption from U.S. community investment requirements.

LIPPO BANK GETS NEW CAPITAL: Cash-strapped Lippo Bank California announced Thursday that it has $6 million in new capital and has initiated a comprehensive cost reduction program.

The Los Angeles-based institution is disposing of a group of nonperforming real estate loans, in hopes of quickly restoring profitability, said President James E. Per Lee.

The capital infusion, he said, came from James T. Riady, the bank's majority shareholder.

The bank also is engaged in final negotiations to sell a portfolio of four commercial real estate loans to a private company specializing in buying secured, non-performing notes.

Lippo's total loan portfolio will shrink by $10 million while it resolves overall asset quality, Riady said.

He and bank colleague John Huang, both longtime acquaintances of President Clinton, are principals in an investigation into contributions made to the Democratic National Committee.

Riady's father, Mochtar, formed the multibillion-dollar Jakarta-based Lippo Group.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Apr 18, 1997
Words:650
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