Bill Gates, Moving On

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bill Gates, Moving On

Bill Gates announced plans to gradually disengage from day-to-day operations at Microsoft Corp. so that he can devote himself to his foundation, which provides funding for global health and education projects. Gates said he hopes to remain chairman of Microsoft for the rest of his life, but the company has long been associated with his persona and will likely enter a new era once he completes his transition, scheduled for July 2008. With $29 billion in the foundation, Gates is poised to be an immensely important philanthropist.

Mortgage Giants' Troubles

The woes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac deepened, as the Bush administration announced Cabinet-level studies of the mortgage companies' holdings and whether they can be reined in using existing law and regulatory powers. A key House member, Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.), asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether Fannie's top officers lied to Congress two years ago about the company's accounting practices, and current chief executive Daniel H. Mudd came under fire at a Senate hearing over his role at the company.

The Next Newspaper War

A boardroom feud intensified at the Tribune Co., which publishes 11 daily newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune and owns 26 TV stations. Members of the Chandler family, who are descendants of the L.A. Times founder and are the company's second-largest group of investors, called for a breakup of the company, arguing that management had failed in its strategy of combining TV stations and newspapers. But seven independent directors backed chief executive Dennis J. FitzSimons.

Pulling on the Reins

China's leadership signaled that it wants to curtail a surge of investment that could imperil the nation's economy. Premier Wen Jiabao ordered banks and local governments to tighten financing for investment projects, and the State Council issued a statement saying: "The main problem in the operation of the economy is the high growth rate of fixed asset investment and too much currency lending. Structural problems are obvious." The moves came as data showed sharp rises in such investments and bank lending, too.

A Hint to Foreign Investors

Russia made it clear that foreign energy companies will be restricted to junior-partner roles in most of the country's oil and gas fields. At a forum, senior government officials said that though Russia remains eager for foreign companies to invest together with domestic ones, it wants to ensure that the richest projects are kept under the control of Russian firms. A draft law will go to Parliament soon; analysts believe the rules will increase the dominance of state-owned behemoths such as OAO Gazprom and OAO Rosneft.

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