TECHNOLOGYNASA, Virgin Explore VenturesNASA and Virgin Group agreed to explore collaboration on space suits, rocket motors, hypersonic vehicles and heat shields for spaceships, the U.S. space agency said. The two-year agreement involves no payments by either partner, NASA said. Closely held Virgin is building a spaceship that it says will carry tourists on suborbital flights within two years. "This new type of private-public partnership can benefit the agency while helping to foster a new industry," said Dan Coughlin, NASA's lead for the Virgin Galactic agreement.
The agreement "does not include training of NASA astronauts, an agreement to buy seats on a Virgin Galactic flight, or provision of technical advice by NASA to Virgin Galactic," NASA said.
GOVERNANCEDow Jones to Name McPhersonDow Jones said its board plans to name independent director Peter McPherson as chairman in April, replacing Peter Kann, whose retirement was previously announced. McPherson, 66, is to continue to serve as president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. He has served as an independent director of Dow Jones since 1998. LEGALBanks Denied Enron Trial DelayMerrill Lynch and Credit Suisse First Boston lost their bid to delay the trial of an investor lawsuit that accuses the banks of helping Enron to artificially inflate earnings. U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston ruled there "should be no postponement" of the April 9 trial while an appeals court decides whether shareholders can continue to combine their claims against Enron's former lenders.
No Retrial for Ex-Westar OfficersFormer Westar Energy executives David Wittig and Douglas Lake will not face a government attempt to reinstate fraud convictions that were reversed on appeal, prosecutors said. The U.S. attorney's office in Topeka, Kan., said it would not ask an appeals court in Denver to reconsider a January decision that said trial evidence didn't justify guilty verdicts.
Wittig, the former chief executive, and Lake, a former vice president, were accused of looting the Topeka-based public utility and were convicted in 2005 of money laundering and wire fraud.
Cendant's Shelton ImprisonedE. Kirk Shelton, 52, former vice chairman of Cendant, began serving a 10-year prison term for helping to lead a $3 billion accounting fraud. He was assigned the minimum-security Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution in Minersville, Pa. Trader's Conviction ReversedA judge took the unusual step of reversing a jury verdict, finding that the evidence did not support the conviction of David A. Finnerty, a former New York Stock Exchange supervisor who once oversaw trading in General Electric stock. Finnerty had been convicted of securities fraud in October by a jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONSWhole Foods to Buy RivalWhole Foods Market said it would pay $565 million for Wild Oats Markets, a chain of natural and organic food markets in the United States and Canada. Wild Oats has annual sales of about $1.2 billion and operates 110 stores in 24 states and British Columbia. The stores are smaller than most Whole Foods locations, with about half the sales per square foot. Whole Foods said it would pay $18.50 in cash per share for Wild Oats and assume the rival's debt, reported to be $106 million as of Sept. 30.
Whole Foods executives said they approached Wild Oats because they sensed a "strategic gap" after the smaller company lost its chief executive and chief financial officer.
Whole Foods also said it first-quarter profit fell to $53.8 million from $58.3 million in the comparable period a year earlier. Revenue rose 12 percent, to $1.87 billion.
CONTRACTINGFirms Settle With SoldiersBoeing, Honeywell International and two other defense contractors agreed to pay $13.6 million to two U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq after an Army helicopter malfunctioned in August 2003. The soldiers sued the manufacturers, which claimed "government contractor immunity." The Army can't be held liable in such cases.