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Family Ties

February 19, 1996|JAMES BATES

If there's something familiar about the name, it's no coincidence.

Ads in Hollywood's trade papers lately have touted the fact that the Seattle law firm Preston Gates & Ellis "is pleased to have served as counsel to Microsoft Corporation" when it formed a joint venture with NBC to set up a 24-hour cable news channel and online news service.

One of the partners at the law firm is William Gates II, whose son, Bill, is the billionaire founder and chairman of Microsoft.

A Microsoft spokesman, Josh Baran, says that Gates' father is semiretired from the law firm and does not work on any of its transactions involving Microsoft.

High-Yield Landmark

The Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, sold last week by Japanese investors to a Hong Kong group for a reported $100 million, is no doubt best known for its Hollywood connections. Stars such as Elvis Presley stayed there, and its presidential suite was featured in the film "Pretty Woman."

It's lesser known as a historic site for business, but it nonetheless can claim to be the site of the early "Predators Balls," the infamous meetings organized in the 1980s by Drexel Burnham Lambert and its junk-bond chief Michael Milken for the corporate raiders they financed.

In the best-selling "Den of Thieves," author James Stewart wrote about how the conference was moved to the upscale hotel in 1980 but was then still a tame affair. A Friday night dinner, he wrote, featured academics and a pollster as speakers, and "many of the 175 guests dozed off."

Four years later, however, the event had become so popular that a dinner for 1,500 had to be moved to the Century Plaza Hotel, where Drexel surprised the crowd with a 45-minute performance by Frank Sinatra that cost the now-defunct investment bank $150,000.

Getting the Message Across

A story in the current issue of Fortune magazine on America's most admired companies shows McDonald's Chief Executive Michael Quinlan sipping a drink.

Diet Coke? Sprite? A vanilla shake?

Actually, he's sipping from a McDonald's foam coffee cup with the word "Hot!" emblazoned across it in red letters.

It was the spilling of hot McDonald's coffee that led to a eye-popping $2.7-million jury award against the company. An elderly New Mexico woman claimed she was severely burned when she splashed the scalding coffee on herself.

The award sparked outrage and helped set off the current movement seeking reforms in litigation and jury awards. A judge later cut the punitive award to $480,000.

A McDonald's spokeswoman was unable to elaborate on Quinlan's pose.

Medicinal Trips

Under the category of Every Subject Eventually Becomes an Academic Study: The Recreational Vehicle Industry Assn. says two anthropology professors at universities in Canada have "conducted history's first field study of full-time RVers."

Their findings: "One in four extended RV travelers claimed that their physical health had improved since becoming an RVer."

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