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Business news briefs — March 26

MEDIA

Disney buys video channel

Disney is buying YouTube channel operator Maker Studios for $500 million as the family entertainment giant seeks to stay in front of younger viewers who are increasingly watching short videos online. It’s the latest and largest acquisition of a YouTube channel network by a major Hollywood studio and represents another vote of confidence in the video service as an incubator of talent.

Disney said it would pay up to $450 million more in bonuses if Maker meets performance targets.

The purchase will give Disney ownership of 55,000 channels — including Epic Rap Battles of History and makeup expert Amy Pham’s The Fashion Statement.

Combined, Maker has 380 million subscribers and generates 5.5 billion views per month.

TECH

Facebook to buy Oculus

Facebook is buying virtual reality company Oculus, betting $2 billion that its technology will become a new way for people to communicate, learn or be entertained. “This is a long-term bet on the future of computing,” said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on a call with analysts. “I believe Oculus can be one of the platforms of the future.”

Irvine, Calif.-based Oculus VR Inc. makes the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that’s received a lot of attention from video game developers, though it has yet to be released for consumers. The headsets cover a user’s eyes and create an immersive world that reacts to turning one’s head or moving back and forth.

Beyond games, Zuckerberg said virtual reality headsets might someday be used to enjoy a courtside seat at a basketball game, study in a classroom, consult with a doctor face-to-face or shop in a virtual store. The technology also has social applications, he said.

COMPENSATION

Penney’s CEO to get raise

J.C. Penney’s reinstalled CEO Mike Ullman is poised to get a big pay increase as the department store chain shows some signs of a turnaround. Penney could increase Ullman’s base salary to $1.5 million for this year, from $810,606 in the fiscal year that ended Feb. 1, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. He could also get $5.5 million in stock awards and is eligible to receive a $3 million bonus.

That potential for a $10 million payout compares with last year’s $2.4 million in compensation, according to a regulatory filing Friday. That included $1.6 million in perks.

Ullman had been CEO for seven years until late 2011 — when he earned total compensation of $33.7 million. He returned to the helm in April 2013 when the company’s board ousted Ron Johnson, who had spearheaded a transformation strategy that involved eliminating most discounts and bringing in hip new brands. The goal was to bring in younger and more affluent shoppers, but the former Apple executive ended up alienating J.C. Penney’s loyal shoppers.

AUTO INDUSTRY

1 million Nissans recalled

Nissan is recalling just over 1 million cars, SUVs and vans because the front passenger air bags may not inflate in a crash. It’s the company’s second recall to fix the same problem.

The recall affects the Altima midsize car, Leaf electric car, Pathfinder SUV and Sentra compact models from 2013 and 2014 as well as the NV200 Taxi van and Infiniti JX35 SUV from 2013. Also covered are the Infiniti QX60 and Q50 SUVs from 2014. Nissan says computer software may not detect an adult in the passenger seat.

Bill allows Tesla direct sales

An Ohio Senate committee approved a bill formally barring automakers from selling directly to consumers except for a maximum of three outlets for electric-car builder Tesla Motors Inc. The measure was a compromise between the company and the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association, which had sought to block Tesla from selling without a middleman, according to state Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, the committee chairman.

Tesla, based in Palo Alto, Calif., operates Ohio stores in Columbus and Cincinnati and will be permitted to add a third as long as the company isn’t sold or acquired and doesn’t produce anything other than all-electric vehicles. The bill, which prohibits the state from issuing a dealer’s license to an automaker except for Tesla, moves to the full Senate.

Compiled from staff and wire reports



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