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Originally published June 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 14, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Business Digest

Starbucks to drop Jones Soda

Pacific Northwest Starbucks will stop selling Jones Soda this summer, pulling the Seattle soft-drink brand out of thousands of coffee shops...

Pacific Northwest

Jones Soda

Starbucks will stop selling Jones Soda this summer, pulling the Seattle soft-drink brand out of thousands of coffee shops to make room for other products in its refrigerator cases.

Spokesman Brandon Borrman said Starbucks has no plans to add another soft-drink brand.

Starbucks used to be among a handful of national retailers that carried Jones. But in the past year, Jones began selling its beverages in Wal-Mart, Kmart, Safeway and other major retailers.

Starbucks

Disability lawsuit settled for $85,000

Starbucks has agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a disability-discrimination lawsuit filed in 2006 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the company fired a Seattle barista with bipolar disorder.

The EEOC said Wednesday that Starbucks gave Christine Drake extra training and support while she worked as a barista in its Queen Anne-neighborhood coffee shop for more than two years, starting in 2001.

But in her third year, new management at the coffee shop discontinued the extra support, then fired her, which the EEOC said violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Though the case was settled out of court, Starbucks did not admit any wrongdoing. The lawsuit was settled to avoid further time and expense spent on litigation for both parties," said Tara Darrow, a Starbucks spokeswoman.

Amazon.com

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Buyout talk cools; Netflix stock falls

As rumors of an acquisition by Seattle online retailer Amazon.com have faded, so has Netflix stock.

Speculation about a deal pushed the stock of the movie-rental company up near the $26 mark last Wednesday — its highest level in six months and up more than 20 percent in two days.

Over the past three days, the shares of Los Gatos, Calif.-based Netflix have lost more than 18 percent, closing at $19.42 Wednesday, as analysts from J.P. Morgan and Citigroup have downgraded the shares on concern about fresh competition from Dallas-based Blockbuster.

"We believe this [Amazon buyout] scenario is a possibility, but not a probability due to certain fundamental hurdles such as competitive uncertainties with Blockbuster and digital downloads," wrote Tony Wible of Citigroup.

Commerce Dept.

Consumers in May open wallets wide

Consumers brushed off rising gasoline prices and stormed the malls in May, pushing up retail sales by the largest amount in more than a year.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that sales surged 1.4 percent over April, double what analysts had expected.

The strong showing, which followed a 0.1 percent decline in April, was widely based. Auto dealers, department stores, specialty-clothing stores and hardware stores all enjoyed hefty increases.

Also Wednesday, there was further support for the view the economy was rebounding after a weak start to the year.

The Federal Reserve said its latest survey of business conditions found the economy was gaining momentum, bolstered by solid consumer spending and a rebound in manufacturing.

United Airlines

Merger potential is still on radar

United Airlines remains interested in industry consolidation and would like to team up with a U.S. carrier with a strong presence in the Northeast and a hub in the South, its chief financial officer said Wednesday.

Jake Brace told analysts there are candidates but indicated United does not intend to try a hostile takeover, citing the recent failed bid by US Airways to acquire Delta Air Lines.

United began publicly touting the need for industry consolidation even before ending a three-year bankruptcy restructuring last year.

But the nation's second-largest carrier has taken a lower profile on the subject in recent months with conditions less ripe for a merger.

eBay / Google

eBay pulls ads from AdWords

Online auctioneer eBay has pulled its advertising from Google's AdWords network in the United States, an eBay spokesman said Wednesday.

The relationship between the companies, which have rival online pay systems, is growing more strained, according to one industry analyst.

eBay said it pulled the ads in its effort to find the most efficient forms of marketing itself.

"This is part of an ongoing experiment to look at how we market across all media channels," said spokesman Hani Durzy.

AdWords is Google's advertising system that shows ads based on words in Web searches and is the source of virtually all of Google's revenues.

NBC / Group M

TV-ad deal hinges on commercials

NBC and the marketing company Group M completed the first major television-advertising deal based on how many viewers watch commercials, rather than the actual programs.

Liz Fischer, a spokeswoman for NBC Universal, a unit of the General Electric, and John Wolfe, a spokesman for Group M, confirmed the deal. Both declined to comment further.

The arrangement abandons a system of measure used for more than 50 years in favor of a new metric for commercial viewing that Nielsen Media Research now provides all networks.

The new ad rates will also take into account viewings of shows within three days, rather than live.

The deal is the first for the September viewing season.

It creates a blueprint for Group M advertisers to buy time on all of NBC's properties, which include prime time, daytime, cable channels, digital sites and Spanish-language shows.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Reuters and Dow Jones Newswires

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