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Blank, MLS Commissioner welcome Atlanta's appetite for soccer

ATLANTA -- As 68,000 soccer fans filled the Georgia Dome with enthusiastic cheers Wednesday night, Arthur Blank was entertaining Don Garber, the commissioner of Major League Soccer in his suite during most of the scoreless match between Mexico and Nigeria.

It was not a casual sporting event for either of them. Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons; and Garber are closing in on a deal for Blank to become a new franchise owner for a MLS team that would play in the new Falcons stadium that is supposed to open before the 2017 football season.

The sold-out Mexico-Nigeria match - a prelude the 2014 World Cup in Brazil - was yet another indicator of whether Atlanta would welcome professional soccer.

"You look at the crowd, and you see the spirit that's here," Blank said during a 10-minute sit-down interview in his suite during the game. "It is a great tribute to Atlanta and the appetite that Atlanta has for soccer at the highest level.

Bill Gates is world's richest person, again

(USA TODAY) -- Bill Gates is back on top as the world's richest person, according to Forbes magazine's latest ranking of billionaires.

Microsoft co-founder Gates took the crown from Carlos Slim Helu, who had been the world's richest for the previous four years. Investing guru Warren Buffett is No. 4.

The magazine pegs Gates' net worth at $76 billion. That's up from $67 billion in 2013.

Slim, a Mexico telecom titan, is close behind at $72 billion. He lost $1 billion from last year.

Third richest is Amancio Ortega of Spain, founder of the Zara clothing retailer, with a net worth of $64 billion.

Next is Buffett. The "Oracle of Omaha" has $58.2 billion, Forbes says.

Eight Georgians are among the world's richest. Anne Cox Chambers, the 94-year-old daughter of Cox Enterprises founder James M. Cox, is No. 58 with a net worth of $15.5 billion.

6 Ga. companies among world's top 500 brands

ATLANTA -- Six Georgia companies made Brand Finance's annual directory of the world's 500 most valuable brands.

The Coca-Cola Co. moved down three spots to No. 12 on the list with a brand value of $33.7 billion.

The Home Depot Inc. dropped seven places to No. 25 with a value of $24.3 billion.

United Parcel Service Inc. moved up one spot to No. 48. It is valued at $19.4 billion and is the only package delivery, freight and logistics services provider to make the top 50.

Delta Air Lines Inc. landed at No. 286, up a whopping 83 places. Its brand value is $4.7 billion.

Southern Co. generated a ranking of 341 with a brand value of $4.1 billion. It is down 21 spots from last year.

Aflac Inc. is ranked No. 486, down 15 spots. It boasts a brand value of $3.1 billion.

London-based Brand Finance started ranking global brands in 2007.

Delta, Coke to lay off workers in other states

ATLANTA -- Two Atlanta-based companies have announced they will lay off workers in other states.

Delta Air Lines will job out maintenance and service workers at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport with layoff notices coming in April.

The job cuts affect 741 workers, but just how many will remain out of work is unclear.

Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said employees will be able to re-apply for their jobs.

"Our expectation is that as this transition is happening, the new providers will look to the old workforce," Durrant said. "We expect the incoming vendors to look to the existing workforce and utilize that institutional knowledge and skill."

Meanwhile, the Coca-Cola Co. will cut jobs in Sacramento, Calif., in the next few weeks.

Jos. A. Bank buying Eddie Bauer in $850M deal

Jos. A. Bank buying Eddie Bauer in $850M deal

HAMPSTEAD, Md. -- Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. is buying the parent company of Eddie Bauer in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $850 million.

The men's clothing company, which itself is being pursued by Men's Wearhouse Inc., made the deal with Everest Topco LLC to buy Everest Holdings LLC, Eddie Bauer's parent company.

Jos. A. Bank said Friday that the transaction includes $564 million in cash and about 4.7 million new shares of Jos. A. Bank stock issued to Everest Topco at $56 per share.

Everest Topco may also earn up to an additional $50 million in cash based on Eddie Bauer's adjusted earnings for fiscal 2014.

Jos. A. Bank may end the deal if it receives an acquisition offer for its company that it feels is superior.

Michael Merlin named to 'On Wall Street' magazine's Top Advisors Under 40

ATLANTA -- Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) today announced that Michael Merlin, an Executive Director, Financial Advisor in the Firm’s wealth management office in Atlanta, GA, has been named to On Wall Street Magazine’s 2013 listing of “Top 40 Advisors Under 40.”

This listing is a select group of individuals who are 39 years of age or younger, as of December 31, 2013. Individuals are recognized based on their trailing 12-month production (T-12) and assets under management (AUM) as of September 30, 2013. This listing also takes into consideration the overall business mix of practices and adherence to high standards of industry regulatory compliance. Investment performance is not a criterion.

“To be named to this annual listing is an impressive honor, and we are extremely proud to have Michael represent Morgan Stanley on this list,” commented Michael Outlaw, Branch Manager of Morgan Stanley’s Buckhead Wealth Management office.

Philips Arena named No. 4 US arena in new raking

ATLANTA -- Philips Arena is in the top five of Pollstar Magazine's annual rankings of arenas in the United States.

The home of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and sight of concerts and events is the No. 4 venue in the United States based on ticket sales, Pollstar said.

Philips Arena sold more than 500,000 tickets in 2013, when it hosted Bon Jovi, P!nk, Justin Bieber, Fleetwood Mac, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake and had the highest number of sold-out shows in one year with 21.

Upcoming events for Philips Arena in 2014 include Kings of Leon (Feb. 5), Demi Lovato (Feb. 21), The Eagles (Feb. 24), Imagine Dragons (Feb. 26), George Strait (March 22), Miley Cyrus (March 25), Lady Gaga (May 6), Cher (May 12) and Katy Perry (June 28).