Cruise follos: Lots of coverage this morning, but it's the backstory that's especially intriguing. The Wall Street Journal's Merissa Marr, who first broke the story Tuesday afternoon (dutifully picked up by LABizObserved), reports that senior managers at Viacom, parent of Paramount, had wanted to dump Cruise after his lucrative production deal with the studio expired. Paramount offered a much-reduced deal, but as Marr reports, "senior Viacom managers, particularly (Chairman Sumner) Redstone, were eager to see Cruise leave. However, studio executives went through the motions of appearing to be willing to negotiate a new deal." Redstone's decision to go public, however, apparently caught some Paramount executives by surprise. Cruise's people insist that they were ready to leave Paramount anyway - and had already lined up $100 million in financing to produce their own movies (though they're not naming names).LAT NYT WSJ (subscription required)
KB options: The L.A.-based homebuilder has begun a review into past stock option grants to the company's CEO, Bruce Karatz. The WSJ is reporting that four grants to Karatz between 1998 and 2001 happened to be dated at low points in the stock price, a pattern that could raise questions on whether the dates are coincidental or deliberate. The money is not incidental: Karatz received more than $100 million from cashing out many of the unusually timed options, according to regulatory filings. No comment from KB.
Gateway bid: The former owner of eMachines, is offering $450 million for the retail operations of Irvine-based PC maker Gateway Inc. In a letter to Gateway's board, Lap Shun Hui, owner of Joui International, said he would also consider buying the whole shebang. If you recall, Gateway closed its 188 retail stores and now sells PCs under the eMachines brand. Just a couple of days ago, an investment group said it had taken a 10 percent stake in Gateway and was looking to improve margins. Fast work.
Tower update: Tower Records founder Russ Solomon is among nine potential bidders interested in purchasing the music retailer, now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Other bidders include Trans World Entertainment Corp., several private equity firms and a Chicago real estate developer, the Sacramento Bee reported, citing bankruptcy records. Solomon's family retains a 15 percent stake in the company. Trans World, a music and video chain under several brands that include a familiar name - Wherehouse Music - is considered the most likely buyer.
Grower conflict: Here's one way to address illegal immigration: Just sue. A Santa Monica temp agency that supplies legal farmworkers is suing a Central Valley blueberry grower and two other companies, contending unfair competition. Experts say the case will be tough to win, but it's likely to get some attention. The temp firm, Global Horizons, sued under the Cartwright Act, California's version of U.S. antitrust laws.
The Valley's Rodeo Drive?: The Daily News gets a sneak peek at the new wing of the Westfield Topanga mall, which is set to open Oct. 6, just in time for holiday shopping. There will be the standard accoutrements of luxury shopping: a concierge to make dinner reservations (do we need to visit a mall for that?), personal shoppers and flatware and china in the food court.
Just build baby: Anschutz Entertainment Group, the L.A.-based company owned by billionaire Phil Anshutz, has begun construction on a casino at London's Millennium Dome without a license from the British government. And if it doesn't get the license? Well, AEG will cut back redevelopment of the Dome, according to The Times of London. That downsizing could include scrapping two hotels, a theater and an exhibition area.
Tuning in: L.A.-based Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. is teaming up with a mobile search and delivery service to offer TV listings on cell phones. The service will allow users to look up channels and show times based on regional or local service providers. Programs can also be searched for future air dates.
Test gaming: It's the videogame industry's version of a movie trailer - THQ is using a demo version of its upcoming release "Saints Row" that can be downloaded. After just a week of posting the demo on Xbox Live, users had downloaded 350,000 copies. The Agoura Hills-based company will use the demo technique to augment its more traditional marketing efforts. The new game involves rival gangs and corrupt officials. Just what we need.