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Capital Buzz: Rosetta Stone’s new strategy translates into smaller workforce

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Thomas Heath is away, but he didn’t leave us empty-handed. We also turned up some news ourselves.

Rosetta Stone, the Arlington-based purveyor of language learning software, let go an undisclosed number of employees last week as it refocuses its strategic initiatives, executives said.

A spokeswoman for the company declined to specify how many employees were terminated, but said the departures were spread across several of the company’s offices.

Rosetta Stone reported having 1,878 employees last December, including 228 in the Washington area. An earnings report earlier this month showed that number had fallen to 1,700 by March 31.

“To align with our global growth plan and to provide streamlined efficiencies within our workforce, select members of the Rosetta Stone team will no longer be working with the company,” chief executive Stephen Swad said in a statement.

— Steven Overly

A stem cell first

Columbia- based Osiris Therapeutics got the stamp of approval from health regulators in Canada last week for a stem cell drug to treat children whose bodies react negatively to a bone-marrow transplant.

Chief executive C. Randal Mills said the endorsement of Prochymal marks the first time a stem cell drug has been approved by regulators in any country, adding that the company will now pursue approval in the United States and other nations.

— Steven Overly

There’s money in the air

Safeway’s specialty is groceries, but in the Washington area the company has become increasingly adept at selling air.

Not off the shelves per se, but above them. Based in Pleasanton, Calif., Safeway has struck a string of deals by selling the “air rights” above some of its older local stores to apartment developers who then build new apartments above new Safeway stores. After Safeway opened a store in the ground floor of the mixed-use City Vista development in Mount Vernon Triangle, it struck deals to have apartments built above its stores in Wheaton and on Georgia Avenue in D.C. The Wheaton project is under construction and the one on Georgia Avenue is expected to begin later this year.

The latest offering, issued by brokers at KLNB May 1, is for the air space above the store at 5101 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington.

— Jonathan O’Connell

The Buzz hears:

Former TV newsie Brooke Salkoff’s CampEasy Web site has its first $200,000 in angel funding. CampEasy, which helps parents connect with summer camps for their kids, gets its revenue from monthly and yearly subscriptions. The round is still open.

A group of Washington area private detectives met recently at Dos Gringos restaurant in Mount Pleasant to discuss the formation of a trade association in the wake of the D.C. council’s new 6 percent tax on their businesses, reports local private eye Philip Becnel.

Alex Kramer, owner of Kramer Research and Dos Gringos, was elected president of the new organization, which will call itself Private Detective Association of the District of Columbia.

— Thomas Heath

Compensating for profit

Falls Church-based Computer Sciences Corp. said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it will pay its newly appointed Chief Financial Officer Paul N. Saleh a base salary of $700,000 for fiscal 2013.

Saleh, whose previous experience includes stints at Gannett, Nextel and Walt Disney Communications, will be eligible for an equal target cash incentive as well as equity incentive awards. Mike Lawrie, CSC’s new chief executive, said last week that the company in April established a new management compensation program.

— Marjorie Censer

Legal matters

Anyone who has been to Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue recently has probably seen the massive banner hanging on the broad side of the Warner Building, at 1299 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, advertising available office space. The building is owned by Vornado/Charles E. Smith and the space is available because it was once occupied by Howrey, the now-defunct law firm.

Dated law firm space is not easy to fill, but according to a source familiar with Vornado’s plans, the landlord has hatched a strategy: buying out the lease of another firm, Cooley, from 777 6th Street and moving Cooley into the Warner Building. Vornado would then have to backfill the 6th Street space but perhaps that is preferable to leaving the expensive Warner Building space on Vornado’s balance sheet. Vornado did not return a request for comment.

— Jonathan O’Connell

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