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Eversource completes purchase of Columbia Gas

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 10/14/2020
a sign lit up at night: Columbia Gas of Massachusetts in Lawrence. © Jessica Rinaldi Columbia Gas of Massachusetts in Lawrence.

ENERGY

Eversource completes purchase of Columbia Gas

Eversource Energy has completed its $1.1 billion acquisition of the Columbia Gas of Massachusetts business from its former parent company, NiSource Inc. An Eversource spokesman said the deal was completed on Friday, after the utility achieved the necessary state and federal approvals. About 850 former Columbia employees have joined Eversource’s natural gas operation, which is overseen by Bill Akley. The Columbia network served about 330,000 gas customers across more than 60 communities in Massachusetts. With the deal done, Eversource now serves more than 600,000 natural gas customers in 110 communities. NiSource was prompted to sell the Massachusetts gas operations after the disastrous explosions along its Columbia Gas lines in the Lawrence area in September 2018. However, the liabilities related to that incident will remain NiSource’s responsibility. ― JON CHESTO

TECH

Mass. tech group names executives to its board

The Mass Technology and Leadership Council said it has added two new board members: Kimberly Anstett, an executive vice president and chief technology officer at Iron Mountain, and Margaret “Marnie” Seif, the chief people officer and chief legal officer at Analog Devices. They follow two directors who were elected in March, Veracode CEO Sam King and Zipcar president Tracey Zhen. The board now has 36 members. The organization has been deliberately working to diversify the makeup of its board, and achieved its goal of having at least 50 percent of its board seats held by women or people of color at the end of 2019. After achieving that goal, chief executive Tom Hopcroft set an internal goal of having an equal number of men and women on the board. He expects the board will reach gender parity in 2021. ― JON CHESTO

JOBS

Raytheon begins job cuts as virus guts jet-engine demand

Raytheon Technologies Corp. began shedding salaried workers at its Pratt & Whitney jet-engine unit as the company prepares for a long slump in sales and repair work. Most of the involuntary cuts will occur over the next few days and affect workers in the United States, Canada, and Poland, Pratt said in an internal memo Tuesday seen by Bloomberg News. Additional reductions are planned for the coming weeks and most of the terminations will be completed by the end of the year. The job losses are part of Raytheon chief executive Greg Hayes’s plan to shed some 15,000 posts in the company’s commercial aerospace units, which include Pratt and avionics supplier Collins Aerospace. Pratt rival General Electric Co. has also made deep cuts at its jet-engine operation amid an unprecedented downturn in air travel sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. The salaried reductions were necessary in light of declines in the commercial aviation due to the pandemic, Pratt said in a statement. The company declined to specify how many workers would be affected. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

AMC says it’s running low on money as most theaters remain dark

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. said it may soon run out of cash amid fresh signs that the pandemic is pushing cinema operators close to default. The world’s biggest theater chain said in a filing Tuesday that liquidity will be largely depleted by the end of this year or early next year if attendance doesn’t pick up, and it’s exploring actions that include asset sales and joint ventures. Attendance since the resumption of business in the United States is down 85 percent from the same period a year ago, the company said. AMC has been hobbled by the coronavirus outbreak, which discourages some moviegoers from coming and studios from releasing blockbusters that might attract them. AMC is looking for sources of liquidity to ride out the pandemic, including asset sales and joint ventures, but cautions there is “significant risk” that its efforts may fall short or fail. Cineworld Group Plc, owner of the Regal chain, earlier this month suspended operations at its US and UK locations because of the lack of big movies. AMC pledged to stay open, citing releases of less ambitious movies still on the schedule such as “The War With Grandpa.” Illustrating the industry’s woes, that Robert De Niro vehicle opened with a paltry weekend gross of $3.6 million in North America. AMC has resumed operations at just under 500 of its 598 US theaters with limited capacity, the company said. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

STREAMING

Netflix drops free trials in the US

Netflix Inc. is abandoning free trials in the United States, opting to pursue other tactics for finding new customers in an increasingly saturated market. After pulling the free-trial option from its website, the company said it was “looking at different marketing promotions in the United States to attract new members and give them a great Netflix experience.” Netflix previously removed the option in other markets but has continued to add subscribers globally ― especially during pandemic lockdowns. Walt Disney Co. took a similar step in June when it stopped offering one-week free trials for its Disney+ streaming service in the United States. The Verge previously reported Tuesday on Netflix’s move, saying the company was rolling out free educational content on YouTube as one new marketing push. The streaming giant also began offering a free taste of some of its shows and movies on its website. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

MEDIA

Fake news hub from 2016 election thriving again

A town in the Republic of North Macedonia that became infamous for churning out disinformation ahead of the 2016 US presidential election is at it again. The town, Veles, is now hosting a crop of popular new websites that are purporting to be US conservative news outlets and are publishing dubious and misleading information, according to a report released Tuesday by the Election Integrity Partnership, a group of research organizations studying misinformation campaigns. The websites have gained some viral success on conservative social media feeds, according to the report. The sites, which included names like Resist the Mainstream, mainly specialized in copying and republishing content from conservative news outlets in the US, including conspiracy theories and misinformation about topics such as voting fraud. The creators of the fake sites targeted a social media service called Parler that is popular with supporters of right-wing causes. They likely chose Parler because of crackdowns by Facebook and Twitter on misinformation, the researchers said. The report adds to a growing body of evidence that America’s political divisions are good business for foreign click-bait factories, bringing in ad dollars whether the content is fake news, hyper-partisan, or a mixture of both. It also highlights the ongoing difficulty that US voters face in discerning trustworthy sources and the veracity of their news received through social media. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

PUBLISHING

‘Melania and Me’ author sued by DOJ for breach of contract

A former adviser to Melania Trump who wrote a tell-all book about the first lady was sued by the US Department of Justice for breaching an agreement not to disclose confidential information. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the author of “Melania and Me,” violated an agreement she signed in 2017, the US government said in a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington. “Ms. Wolkoff never submitted a draft of the book to the First Lady, her Chief of Staff, or the Office of White House Counsel and never received authorization to disclose any information she learned pursuant to her work under the agreement,” the Justice Department said in the complaint. “Melania and Me” was published last month by Simon & Schuster, and the government is asking that any profits from the book be set aside in a trust. Lorin Reisner, an attorney listed on the complaint as representing Wolkoff, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. In the book, Wolkoff described her work as a “longtime friend” and “trusted adviser” of Melania Trump. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

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