The Best and Worst of Business 2009

Remembering the good news and bad in a year we won’t forget.
By Leslie D. Helm, Chris Winters, Talia Schmidt, Kate Vesper, David Volk, Randy Woods, Elizabeth Economou and Art Thiel |   December 2009   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Illustrations by Mark Brewer

programs doing just this to help distribute nearly 22 million pounds of food to more than 660,000 hungry people in western Washington this year.

Along with a variety of local business partnerships (including the Seattle Sounders, Boeing, QFC, Macy's and Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union, to name a few) and national promotions with brands such as Arm & Hammer, Stouffer's, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Snickers, Food Lifeline President and CEO Linda Nageotte launched Seattle's Table, Produce for the People and Grocery Rescue, which arranges same-day donations of excess food from restaurants, markets and food service providers.

Food Lifeline uniquely operates under the philosophy that building partnerships and fostering long-term mutually beneficial relationships with participating businesses will have more effective results than simple handouts. As a result of these practices, Food Lifeline received a $900,000 grant from the Gates Foundation, among many other corporate and personal donations. The 58-employee organization manages to supply almost half of all food distributed by King County food banks. —Kate Vesper


Most Unlikely Survivor: Cell Therapeutics

You could be forgiven for thinking at the end of 2008 that Cell Therapeutics' days were numbered. It ended the year with $124 million in debt, no revenue (like most biotech firms in drug development phase) and an August 1-for-10 reverse stock split that failed to prevent the company's share price from closing out the year at 14 cents, down 99.3 percent from the year before.

We at Seattle Business even said it was time to unplug the machine.

And yet, the end hasn't come. Or it might just have been postponed.

The year 2009 may well be the year Cell Therapeutics hung on, fighting a rearguard action against bankruptcy. It sold off its share of the lymphoma drug Zevalin for $18 million (later reduced to about $14 million in arbitration), then cut the 34 jobs (of 122 total in Seattle) related to that program. It closed an animal testing facility in Italy (another 62 jobs gone) and then raised $15 million from one of its investors. Then it sold $20 million in a stock offering.

Come June, the company released promising data on its lead drug candidate, Pixantrone, for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, causing its share price to crest above $2 for the first time in years (although just for a day). The firm gave several executives, including CEO James Bianco, $250,000 in what may seem ill-timed largesse but was actually deferred bonuses from 2008-kind of a

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