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The saga of who wins control of MCI was coming down to the wire, with Verizon Communications suggesting that its $7.5 billion takeover offer should be accepted or it will be withdrawn. In a letter to MCI's directors, Verizon chief executive Ivan Seidenberg also accused rival Qwest Communications of seeking to use their company as "a financial lifeboat" and implied that he would not try to outbid Qwest. The latter has offered $8.9 billion, which MCI had until Tuesday night to accept. But it also has hired a proxy adviser for a possible hostile takeover attempt if the bid is rejected. MCI's board has twice agreed to a tieup with Verizon, only to relent as Qwest proposed new offers. Of the two suitors, Verizon is widely perceived as being on the firmer financial footing.

Troubled Morgan Stanley said its board has authorized the spinoff of Discover Card, a move that analysts estimated could raise at least $9 billion. Philip Purcell, the investment bank's embattled chief executive, said in a conference call Monday night that the credit card division "can deliver more value to our shareholders as a stand-alone company," although he did not discuss such details as how stock in Discover would be distributed to shareholders. A week ago, Purcell suggested to an interviewer that the investment bank did not need to alter its strategy, citing "good growth" prospects for each of its divisions. Discover Card accounted for 14 percent of Morgan Stanley's first-quarter revenue. The decision on Discover Card came as dissident shareholders stepped up their campaign against Purcell, placing yet another full-page newspaper ad calling for his ouster because of "troubling questions about the leadership ... and direction of the Firm."

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Ford Motor Co. expects to cut 1,000 jobs, all of them

from its white-collar ranks, according to an internal notice circulated to employees Monday. The letter said the automaker expects the downsizing to be complete by June 30 and that it will be accomplished where possible through buyouts and early retirements.