In Brief

BUSH TAPS HOFFA: President Bush, facing a lawsuit filed by the AFL-CIO, has announced he will appoint Teamsters Union president James Hoffa to serve on a key, high-level trade committee that gives advice on objectives and bargaining positions before entering into trade negotiations. Paul Norman Beckner, president and chief executive officer of Citizens for a Sound Economy, was also named to the Committee on Trade Policy & Negotiations. “There’s a possibility the suit will be withdrawn since the announcement [that] Hoffa will be appointed,” an AFL-CIO spokeswoman said. The Bush administration omitted labor, environmental and conservation representatives in an initial list of 32 appointees it released in late December. In response to the omissions, the AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit against Bush and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick in federal court last month, requesting a court order to direct the USTR and White House to include representatives. One textile and three apparel executives have also been named.

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM: Cradle Holdings, a budding miniconglomerate which earlier acquired the Erno Lazlo and Penhaligon’s beauty brands, has purchased l’Artisan Parfumeur, a Paris-based fragrance house founded by Jean Laporte and now led by directeur general Marie Dupont. L’Artisan markets about 30 fragrance brands and environmental scents with distribution centered in France and the U.K. with five freestanding stores. The products are merchandised in select locations in 20 countries, generating a global volume estimated by industry sources at roughly $ 20 million. Although the purchase price was not disclosed, sources speculate that the deal was worth $ 10 million to $ 15 million.

CONE MILLS CREDITWATCH: Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Friday placed Cone Mills Corp. on its CreditWatch list with negative implications. As a result, S&P now rates both the Greensboro, N.C.-based mill’s long-term corporate credit and its senior secured debt at “CCC-plus” with a negative outlook. Previously, long-term credit was rated “CCC-plus/developing,” and senior debt “CCC-plus.” As of Sept. 29, Cone Mills had about $ 155.2 million in outstanding debt. S&P said the move reflects Cone Mills’ plan to initiate an offer exchanging an equal principal amount of its new notes for any and all of its $ 100 million notes due March 15, 2005. The bondholders will be asked to extend maturities and make other modifications to their agreements. Although the proposed terms were not publicly disclosed, S&P expects that Cone Mills may not be able to meet all of its obligations, as originally promised under the note issue, and fund its Mexican expansion strategy at the same time.