Business Briefs: First Niagara CEO Koelmel to leave

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First Niagara CEO to leave

First Niagara Financial said Tuesday that John R. Koelmel was stepping down as CEO after six years at the helm of the Buffalo, N.Y.-based bank. His departure, which was "mutually agreed upon," was effective immediately, the company said. The board appointed executive vice president Gary M. Crosby to succeed Mr. Koelmel on an interim basis while a special committee of independent directors conducts a search for a replacement. First Niagara, which reported profits of $140.7 million in 2012 vs. $173.9 million in 2011, is the fifth largest retail bank in the Pittsburgh region with 60 offices and deposits of $2.83 billion here.

Eckert to create Trenton office

Downtown-based law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott will merge April 1 with a Trenton, N.J., law firm to create Eckert's 13th office nationwide. Sterns & Weinroth has 17 partners and seven associates, which will boost Eckert's attorney headcount to over 385.

Dick's director will retire

Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. said longtime director Walter Rossi plans to retire from the Findlay retailer's board effective at the June 5 annual meeting. Mr. Rossi, who was listed as 69 in regulatory filings in April 2012, was formerly chairman and CEO of Mervyn's department stores, among other positions.

Builders begin moving faster

U.S. builders started more homes in February and permits for future construction rose at the fastest pace in 4 1/2 years. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that builders broke ground on houses and apartments last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000, the second-fastest pace since June 2008, behind December's rate of 982,000. Building permits, a sign of future construction, increased 4.6 percent to 946,000.

Siemens plans Germany cuts

Siemens AG is preparing to eliminate 1,200 to 1,400 jobs at three sites of its energy and infrastructure businesses in Germany, according to two people familiar with the matter. Siemens is also planning to offload units such as airport luggage systems, mail automation and water technology.

Also in business...

Samsung Electronics is developing a wristwatch as it races against Apple to create a new industry of wearable devices that perform similar tasks as smartphones. ... Lego is building its first factory in China as part of a plan to move production closer to Asia, its fastest growing market. ... Federal safety regulators are investigating reports of fuel leaks in about 250,000 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cars from the 2003 to 2008 model years. ... ... BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, says it has agreed to sell its travel guide business, Lonely Planet, for 51.5 million pounds ($77.8 million) to U.S.-based NC2 Media.

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