Monday morning headlines

Strong venture numbers: When you lump L.A., OC and San Diego together, it looks darn impressive within the world of venture capital. Socal companies received $1.1 billion of investment in the first quarter, a 23 percent increase over last year. That edges out New England for the runner-up spot behind Silicon Valley. But less than half that number - $401 million - came from L.A., mostly going into computer-related firms. OC and San Diego were more focused on healthcare stuff. Nationwide, venture investment climbed 8.4 percent.LAT

Office space tightens: The countywide vacancy rate in the first quarter was 9.5 percent, which is as low as it's been since at least the mid-1980s. To go along with tighter space, average asking rents jumped 14 percent from a year earlier, to $3 a square foot. In the pricey Century City submarket, it's $3.62. It's a landlord's market all right, the result of limited new office construction because of problems getting entitlements and land (though that's starting to change) and a reasonably healthy economy. Business Journal

Tracinda talks with UAW: That's Kirk Krkorian's Tracinda Corp., which has proposed buying Chrysler for $4.5 billion. Kerkorian's group has said it would consider giving the United Auto Workers some sort of financial stake in the company - in return for labor concessions, of course. Tracinda is also leaving open the possibility of an employee stock ownership plan. Top officials at parent DaimlerChrysler's will be meeting with union officials tomorrow. WSJ

Moving in on Apple: San Jose Mercury News is reporting that the SEC is preparing to charge Apple's former top lawyer in connection with her alleged role in backdating stock options. This might get interesting because attorneys for Nancy Heinen are saying that she's been a scapegoat for decisions that were approved by Apple's board (presumably including CEO Steve Jobs). The SEC also is weighing a lawsuit against Fred Anderson, Apple's former chief financial officer, according to the Mercury News. But there doesn’t seem to be much of a case against Jobs himself.

Based on interviews with people knowledgeable about the Apple probe, Heinen played a central role in two instances of alleged backdating being examined by both the SEC and federal prosecutors. The first involves a grant to Jobs. The second - which has not previously been reported in detail - involves grants to top executives, including Heinen, who faces SEC allegations she profited herself from backdating. There are no signs criminal charges from federal prosecutors are looming, but that separate probe continues. The U.S. Attorney's Office has declined comment. Perhaps most significant, two people familiar with Heinen's defense say she has no damaging information against Jobs, further evidence Apple's leader may avoid legal repercussions from the company's backdating problems. The SEC could still sue Jobs, but has not signaled it intends to do so.

Online ad growth slows: The Web has been the one piece of cheery news for newspaper publishers, but even that sector isn't looking so great. Tribune reported last week that the growth rate for interactive revenue was sharply lower than a year earlier, and the NYT Co. warned investors that online ad growth won't be as strong as projected. From the WSJ:

Analysts agree that the results at the Times and Tribune reflect a broader trend. "We absolutely see slower growth coming," says Kip Cassino, vice president of research at Borrell Associates, a media-research firm. "Generally, newspapers tend to believe things that have been good are going to get better. And that's not always the case." Borrell says the growth rate in online ad spending in newspapers will likely fall to a percentage in the low 20s this year from 28% last year. To be sure, that may reflect a broader deceleration in the growth of Web advertising. EMarketer, a market-research firm, predicts the overall growth of U.S. online-ad revenue will slow to 18.9% this year from 30.8% last year. It predicts newspapers will do slightly better.


Underlining this pressure is a shift under way within Internet advertising. The ad formats that have so far proved strongest for newspapers -- banner ads, pop-ups and listings -- are losing ground to formats such as search marketing. Ad buyers say automotive, entertainment, financial-services and travel companies -- all major newspaper advertisers in print and online -- are aggressively shifting dollars into search marketing.

LB airport expansion: But don't hold your breath. The Long Beach City Council will decide this week whether to authorize a final design, along with a financing plan. Once that happens, the completed proposal should be ready in about 20 months. After that, it'll go back to the council for approval. Then, if approved, there will be a three-month bidding period to hire a construction company. The actual project should be complete around April 2011. All told, pretty much the same timeline for the ride from Westwood to LB on the 405. Press-Telegram

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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