Paramount shakeup: LAT is reporting that studio head Gail Berman will be out the door this week. She was brought on less than two years ago to help kick-start the place, but things never clicked. Critics found her "abrasive" (yeah, like Hollywood is filled with warm and fuzzy types), while Berman herself felt constricted by Paramount Chairman Brad Grey. The Times reports that Paramount executives Rob Moore and Brad Weston could move up.
Lots on Apple: Never mind Iraq - this morning's really big story is the new iPhone and how it might compete in a crowded cell phone marketplace. Not surprisingly, the early reviews are good. Yes, there are lots of competitors out there, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs figures that even if the company gets 1 percent of the world market, that's still 10 million iPhones - a nice new revenue stream. Priced at $499 or $599 (depending on capacity), this will surely be a popular toy in certain parts of L.A. One very neat feature is visual voice mail. Instead of sifting through voice mail in the order in which messages were left, the iPhone will display a list of names and numbers. Just tap on the message you want to hear. BTW, the folks at Cingular, which will be Apple's service carrier, never even saw the phone when they cut the deal. CNET NYT
Jobs on options controversy: “The truth of the matter is everything is fine,” he told the NYT's John Markoff after his presentation. “We’ve shared it all with the S.E.C.” That may not seem like much of a response, but you're talking about Steve Jobs - not the most responsive guy in the world when it comes to negative news. He admitted that recent disclosures about his connection with backdated options have "raised questions." However, Jobs added that "some of the journalism has been so off the mark. But I know the truth. It’s painful to read some of this stuff, but I know it’s kind of ridiculous and will pass.” Here's the backstory.
CBS-Google?: Les Moonves talked a lot about Internet partnerships during a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show, but he didn't include a long-rumored deal with Google. WSJ, citing sources, reports that CBS and Google Inc. are in talks on a deal that would have Google broker certain ad sales for CBS's radio and television properties. CBS has been ramping up its Web presence over the past year - no doubt in response to Chairman Sumner Redstone's frustration at getting into the online game relatively late. WSJ
Office market gets tighter: L.A. County's fourth-quarter vacancy rate was 10.5 percent, down from 12.3 percent a year ago, according to numbers from Cushman & Wakefield. But certain markets are much tighter; Santa Monica has a vacancy rate of under 6 percent. Asking rents are up 8 percent countywide, to $2.27 per square foot, but in many parts of the Westside you're going to pay more. It's a sign of both a healthy economy and the lack of new office contruction. LAT
Hard Rock squabble: Peter Morton's ex has filed suit against the founder of the Hard Rock restaurant and casino empire, alleging that he understated the value of her ownership in the business and fraudulently persuaded her to sell him $12.8 million worth of stock for $451,000. What triggered the dispute was selling the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to Morgans Hotel Group last May for $770 million. The couple divorced in 1997. Nobody is commenting. LAT
Newspaper news: The WSJ reports that Tribune Co. (parent of the LAT) will team up with Gannett and McClatchy in selling ads on their various Web sites. The idea is to attract big advertisers that want to reach a nationwide online audience without having to cut individual deals. This follows plans by Yahoo to work with seven other newspaper publishers in selling ads. In the past, some papers have had a tough time with national ads.
Del Amo on block?: The giant shopping center in Torrance could be up for sale. Developer of the complex, Mills Corp., has to repay a $1.1 billion loan by March 31 or face a bankruptcy filing. Selling off large assets like Del Amo, one of the nation's largest shopping centers, might be an option. Mills also detailed the results of an internal audit that shows accounting errors and possible executive misconduct. Daily Breeze