Early Briefing: G'bye Harman? Hello "Edition"




Will Sidney Harman stay if his office moves? (Robert A. Reeder - Twp)

* Is Washington about to lose another big name?

Harman International Industries, the multibillion-dollar manufacturer of high-end audio equipment and electronic systems, will move its District headquarters staff to Connecticut by the end of the year, the company said Monday.

The company this month informed its 30 or so D.C. employees that it will close its Pennsylvania Avenue office and relocate some of them to Stamford, Conn., north of New York City, where the company's new chief executive works.

Tom Heath reports that there's no word if Chairman Sidney Harman, an author and philanthropist who is married to Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), would also relocate. Heath adds:

Sidney Harman is president of the District-based Harman Family Foundation, which has given to such local institutions as the Washington Ballet, the Washington National Cathedral Choral Society and the Phillips Collection. He pledged $20 million for the new Harman Center for the Arts in downtown Washington, which is home to the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

* So do names matter?

Bill Marriott and Ian Schrager, two of the unlikeliest business partners in lodging history, finally have one for their new boutique hotel chain: Edition.

The announcement of the name comes seven months after the pair revealed their partnership on the roof club of Schrager's eclectic Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, and nearly 10 years after Marriott International rival Starwood launched its boutique W Hotel concept to much fanfare.

Schrager, the proprietor of the Studio 54 nightclub who later became the creative godfather of boutique hotels, said Edition clicked because of the idea behind the entire project -- that each hotel, while similar in sophistication and atmosphere, would be designed to fit in with the local surroundings and culture.

"Each city, each location will be its own separate edition," Schrager told staff writer Michael Rosenwald, in this story.

In other news:

* Legg Mason, the money-management firm based in Baltimore, promoted Mark Fetting to president and chief executive yesterday, ending a drawn-out process to name a successor to Raymond "Chip" Mason..

In their story, Tomoeh Murakami Tse and Neil Irwin note:

Investors are losing confidence in a $3.7 billion dollar deal in which Legg Mason in 2005 swapped its brokerage for Citigroup's asset management unit, doubling the assets under management. Clients are pulling money out of Legg Mason's mutual funds by the billions. The company's star money manager, Bill Miller, has been underperforming the market since 2006, when his 15-year winning streak against the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index came to an end.

Most recently, the company has been hit with losses in some of its money-market funds that invested in complicated structured investment vehicles, which fell in value during the subprime crisis.

Fetting said he understood that he did not have a long honeymoon period. He said clarity on the succession front would help the firm move more quickly as it deals with its immediate challenges.

* IAC/InterActiveCorp, a media and Internet company run by Barry Diller, bought a minority stake in Arlington-based HealthCentral Network, a collection of 30 health Web sites that reached 7.7 million viewers in December. Diller was named to HealthCentral's board. IAC spokeswoman Leslie Cafferty would not disclose the size of the stake or other terms of the transaction, other than to say it was "significant." The investment is the second announced by IAC since November, when it said it will break up into five companies.

* The Washington area has one of the lowest risks of mortgage defaults in the nation, according to the most recent quarterly report released by First American CoreLogic, a mortgage research firm. The report forecasts risk based on house price trends, fraud propensity, foreclosure risks and employment trends. Of the 10 metropolitan areas with the lowest delinquency risk, the Washington-Northern Virginia-Southern Maryland area ranked as the fifth-lowest, and the Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Frederick area ranked as the seventh-lowest.

By Dan Beyers  |  January 29, 2008; 7:40 AM ET
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