Tribune goes it alone: It's looking more likely that the Chicago-based parent of the LAT will turn down those few ho-hum outside offers and instead focus on a self-help restructuring. WSJ reports, as others have, that the latest plan gaining traction will spin off the Tribune television stations and borrow money to pay out a one-time cash dividend to shareholders. Tribune's board is expected to go over the plan this week. From the WSJ:
The idea of borrowing money to pay a dividend is similar to the proposal put forth by real-estate investor Eli Broad and supermarket magnate Ron Burkle. That proposal, which didn't involve spinning off Tribune's broadcast side, involved taking on more debt than under the company's proposal. With the self-help deal, Tribune could transfer some of the debt from the dividend borrowing onto the new TV company, limiting the amount of debt left on Tribune's balance sheet.
Hollywood project breaks ground: It's the $600-million hotel, residential and retail complex at the corner of Hollywood and Vine - the one that will have a W Hotel. The project is supposed to be completed by mid-2009. Two other large projects are nearing completion at the corner: A $50-million conversion of the former Equitable office building to condominiums and a $70-million conversion of the former Broadway department store, also to condos (lots of condos, no?). LAT
Google benefits from piracy: That's what a group of major media companies are accusing the Internet giant. They're claiming that Google deliberately directed traffic to Web sites that were encouraging piracy. Google told the studios that it woud implement new internal controls. Google and the big film and TV studios have been squabbling over the unauthorized use of copyrighted programming by Google-owned YouTube. WSJ
Ring tone deal: Moderati Inc., a SF firm that pioneered the use of popular songs as cellphone ring tones, is being bought by Santa Monica-based Bellrock Media, which is headed by a former senior executive at CAA. Moderati is a U.S. subsidiary of Faith Inc., a Japanese ring tone provider. Terms of the Moderati deal were not disclosed. LAT
Oscar bests gridiron: At least in the view of Bank of America and other advertisers, who have concluded that while Super Bowl ads create a lot of buzz, the product sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. "With the Super Bowl, it becomes about who has the best ad," Bank of America spokesman Joe Goode told the NY Post. After considering the Super Bowl, Microsoft also decided to spend its money on the Academy Awards broadcast. Among the brands advertising on both: Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch and Coke.
Speaking of ads: Ford is the "official truck of Nascar" but that hasn't stopped Toyota from airing an hour-long special just prior to next Sunday's Daytona 500. The special, which chronicles Toyota's efforts to break into the Nascar Nextel Cup Series, was created by Los Angeles ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi and Nascar. Toyota paid at least $2 million for the TV time. That's on top of the ads Toyota bought during the race. NY Post