Friday morning headlines

Tribune for sale: That's the upshot of the company's decision to "create additional value for shareholders," which is usually bizspeak for either a restructuring or outright sale. "Everything's on the table," CEO Dennis FitzSimons told the Chicago Tribune after the meeting. But FitzSimons put aside any discussion of the LAT being treated separately from the other assets on the block. "The L.A. Times is part of Tribune and not for sale," he told the WSJ. In the NYT account, he declined to talk about the current happenings at the LAT. FitzSimons, according to the Trib, indicated after the meeting that the LAT is probably not among the sale candidates. By the way, FitzSimons complimented LAT Editor Dean Baquet, saying he has done a good job in the newsroom.

The LAT story, played on A1, has the experts split on whether a sale of the paper is in the cards. "Why wouldn't you get rid of the Times, your squeakiest wheel?" asked Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Ginocchio. But longtime newspaper watcher John Morton said selling off the Times is unlikely, pointing to the fact that the paper is a major revenue and profit producer for Tribune. Morton also observed - and this is a key point - that the board, aside from the three Chandler reps, has backed up FitzSimons. As for today, keep an eye on Tribune's stock price. It shot up yesterday in anticipation of the meeting and could help shape any sale discussions. In early morning trading, shares were up another 4.5 percent, to $33.49. LAT NYT WSJ Chicago Tribune

C-17 reprieve: Never say die in Washington. Out of nowhere, Congress ponied up $2.1 billion for 10 C-17s, which should keep Boeing's Long Beach assembly line humming beyond the 2009 shutdown date. That's 5,000 workers, not counting all the subcontract work. "Whoopee," is how local economist Jack Kyser reacted to the news. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and James Talent, R-Mo., seemed to have brokered the deal. Earlier this week, the General Accountability Office concluded that the Pentagon's assumptions in wanting to shut down the C-17 program were flawed.

Forbes 400: It's the usual local suspects in the magazine's annual guesstimates of the veeeery rich. Kirk Kerkorian handily edges out Sumner Redstone as the wealthiest in L.A. ($9 billion vs. $7.5 billion). Eli Broad is next. at $5.8 billion, followed by David Geffen ($4.6 billion), David Murdock ($4.2 billion) and B. Wayne Hughes ($4.1 billion). Murdock heads Dole Foods and Hughes is the former kingpin at Public Storage. By the way, everybody on the list is a billionaire.

Blue Cross fined: It's not much - just $200,000 - but a state agency dinged the insurer for illegally dropping sick policyholders with individual policies. Regulators are looking at other cases, so more fines might be on the way. There have been bunches of lawsuits on the apparent dumping of the very ill. Nice guys.

Dirty produce: Federal inspectors are making fewer and fewer checks on food processors, and compliance of safety guidelines in handling produce is voluntary, the LAT reports.

In the 1970s, the agency conducted about 35,000 food inspections a year, said William Hubbard, former FDA associate commissioner for policy, planning and legislation. More recently, that has fallen to about 5,000 annual inspections, with state officials carrying out about another 4,000.

"There are more than 100,000 food processors in the country. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math," said Hubbard, whose tenure at the agency spanned nearly 30 years.

Be careful about this one, though. There's been lots of conflicting information about E. coli and how bad the current outbreak really is. This is what happens when a major story breaks on a beat that's poorly covered in the media and that involves a topic few of us understand very well.

Wal-Mart gets tough: The Arkansas retailer, worried about how the downloading of movies might impact its sales of DVDs, has sent "cases and cases" of DVDs back to Disney, the NY Post reported, citing an unidentified source. The price to download a Disney movie on iTunes is lower than DVD prices at Wal-Mart.

Liquid gas is coming: The state Public Utilities Commission established benchmarks for storage facilities and pipelines, as well as the procedures for contracting supplies. Not good news for the environmentalists and community groups who had been fighting importation of LNG.

Speaking of gas: As in the kind of stuff you pump. The Auto Club reports that the average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $2.861, which is 9.8 cents lower than last week, 34 cents lower than last month and eight cents lower than last year. It's the fifth straight week prices have fallen.

Dubious achievement: There are now more TV sets in the typical home than people, according to a new Nielsen study. Half of American homes have three or more TVs, and only 19 percent have just one. In 1975, 57 percent of homes had only a single set.

H&M premiere: The low-cost, high-fashion retailer opened its doors in Southern California for the first time and the results were ... well, crazy. Here's how the Pasadena Star-News opened its story.

It was as if a high-fashion bomb hit Old Pasadena Thursday afternoon. Stylish women stalked West Colorado Boulevard, stopping strangers, calling out from cars, asking, "Where is it? Which way is it?" It? H&M, sweetie, the style-forward Scandinavian chain, of course. Their numbers clogged the retail and dining neighborhood's parking garages, filling what would have been the wide open spaces of their upper levels in the middle of a weekday. With their heels clicking hard on the sidewalks, the lucky ones - or the simply more determined - walked by clutching white plastic bags with the two hot red letters emblazoned on the side.

H&M will be opening at the Beverly Center on Oct. 26 with what's described as a "full concept store."

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
Recent stories:
Siri versus Hawaiian pidgin (video)
Letter from Down Under: Welcome to the Homogenocene
One last Florida photo
Signs of Saturday: No refund
'I Am Woman,' hear them roar
Previous story: **Tribune board speaks

Next story: The Chandler clause

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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