Tribune update: There are no details of last night's revised offer by Broad and Burkle for the Chicago-based parent of the LAT. Everybody seems to have gotten the same barebones information - not for attribution, of course - that the new offer was valued by Broad/Burkle at $34 a share and that the two billionaires would be willing to structure the deal with an employee stock ownership plan, just like the Sam Zell proposal. They would end up with 40 percent of the company and Tribune employees would own the rest. But is there an actual offer on the table or just the promise of one? The board meets today for what had been expected to be an endorsement of the Zell proposal - and there's still a pretty good chance that will happen (if not today, then perhaps over the weekend or next week). Those mostly Chicago-centric Tribune directors can't be happy about dragging this thing out any longer just because the rich guys from L.A. are throwing a Hail Mary. As a Tribune higher-up said the other day - not for attribution of course - Broad and Burkle have had plenty of time to adjust their offer, especially since the outlines of Zell's proposal weren't exactly a secret. Of course, keep in mind that we're all outsiders in this little game and even the spoon-fed information that the wires and dailies have been regurgitating don't provide much of a clue to what's really going on. One more point: the Chandlers. They still have three seats on the board and from their perspective 34 is a much nicer number than 33.
Gas nears record...: No wonder Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is worried about inflation. The Auto Club's weekly survey shows that the average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $3.205, which is 6 cents higher than last week, 41 cents higher than last month, and 47 cents higher than last year. Most areas of Socal are posting price averages within 20 cents of their all-time record highs. Meanwhile, oil prices are hovering around the $66 a barrel mark, which is the highest they've been since last year. Those British sailors being held by Iran are making folks especially nervous.
...But does anyone care?: As prices have jumped in recent weeks, gas consumption has gone up, not down, and drivers are changing their daily driving habits only slightly. "I don't think about gas prices at all," Michael Machat, 48, a lawyer in West Los Angeles, told the NYT. "I guess maybe if it was $10 a gallon, I'd think about it."
A recent study that Christopher Knittel, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis, helped write showed that every time from November 1975 to November 1980 that gasoline prices went up 20 percent, consumers changed their driving behavior by cutting gas consumption by 6 percent per capita nationwide. But from March 2001 to March 2006, drivers reduced consumption just 1 percent when prices rose 20 percent. Prices swung up and down seasonally during both periods, but Mr. Knittel said the two periods were comparable because regular gasoline prices increased in both periods by about 66 percent, to $2.50 from $1.50 in real terms, set at 2000 dollars.
Herbalife rejects offer: Not a huge surprise considering that the $2.7 billion offer was quickly assailed as a low-ball effort by J.H. Whitney & Co. a private investment group and one of the L.A.-based company's biggest shareholders. You might remember that J.H. Whitney took Herbalife private in 2002, and then took it public two years later. The distributor of nutritional supplements just got approval to sell its stuff in China, so the company seems to have nice growth prospects. LAT
Albertsons-union tussle: The United Food and Commercial Workers union is accusing Albertsons of intimidating and interrogating workers before last week's strike authorization vote. The complaints, which were filed with the National Labor Relations Board, involve workers being asked how they intend to vote and employers suggesting ways to disrupt the strike vote. The chain says it didn't do anything wrong. Daily News
Port truckers struggle: A bunch of labor and environmental groups say that the current system of pollution-choking trucks and underpaid drivers needs to change. Part of the problem is that drivers have to maintain their own rigs and pay for gas, repairs and insurance. They are also paid by the load, not by the hour. The two ports have been working on a "truck-modernization program." Daily Breeze
Ellen, Elton doing deals: Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres is asking $24 million for her Montecito estate that she bought six months ago for $15.75 million. The four-bedroom Mediterranean-style main house was built in 1926 and remodeled in 2004. Get this: the master suite is 1,300 square feet. DeGeneres also owns a home in L.A. Meanwhile, Sir Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, have bought an 1,800-square foot pied-ŕ-terre on the 20th floor of the Sierra Towers, just off the Sunset Strip. Purchase price is $2.5 million. It's only money, right? WSJ