Another bad day: Well, a bad opening, for sure. Asian and European markets were down today and that will cascade to the U.S. One ominous sign is that commercial hedgers who try to anticipate the movement of the Dow are solidly in bear territory, preferring to stay "short" in anticipation of a dropoff, rather than maintain a more bullish "long" position. Another potential problem: Mondays can be especially volatile during a down cycle as investors have the whole weekend to chew on their losses. After about 30 minutes of trading, the Dow is down around 10 points. NYT
Supermarket contract expires: Not only aren't they close to an agreement, there is some question whether union members will agree to extend the contract, which would avoid another labor dispute for the time being. An LAT story says that one holdup involves whether to make any wage increase in the new contract retroactive to the expiration of the old contract. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union will be performing a skit called "Fatcat Albertsons and His Amazing Profit Machine" this morning at the Albertsons store at 2035 Hillhurst Ave. There's still little sign that a strike and/or lockout is in the offing, although there was little advance warning the last time it happened.
Revised mall: The owners of Santa Monica Place will meet today with city officials to present their latest plan for overhauling the aging, unpopular center. After getting nowwhere with ambitious expansion plans in 2004, Macerich Co. will keep things modest this time around. The new proposal would involve opening the roof and adding a third-floor dining deck with ocean views. The mall's size will remain about the same. When or if construction starts, all stores except Macy's would close. The plan will be submitted tomorrow. LAT
Buying and selling: You might remember that Maguire Properties Inc. recently announced plans to buy a bunch of office buildings from Blackstone Group, which was trying to help pay off its big purchase of Equity Office Properties. Well, now comes word that Maguire plans to sell 17 of its Socal properties to help raise money to pay for the Blackstone purchases. And some of the properties it plans to sell are properties it just bought. Isn't real estate weird? Bloomberg
Car rental fee?: LAX officials, searching far and wide for ways of generating enough money to pay for their one-stop car rental center, are proposing a $10 surcharge for every car rental at the airport. The single center would eliminate the need for all those shuttle buses driving to and from the airport all day - reducing pollution and a fair amount of congestion. Airport commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposal today, but the rental companies are putting up a big stink. “We don’t think it’s legal,” Richard Broome , vice president of corporate affairs for Hertz Corp., told the Daily Breeze. “We are absolutely flabbergasted that the airport would move ahead without any idea of how the facility is going to be paid for or what it’s going to look like.”
Waxy deal: That always-busy Blackstone Group (see earlier item) is buying the British-based Tussauds Group, owner of London's Madame Tussauds waxworks museum, for almost $2 billion. That's likely to be of some interest locally because Tussauds last October announced plans to open a branch next to Grauman's. Blackstone owns a bunch of other tourist attractions, including the Legoland theme parks. BBC
Geico's cavemen: There's no script and no cast, but ABC has greenlighted a half-hour pilot that's based on the silly but popular cavemen who appear in those Geico ads. The comedy is supposed to be about three prehistoric characters who battle prejudice in modern-day Atlanta. Geico, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., will have no creative control but will receive a royalty payment for the use of the character. The insurer spent an estimated $403 million on ad time and space in 2005. From the WSJ:
While marketers have long depended heavily on so-called product placement where products are written into the story line of a show, some are now going even further by creating entertainment programming that subtly reminds viewers of a brand name. "It's about delivering to them something they want to see and not interrupting them," says Doug Scott, executive director of branded content and entertainment at WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather North America. In many ways, the trend harkens back to early TV, when shows like "Colgate Comedy Hour" were produced or sponsored by advertisers.
One of the most aggressive has been Burger King Holdings Inc. The chain has focused over the last year on lifting the profile of its "King" mascot, a mute character best known for his creepy smile. The burger baron recently starred in a series of videogames, and the company says it has lined up a studio and distributor for a feature film. Russ Klein, Burger King's president of global marketing strategy, won't reveal the studio's identity or the likely plot. But he says the movie could appear as early as the end of this year, with the film aimed at "creating a back story for the King."