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Saturday, March 1, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Spiegel's chief executive resigns

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — Spiegel, owner of Redmond-based Eddie Bauer and the Spiegel catalog, said its chief executive officer resigned and it hired an executive from a firm that specializes in bankruptcy to run the company.

William Kosturos of Alvarez & Marsal will serve as chief restructuring officer following the departure of Martin Zaepfel, Spiegel said. The company will pursue a permanent replacement for Zaepfel, who ran Downers Grove-based Spiegel for about two years.

Spiegel earlier this week said it was seeking more financing from lenders and might soon run out of money to finance its operations.

Boeing considers stretch version of 717

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Boeing plans to decide by midyear whether it can muster enough orders to justify building a stretch version of its smallest commercial jet, the money-losing 717, the head of the program said yesterday.

Boeing Vice President Jim Phillips told reporters that airlines including AirTran Holdings and Midwest Airlines were interested in a stretched 717-300 version of the fuel-efficient plane that is produced in Long Beach, Calif. Boeing generally considers a substantial number of orders from at least two carriers necessary to economically justify a line extension.

Separately yesterday, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings said it has missed six lease payments on Boeing aircraft in its fleet and may defer others. It has agreed with Boeing to delay by about three years the delivery of a 747-400 that had been set for October.

The Purchase, N.Y.-based air-cargo carrier is returning one Boeing 747-200 aircraft to its lessor after receiving a notice of lease termination and has begun talks to reduce or defer operating-lease payments for five Boeing 747-200s and one Boeing 747-300 aircraft.

The lease negotiations could set the stage for lawsuits against the company, although Atlas said it is "optimistic" of getting contract adjustments.

In other news yesterday, Boeing said it plans to move the production of its Delta booster rockets done in Pueblo, Colo., to a plant in Alabama, eliminating 90 jobs as demand to launch payloads into space falls.

Boeing said all Delta rockets will be built in Decatur, Ala., by the middle of 2004. About 160 of the 250 related jobs in Pueblo will be moved to Decatur, Boeing said. The number of Delta deliveries fell 67 percent to four last year because of less demand for satellites from communications companies.

Novar Controls to buy Alerton Technologies

REDMOND — Novar Controls of Britain has agreed to buy Redmond-based Alerton Technologies in a deal to be completed Monday.

Privately held Alerton, which makes automation and control systems for commercial buildings, will remain in Redmond as a subsidiary of Novar and will drop "Technologies" from its name. Current employees are expected to remain in Redmond, Alerton said. Novar is a $2.3 billion publicly traded company.

Alerton was founded in Bellevue in 1981 by Clair Jenkins and Tony Fassbind. It pioneered digital controls, which now are the industry norm. It had sales of more than $22 million in 2002.

Oregon jobless rate climbs to 7.5 percent

PORTLAND — Unemployment in Oregon increased to 7.5 percent for January as the economic recovery continues to drag the state along without much improvement, state labor officials said yesterday.

"The pace of recovery, especially in terms of new jobs being added, is painfully slow," said Graham Slater, economic research administrator for the Oregon Employment Department.

The statewide jobless rate was 7.3 percent for December, ending a year of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. The Oregon rate peaked at a high of 8.4 percent in January 2002 but job losses had appeared to ease by the end of the year.

Still, the state has been unable to sustain any kind of significant employment growth during the past 10 months.

Washington state's unemployment rate in December was 6.8 percent. The January rate will be reported Tuesday.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, Bloomberg News, Reuters and The Associated Press.

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