Will KB pay Karatz?: The LAT reports that ex-CEO Bruce Karatz is entitled to $175 million in severance pay, pension benefits and stock options because he officially "retired" - even though everyone knows he was forced out because of the stock options backdating scandal. Karatz may actually do better by leaving than staying. L.A.-based KB Home is probably stuck (there was an employment agreement in place), but Mark Fabiani, an attorney representing the KB Home board, left open the possibility that directors would try to revoke Karatz's severance pay or retirement benefits. "The employment agreement will be the subject of discussions with the board and Mr. Karatz's representatives," Fabiani told the Times. "The board is going to enter into discussions with Mr. Karatz about that situation, and those discussions have not yet begun." Remember, KB didn't offer any details about its own investigation that resulted in Karatz's departure, so there may be evidence that could bolster a case for revoking the guy's pay.
Cheesecake restatement: The Calabasas Hills-based restaurant chain said this morning that it will restate previously reported financial statements to the tune of $5.5 million to correct erroneous stock options accounting. Cheesecake Factory said it found no evidence that anyone acted with an intent to deceive or mislead, and didn't recommend termination or resignation of any executives. But it did recommend that the execs benefitting from the backdating return the money.
Why is Zell selling?: Well, he's getting a handsome 8.5 percent premium for Equity Office Properties, which is reason enough. But the move by the Chicago real estate tycoon is certain to raise questions about the state of the commercial office market. Sam Zell is not expected to stay on at the company, which is being bought by private equity giant Blackstone Group for $20 billion in the biggest real estate deal ever. With little new office construction on the horizon, especially in markets like L.A., Blackstone is probably counting on rising rents and limited vacancies. Equity Office has a ton of Socal properties, including the AIG Sun America Center in Century City and Two California Plaza.
LAX traffic stalls: The airport expects 1.8 million passengers during the Thanksgiving period (from last Friday to next Sunday), which is unchanged from last year - and perhaps a sign that travelers are finally fed up with packed planes, higher ticket prices and lone lines at security checkpoints. The LAT reports that some of the major airlines have cut back on the number of flights to and from LAX and other carriers that want to step in are being shut out.
The new Bond: Looks like the Broccoli family made the right call in dropping Pierce Brosnan for Daniel Craig. "Casino Royale" scored $40.6 million in its opening weekend. The WSJ profiled Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, the children of Bond producer Chubby Broccoli who have maintained the franchise over the years. And they seem every bit the match for studio executives.
That passion often comes with a sharp edge. Executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment got a sense of the Broccoli duo's willfulness at a dinner two years ago in London at which studio chief Amy Pascal asked about their experiences in Hollywood. "I like studio executives," replied Ms. Broccoli, according to people who attended, "unless they're being a-holes."
In ramping up for "Casino Royale" - the last of Fleming's Bond novels for the Broccolis to adapt - the biggest decision was how to cast Bond. Mr. Brosnan was a problem because the "Royale" story finds Bond at the start of his espionage career; Mr. Brosnan, now 53, already had played the role four times. Associates say Mr. Brosnan met Ms. Broccoli and Mr. Wilson for an awkward lunch meeting at the Santa Monica restaurant Drago to hear the news that he was being replaced for a fresh approach. A disappointed Mr. Brosnan left the restaurant in a huff, says an associate to whom both parties relayed the events. Through a representative, the actor declined to comment.
Yahoo newspaper deal: Lots of coverage on yesterday's announcement about Yahoo establishing a partnership with 176 newspapers (seven newspaper chains) in which content, advertising and technology will be shared. The first phase of the deal will have the papers posting their classified job listings on Yahoo's classified ad site. One key part of the deal would be the access to local news, which could boost Yahoo's readership and advertising. Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group, which owns the Daily News and seven other Socal papers, is among the chains involved. Both sides of the partnership - Yahoo and the papers - have been struggling in their efforts to keep up with Google, Craig's List and other successful online ventures.
Fox woes: The network that will give us two nights of O.J. Simpson explaining how he didn't kill his wife is in terrible shape. Ratings are down 9 percent from a year ago - and they weren't all that hot then either. Even the 18-34 crowd - normally a Fox stronghold - is not watching in big enough numbers. Besides new shows that haven't taken off, there was the low-rated World Series. But as the NYT points out, there's always "American Idol" to revive the numbers. That monster series comes back in the second half of the season. Also returning is the hit "24." By the way, several Fox stations, none of them in Socal, are not airing the Simpson interview.
Cubbies spend big money: The decision to sign Alfonso Sorinao to an eight-year contract for $136 million is seen as an indication that Tribune Co. doesn't intend to hold onto the Chicago Cubs. The Soriano deal comes on the heels of a five-year, $75 million contract for free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramírez. Spending that kind of money - and for such an extended period - is not the Tribune style. The Cubs' president and general manager, Andy MacPhail, has already resigned. There have been reports that several Chicago businessmen are putting together a proposal to buy the team from Tribune.
NoHo Commons opens: It's the first phase of a huge development that features lofts, condos and stores. The complex, which is next to the Red and Orange line terminus, will eventually involve over a half-billion dollars in public and private investment and include 880 residential units. Jerry Snyder is behind the development, which will include a seven-screen art theater and retail complex and a five-story office building.