Vitesse profile: The LAT's Scott Reckard tries to poke around Vitesse Semiconductor, the Camarillo-based company that's suspected of manipulating stock options for the benefit of top executives - several of whom have been fired. The company says next to nothing, but Reckard tracks down the high-priced homes of the three departing executives. Also gets Robert Chapman, the head of an El Segundo hedge fund, to lay into the company's operations.
"At best what happened here is lax board oversight of an undisciplined management team," Chapman said in a recent interview. "At worst, it's complicit directors enriching themselves and their good buddies the executives at the expense of the owners of the company."
For some reason, the story isn't available online.
Economics of illegals: LAT has a lengthy P1 examination on the role illegal immigrants play in the overall economy. Answer: considerable. The story reprises the benefits that undocumented workers provide and then begins to engage how the workforce has been fundamentally reshaped, with immigrants playing a greater role.
In a new book titled "L.A. Story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement," UCLA sociologist Ruth Milkman uses census data to show how some jobs have changed over the decades. From 1970 to 2000, Milkman calculates, the percentage of janitors in Greater Los Angeles who were black fell from 24 percent to 5.2 percent. Meanwhile, the foreign-born Latino share rose from 10.3 percent to 63.4 percent. Similar transitions occurred among construction drywallers, truckers and garment workers.Freedom plotline: Richard Siklos's media column in the NYT bookends what's mostly a Tribune Co. rehash with some interesting comments by Freedom Communications' CEO Scott Flanders. Freedom is the privately held owner of the Orange County Register, which last week announced that it would offer voluntary buyouts to about a third of the paper's 1,600-person workforce (there's an ad revenue shortfall of $20 million). Siklos gets into the whole public vs. private ownership thing, though the Freedom structure is a bit unusual because its owners include both family members and private equity partners.
Mr. Flanders was, not surprisingly, quite buoyant about private ownership. He noted, for example, that with business flat at The Orange County Register, his company opted not to revamp it but to start a breezy new tabloid called O.C. Report aimed at people who say they are too busy to read The Register. And he has some time to make it work. “We’re going to be $20 million in the hole before we’re even close to breaking even,” he said.
At Freedom, the plan is to generate enough profit over the next few years to buy out the private-equity backers at a premium — eventually restoring the business to family control. Failing that, it could all come full circle. Mr. Flanders also said going public is an option — though it is not currently being contemplated.
Cockeyed drug costs: Abraxis BioScience, the cancer drug company owned by L.A. billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, gets put under the microscope in a lead NYT business section piece. The company's drug, Abraxane, does not help breast cancer patients live longer than the older treatment, known by the brand name Taxol, and yet it costs about 25 times as much.
Because of the odd economics of the cancer drug market, though, Abraxane’s price does not seem to be hurting its popularity. About 20,000 people have now been treated with the drug, and Dr. Soon-Shiong expects its sales to approach $200 million this year. By 2010, Abraxane’s annual sales could reach $1 billion, analysts say.
Those rosy forecasts illustrate the pricing power that makers of cancer drugs wield. With patients often facing grim prognoses and desperate for new therapies, and insurers relatively powerless to negotiate prices or deny coverage, the cost of treatments seems to have little impact on demand.
Homeless population spreading: The Business Journal (subscription only) reports that the homeless are increasingly camping out beyond the boundaries of downtown's Skid Row. Downtown business owners trace the development to a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in which cops are not able hassle the homeless if there aren't enough beds in shelters, whether it's on Skid Row or anywhere else. Not great news in the efforts to revitalize downtown. In the last four months, 25 units of the 314-unit Pacific Electric Lofts building have been vacated by renters.
Kobe's owed money: Not that the Laker star needs the $482 from the state's Bureau of Unclaimed Property, but a SF Chronicle story finds that even if he knew about his claim it would be hard to deal with an agency that suffers from chronic staffing problems and outdated equipment. Apparently, it takes years to process claims. There's also not enough funding to contact Bryant, Dr. Phil, Bono and thousands of others about money they're owed. All told, the bureau holds 8 million accounts valued at more than $5 billion.
Long Beach battle: It's over a 17-acre parcel of polluted land that's slated to be redeveloped into a retail center, anchored by a Home Depot Design Store. In a lengthy Sunday story, the Press-Telegram reports on traffic and environmental concerns that will be raised at a city council hearing on Tuesday. Opponents want the council to overturn the Planning Commission's approval of the project. Developers say it would generate lots of sales tax revenues and clean up the property.