$465 MILLION INTERIM FINANCING FOR MERVYNS: Mervyns LLC, the midtier department store chain that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, received approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for $465 million in interim financing provided by Wachovia Capital Finance Corp. The Hayward-based department store chain, which operates about 175 stores primarily in California, on Thursday said the financing will be used to continue operations and to pay vendors as it restructures under Chapter 11. The final hearing on the debtor-in-possession financing is set for Aug. 26. Privately held Mervyns also said it received court approval, among other things, to pay pre- petition employee wages, health benefits and other work force obligations during its restructuring. In addition, Mervyns is authorized to pay post-petition expenses and to continue to honor all of its current customer policies regarding merchandise returns and all of its outstanding gift cards and loyalty programs.
BOTH SIDES CLAIM STORMTROOPER VICTORY: The Force was with -- whom? Lucasfilm Ltd. and a British prop designer both claimed victory Thursday in a legal battle over the iconic Stormtrooper uniforms from the "Star Wars" films. George Lucas's film company had sued Andrew Ainsworth, who sculpted the Stormtrooper helmets for the first "Star Wars" movie in 1977. High Court judge Anthony Mann ruled that Ainsworth violated Lucasfilm's U.S. copyright by selling replica Stormtrooper uniforms through his Web site to customers in the United States. But Mann refused to enforce in Britain a $20 million judgment Lucasfilm won against Ainsworth in a California court in 2006. The judge said Ainsworth's U.S. sales, which totaled $50,000 to $60,000, were not significant enough to make him susceptible to U.S. jurisdiction. The judge also rejected a claim against Ainsworth under British law, saying English copyright over the outfits had expired. Ainsworth's lawyer, Seamus Andrew, said the ruling meant that Ainsworth was now free to sell his replicas everywhere except the United States. However, in a win for Lucas' side, Mann also rejected a counterclaim by Ainsworth that the copyright rested with him.
EMPLOYMENT COSTS POST MODERATE GAIN: Wages and benefits paid to U.S. workers rose by a moderate amount in the spring that should not set off any inflation concerns at the Federal Reserve. The Labor Department reported Thursday that employment costs for civilian workers rose by 0.7 percent in the April-June quarter, matching the gain in the first three months of the year. Both of those quarterly increases were the lowest in two years, since wages and benefits rose by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2006 and provided further evidence that the weakening labor market is keeping a lid on wage pressures, according to the Labor Department.
TAHOE CASINO LAYS OFF 28 WORKERS: In another setback for the gambling industry at Lake Tahoe, one of the lake's smallest casinos has laid off 28 workers and eliminated its table games. The move means Bill's Casino in Stateline, Nev., will rely exclusively on slot machines for its gaming revenue. Slots generally are more profitable than table games. "It's more a function of the overall economy right now," said Gary Thompson, a spokesman for the casino's parent Harrah's Entertainment Inc. "Things are pretty slow up in the Lake Tahoe area. People are still visiting, but they're not spending as much." Analysts have said the weak economy and the high price of gasoline could hurt Tahoe tourism this summer. But the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority said recently that occupancy rates have risen 5 percent from last year. Still, it's not a good sign when a Tahoe casino cuts back in the summer, said gaming consultant Ken Adams of Reno. "This is really indicative of how bad things are if they're doing it in the height of the Lake Tahoe season," he said.
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