Business & Finance

Ford struck a deal with the United Auto Workers Union on a new four-year contract Monday, the second of Detroit's Big Three automakers to do so in 24 hours. The tentative accord must be OK'd by union members. General Motors is the lone holdout in negotiations that have centered on company demands for plant closures, thousands of job cuts, and higher healthcare copayments.

Lockheed Martin Corp. agreed to pay $1.8 billion in cash and stock Monday for Titan Corp., a San Diego specialist in defense-related communications and intelligence systems. The world's No. 1 defense contractor said the deal, which also involves $580 million in assumed debt, would strengthen its relationship with federal agencies that account for 95 percent of Titan's revenues.

AOL Time Warner was to announce the sale of two professional sports franchises in Atlanta - the Hawks of the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League's Thrashers - to an investment group that includes entrepreneurs Michael Gearon, his son, and Boston businessman Steve Belkin. The purchase prices were not immediately made public. The media giant, which is seeking to trim $24 billion in debt, also reportedly wants to find a buyer for the Atlanta Braves baseball team.

Vivendi Universal, the media conglomerate, was ordered by a judge to pay $23.5 million in severance to its controversial ex-chairman, Jean-Marie Messier. Justice Marilyn Shafer of the New York Supreme Court upheld a finding in June by the American Arbitration Association that Vivendi had not honored the terms of Messier's termination agreement. She also said the company ignored its own promise not to challenge the decision of any arbitrator called in to review the deal. Vivendi argued that the deal was illegal under French law, which requires a company's full board of directors to OK such severance packages. Vivendi, which has extensive assets and many shareholders in the US, agreed to binding arbitration in New York. But the company said it will appeal Shafer's ruling. Under Messier, Vivendi went on a buying spree, running up billions in debt that left the company near bankruptcy.

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