May 19, 2007

Startup airline gets OK for takeoff

Startup airline Virgin America won final approval Friday to take to the skies in the United States.

Federal regulators approved the Burlingame company's revised plan to operate U.S.-based commercial flights after it made numerous concessions, including replacing its chief executive, to allay concerns about the foreign ownership stake of Richard Branson's London-based Virgin Group Ltd.

The Transportation Department said Virgin's revised plan, filed in January, is now in compliance with laws that limit foreign control of domestic air carriers. That includes company ownership rules that cap foreign control of a U.S. airline at 25 percent of voting shares. Virgin also agreed to replace CEO Fred Reid, the former Delta Air Lines Inc. president hired by British billionaire Branson, founder of London-based Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Service is expected to start this summer with flights from San Francisco International Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Quick hits

Village Voice Media, the owner of the East Bay Express, announced it will sell the weekly newspaper to a small group of investors headed by Stephen Buel, the Emeryville-based paper's editor, Express co-founder and calendar editor Kelly Vance and Hal Brody, a veteran in the alternative newspaper industry. Brody will take over as publisher and Buel will stay on as editor. No job cuts are planned as a result of the sale. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed for the paper, which was founded in 1978 and purchased in 2001 by Phoenix-based New Times, the predecessor of Village Voice Media. ... The San Francisco Chronicle intends to cut 80 union and 20 management positions in its editorial department, the newspaper guild said Thursday. Chronicle management told the Northern California Media Workers Guild of the layoffs, the organization said. The cuts represent roughly 25 percent of the newsroom staff of about 400, reports said.

Real estate

Arizona Leather Co. Inc. and Scottrade will be moving into the Pleasanton Square shopping center near Hopyard Road and Interstate 580. Arizona Leather leased 4,538 square feet, and Scottrade took 1,798 square feet. Both are expected to open in late summer.

In El Cerrito, Dream Dinners leased 2,400 square feet from Regency Centers at the El Cerrito Plaza. Dream Dinners creates easy-to-assemble dinners than can be stored in the freezer.

Quick hits

The Nasdaq Stock Market has notified UTStarcom Inc. of Alameda that it again has missed a Nasdaq deadline by failing to file its financial report for the quarter ended March 31. The firm, which faces possible delisting, has applied for extensions as it examines the potential stock options dating irregularities. ... Kodak Gallery of Emeryville will now ship customers' online digital print orders to a nearby Rite Aid store for pick-up.

Compiled from wire and staff reports. Got Bay Area business news? Reach Drew Voros at 925-943-8099 or

Source: Contra Costa Times

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