Zell on LAT: He told reporters yesterday that he doesn't plan on selling the Times or any other Tribune media properties. He said he'd met David Geffen once in his life and that there have been "no discussions with him whatsoever." Zell, who was speaking at Stanford University, said he had received 1,000 e-mails since the deal was announced, including from other potential investors who are interested in buying parts of Tribune. But his plan is to keep the company intact. "We did (the deal) with the assumption that we'd buy the whole thing together," he said. San Jose Mercury News
About that Tribune deal: Sam Zell may only have a minority position in the new Tribune, but according to an SEC filing he'll have veto power on any major transactions. The employees will have far less control (what a surprise!!). The SEC filing also disclosed that top managers of Tribune would be given “phantom stock” in the new company that they would be allowed to cash before ordinary employees are able to withdraw money from the employee stock ownership plan. From the NYT:
The company said managers and other “key employees” would be allocated an 8 percent stake in the company, via phantom stock, leaving the ESOP with an effective 52 percent ownership. The managers will also receive $6.8 million in bonuses when the deal is completed, which the company hopes will be this year. Employees will be allocated shares from the ESOP each year, the filing said, in proportion to their annual pay. But in most cases they will not be able to cash in any of their stake for at least a decade, and then only if they are retired or are over 55 and have worked for Tribune for at least 10 years.
Grocer talks to resume: Hold that strike talk - the three major supermarkets chains and the United Food and Commercial Workers will go back to the negotiating table on April 16. It's a pretty good signal that neither side has much of an appetite for another labor impasse. Actually, there's some question as to whether contract talks ever really broke off. Supermarket reps from Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs said they were planning to take off for the Easter holiday and apparently there was some kind of scheduling conflict next week. The union and the supers have been talking since January, but by all accounts there hasn't been much progress - not that surprising since both sides are so entrenched in their positions. The union is desperate to pare back that two-tier wage and benefit system that was introduced in the last contract, while the grocery chains certainly don't want to give up what they won in 2004. AP
Employment report: The U.S. economy added 180,000 new jobs in March, largely because of a bounceback in construction hiring, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent. This was a much rosier report than analysts had anticipated and points to an economy that's still doing pretty well. The government also revised up its estimate for jobs created in January and February - by 16,000 each month - to 162,000 and 113,000 respectively. The state and county employment numbers will be released in a couple of weeks. Reuters
Circuit City is sued: Three workers from its Oxnard store said that California age discrimination laws were violated when they were laid off for making too much money. You remember that Circuit City fired several thousand of its higher-paid employees and plans to hire replacements at much lower wages. The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, may face legal hurdles because of a recent appeals court decision. LAT
Still higher gas prices: They're going up by almost a penny a day, according to the Auto Club's latest survey. The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $3.260, which is 5.5 cents higher than last week, 38 cents higher than last month, and 42 cents higher than last year. If it's any comfort, prices in other states rose even more rapidly.
USC official on leave: That's Catherine Thomas, the school's financial aid director, who is being investigated by NY authorities for her ties to Student Loan Xpress, a lender she recommended to students. Thomas, who is said to have sold her stock holdings in the parent firm of Student Loan Express, is among several financial aid directors under investigation around the country. LAT
Just a reminder: Financial markets are closed today for Good Friday.