The week that was: Hard times

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Hard times

The iconic Union Trust Building, with its soaring cathedral roof and storied history, remains bogged down in the muck and mud of financial trouble. Nearly three quarters empty these days and in need of repair, the 11-story Grant Street building has been entangled in litigation and bankruptcy for about a year now. Business reporter Mark Belko noted the latest twist in the building's saga is that a sheriff's sale scheduled for Jan. 7 is on hold after several creditors forced the company that owns the building into bankruptcy in California last month.

Feature film on fracking

Hollywood is shining a spotlight on the natural gas industry. But shale industry players are worried that it will be the wrong kind of attention. The movie "Promised Land" starring Matt Damon doesn't exactly paint a rosy picture of the practice of fracking. Marcellus Shale lobbyists are fighting back with a vigorous public relations campaign. Filmed in Western Pennsylvania, "Promised Land" is scheduled to hit select theaters at the end of the month.

Law firms merge

K&L Gates, Pittsburgh's largest law firm, announced it will merge Jan. 1 with a large Australian law firm -- Middletons. The deal will bring Middletons' 300 lawyers under the K&L Gates banner. Pittsburgh-based K&L Gates has more than 2,000 lawyers working out of 46 offices around the world. Merging with the Australian firm will add to K&L Gates' already strong international presence in Europe, Asia and South America.

Special dividends

A handful of local companies are declaring special dividends or accelerated payment of dividends in expectation of the fiscal cliff the country could tumble off at the end of this year, which would increase tax rates. Dividend income is currently taxed at a maximum rate of 15 percent. Len Boselovic has been tracking the companies that are taking this step. His stories can be found online at www.post-gazette.com.

Quote of the week

"In the next 18 to 24 months, I would expect we'll have a real housing market -- something we haven't seen for many years."

-- PNC Financial Services Group CEO James Rohr at an investor conference Tuesday in New York City

businessnews

Tim Grant: tgrant@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1591.


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