Downtown boom?: It's a happening place, according to a study by the Downtown Center Business Improvement District. The LAT trumpets a 20 percent "jump" in population over the last two years. Nice. But if you look at the actual numbers, it turns out that downtown has a population of just 29,000 - and that the percentage increase amounts to 5,000 or so new residents. Geez, there are more people at the corner of Westwood and Santa Monica waiting for the light to change. (In case you're wondering, the city of L.A. has a population of around 4 million.) Is it just me or does there seem to be an awful lot of time, attention and money being spent on those 29,000 - many of whom are under 30 and not necessarily going to hang around downtown after more than a few years of "pioneering." Oh, and downtown payroll is 418,000, down from a high of 605,000 in 1995. LAT
CBS-Google deal collapses: This was the one that CBS head Les Moonves was supposed to announce last month at the Consumer Electronics Show. Well, the WSJ is reporting that the two companies couldn't agree on several key points, including how long the deal would run. The partnership would have allowed clips from CBS shows on YouTube. The talks aren't entirely dead and buried, but for now CBS and Google will be focused on a smaller-scale relationship. Reuters WSJ
Overtime outrage: DWP workers racked up more than $100 million in overtime pay over an 11-month period, according to an internal audit reported in the Daily News. Among the findings: that 32 employees reported being absent and putting in for OT on the same day - and each of them did it more than 10 times. Actually, there's an explanation - it's ridiculous, but it's an explanation. Under labor agreements DWP workers can charge for OT if they work outside their normal schedule. So, as the DN explains, a 9-to-5 employee who takes personal time off in the morning, then works in the afternoon and into the evening can charge for overtime.
In their report, auditors found that the overtime payroll process had insufficient oversight, poor scheduling systems and not enough manpower. DWP officials have defended the OT as necessary in a complex organization that operates around the clock. Officials also have said the high OT payments are partly the legacy of DWP downsizing from 11,600 workers in the early 1990s to as low as 6,700 near the end of the decade. About 75 percent of employees charged for OT in the same week they took an absence.
Who replaces Perenchio?: Lots of speculation about who might be the new CEO of L.A.-based Univision, the Spanish-language media giant that's about to be taken over by a private equity group. Among the rumored candidates: former Mexican President Vicente Fox and Jim McNamara, former CEO of Univision rival Telemundo. But the NY Post says neither man has been approached for the job. An announcement is likely in the next week or two. From the Post:
Univision's new owners, including Thomas H. Lee Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners and media mogul Haim Saban, have been searching for a high-profile Hispanic executive to take the helm with an eye towards expanding into Mexico. Among other names bandied about is Carlos Gutierrez, who was named Commerce Secretary in November 2004 after years as Kellogg's CEO. Univision is viewed as having strong talent internally, including current CFO Andy Hobson and President Ray Rodriguez.
Not too hot, not too cold: That Goldilocks outlook for the local economy comes from the L.A. Economic Development Corp., which releases its two-year forecast during a morning conference. Some drag is expected from housing, along with entertainment and trade, but aerospace, biomedicine and tourism are looking good. Entertainment faces particular trouble, both because of possible labor disputes involving the studios and the three Hollywood guilds and because of runaway production (most notably in the film industry). Perhaps the biggest problem is the area's quality of life, what with monstrous traffic, poor schools, etc. LAT
Gas prices jump: The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular was $2.67 in the L.A. area, up from $2.58 a week earlier, according to the federal government's latest survey. While oil prices have remained in the $57-$60 a barrel range, a refinery fire in Texas last week fueled more demand for California gasoline in Arizona and other southwestern states. LAT
More buyout money: Providence Equity Partners, the folks who own stakes in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Univision, Warner Music and the parent of the OC Register, has raised $12 billion for its sixth buyout fund. NYT reports that the new fund may put pressure on Providence to seek bigger acquisitions or take on fewer partners. Up to now, Providence has focused on media and communications.
Britney's strange scent: Her public meltdown last week has analysts wondering how sales of fragrances like Fantasy, Midnight Fantasy and Curious might be impacted. There are no firm numbers to indicate any public backlash, but the folks at Elizabeth Arden are paying close attention, because celebrity scents like Spears' have been an important growth driver. Actually, the celebrity scent craze appears to have peaked. NY Post