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Tuesday, June 24, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Topps will buy WizKids in cash deal

SAN FRANCISCO — Topps, the maker of Bazooka bubble gum and collectible trading cards, agreed to acquire closely held WizKids, a privately held Bellevue-based company that sells games such as HeroClix, Mage Knight and MechWarrior.

The deal, valued at about $29.5 million in cash, is expected to be completed by July 15 and will help Topps expand its entertainment unit by adding collectible games, Topps said.

WizKids, which was founded in 2000, had revenue of about $33 million in 2002. WizKids strategy games use decorated miniature figures with encoded game information in the base of each piece.

Jordan Weisman, WizKids' co-founder and chief executive, will continue to lead the Bellevue company and its 94 employees, Topps said. Weisman will report to Scott Silverstein, an executive vice president who heads Topps Entertainment Division.

Rudder gets new duties in Windows division shakeup

In a reorganization of Microsoft's Windows division announced yesterday, Eric Rudder, a senior vice president, is now leading the server, storage and developer evangelism teams within the division.

Rudder, a former technical adviser to Chairman Bill Gates, most recently led the company's developer and platform evangelism effort. He'll report to Jim Allchin, the group vice president in charge of Windows.

Paul Flessner, a senior vice president who formerly led the server division, will now lead the Exchange, SQL and eBusiness divisions and report to Rudder.

Primus Knowledge avoids delisting on Nasdaq market

SEATTLE — Shares of Seattle-based Primus Knowledge Solutions rose 12.7 percent yesterday after the company said it regained compliance with Nasdaq's listing requirements and would remain in the Nasdaq SmallCap Market.

The company's shares closed yesterday up 15 cents at $1.33.

Primus, which makes productivity software, had received a warning that it would be delisted unless its shares traded above $1 for 10 consecutive days. The company received news of compliance after its stock traded above $1 for its 12th consecutive session.

Primus is one of several local technology companies to face possible delisting due to sagging stock prices. Bellevue-based Bsquare nearly gained compliance this month after its stock traded above $1 for nine consecutive days. The stock dipped to 94 cents on the 10th day and has traded below $1 since.

Corixa raises more funding; signs deal with Ottawa firm

SEATTLE — Corixa, a Seattle biotech company, said it raised an additional $15 million as investors exercised an option to buy convertible notes on top of the $115 million they bought earlier this month.

The notes, a form of debt that can be converted into stock at a certain price, will pay 4.25 percent interest, due in 2008. The company said it will use the cash it received for research and development and general corporate purposes.

Corixa also announced a new seven-year manufacturing agreement with MDS Nordion of Ottawa. The agreement calls for MDS to add doses of radiation to Bexxar, a lymphoma drug in the final stages of review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Cray's stock continues climb on strength of new report

PRINCETON, N.J. — Shares of Seattle-based supercomputer maker Cray rose 3.4 percent yesterday after Barron's reported that the company expects sales to increase to $500 million within a few years.

Cray shares gained 26 cents to $7.80. They have almost doubled in the past year. Yesterday's trading of 2.89 million shares was more than three times the three-month daily average.

Government agencies are adding more Cray machines, boosting sales, Barron's said, citing Cray Chief Executive Jim Rottsolk. Cray's clients include the National Security Agency and the Department of Energy's national laboratories.

Cray's sales totaled $155.1 million last year. The increase in revenue may boost net income to $50 million, or $1.10 a share, the paper said.

Nation/World

Financing allows Laidlaw to emerge from bankruptcy

PRINCETON, N.J. — Laidlaw International, which owns Greyhound Lines, North America's biggest bus company, emerged from two years of bankruptcy protection after paying creditors $1 billion.

The payments came from $1.23 billion in new financing, Laidlaw said in a statement. Citigroup and Credit Suisse First Boston provided the credit lines, Laidlaw Vice President and Treasurer Geoff Mann said.

Laidlaw filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and for Canadian bankruptcy protection in 2001.

Northern Trust cuts another 9 percent from work force

CHICAGO — Northern Trust said yesterday it is eliminating 700 jobs, or 9 percent of its work force, as part of an effort to cut annual operating expenses by up to $150 million.

Most of the layoffs already have been made this month, the Chicago-based company said.

Along with the elimination of 690 other jobs from the recent sale of assets of its retirement-consulting branch, Northern Trust has now reduced its work force by 15 percent this quarter, to less than 8,000 from 9,336 at the end of March.

Stock of U-Haul's parent company surges after filing

DETROIT — Shares of Amerco, owner of the U-Haul truck-rental service, rose 72 percent after the company filed for bankruptcy protection Friday, listing more assets than debt.

The stock rose $2.93 to $7.01. Amerco listed $1.04 billion in assets and $884 million of debt in a Chapter 11 filing at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Reno, Nev.

The Reno-based owner of U-Haul, whose orange-and-white trucks have been rented to do-it-yourself movers for more than half a century, filed for bankruptcy to cope with accounting restatements and after failing to arrange $865.8 million in new financing.

Creditors will be paid in full because the value of the company's assets exceeds its debts, Amerco said. The company has arranged a $300 million loan to help fund its reorganization and a $650 million loan for post-bankruptcy use.

Trial of former Rite Aid counsel delayed by judge

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The accounting fraud and obstruction-of-justice trial of Rite Aid's former chief counsel, Franklin Brown, was delayed until next Monday after lawyers questioned jurors about publicity on the case.

U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo pushed back opening arguments from today after asking 12 jurors and six alternates behind closed doors about guilty pleas made this month by Rite Aid's ex-chief executive officer, Martin Grass, and ex-chief financial officer, Frank Bergonzi.

Grass and Bergonzi separately admitted inflating income and understating expenses by hundreds of millions of dollars in the late 1990s at Rite Aid, the third-largest drugstore chain. The fraud prompted Rite Aid to restate $1.6 billion in net income.

Investment banker wants trial moved to California

NEW YORK — Frank Quattrone, the once-powerful Silicon Valley investment banker, asked a federal judge yesterday to move his upcoming obstruction-of-justice trial from New York to Northern California.

Given that Quattrone and many key witnesses live there, it would be "far more convenient" to have the trial in California, Quattrone's lawyers wrote in a submission to U.S. District Judge Richard Owen.

Outside experts doubted the judge would consent to a move, which is rarely granted.

Compiled by Seattle Times business staff and news services.

Copyright © 2003 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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