Thursday morning headlines

Choppy market: Lots of crummy news out of Iraq and higher oil prices, although March retail sales look pretty good. At last check, the Dow was up 8 points.

Palladium deal: Live Nation's plans to invest in a yearlong renovation of the storied Hollywood venue (now there's a well-worn phrase for you) puts an end to months of speculation about what would happen to the 66-year-old music hall. Last summer, a Bev Hills developer planned to buy the property and develop an adjoining parking lot, but the deal fell through. It's also a reminder of Live Nation's clout within the concert world (though Philip Anschutz's AEG continues to be a thorn in the much larger company's side). Live Nation signed a 20-year lease and after the top-to-bottom overhaul, plans to reopen next year. LAT

Lots of Sugar: Northrop CEO Ronald Sugar received a total compensation package last year of $21.7 million. Besides base pay of $1.4 million, that includes stock awards valued at $8.5 million and options awards valued at $3.7 million.

"Girls Gone Wild" woes: Joe Francis, the Santa Monica entrepreneur who built that bawdy video empire, was indicted on two counts of tax evasion. That follows his arrest the day before on a contempt-of-court citation stemming from a civil case in Florida. The new charges allege that Francis deducted more than $20 million in false business expenses on corporate income tax returns. He is also alleged to have used offshore bank accounts to conceal income earned in 2002 and 2003. LAT

Weinstein: It's all good: That's as in the Weinstein Company, which isn't exactly taking Hollywood by storm since the Weinstein boys left Walt Disney Co. two years ago - losing their Miramax nameplate in the process. The NYT lays out the clunkers, most recently "Grindhouse" and "Breaking and Entering." Bob Weinstein - and not his more visible brother Harvey - explained that the mini-studio is being transformed as more than an independent production company churning out high-brow entertainment. Lots of deals are being cut with studios, cable companies and retailers - perhaps too many deals according to at least one of the company's investors.

Weinstein said that his company’s most significant step had been its acquisition last summer of a 70 percent stake in Genius Products, a Santa Monica video distributor. Genius, said Mr. Weinstein, distributes the company’s movies at half the 10 percent fee he would pay a major studio for the service. (In fact, the Weinstein Company paid no cash for the distributor, but received the stake in return for rights to its products, according to a person involved with the transaction.) Genius has grown rapidly in the last year — and has predicted as much as $800 million in revenue this year — as producers like ESPN and Robert Halmi Inc. signed on, in part because high-profile Weinstein films had opened the doors to major retailers like Wal-Mart and Target.

Money Honey update: Remember Todd Thomson, the Citigroup executive who was dismissed amid big-time innuendo about his cozy relationship with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo? Well, the FT reports that he's reached a severance deal with Citi. No terms disclosed, but Thomson said he was "very pleased." Timing ain't great, coming the same week that Citi was announcing the layoffs of 17,000 schlubs for undoubtedly less generous terms. As for Maria? She and her husband, Jonathan Steinberg, have closed their purchase of a five-level, $6.5 million townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The joint has four working wood-burning fireplaces and a 32-foot-long kitchen. FT NY Observer

Homeowners beware: The City Attorney's office is taking aim at unlicensed contractors who act more like con artists. About 30 cases are being prosecuted that involve grand theft, fraud, charging excessive down payments and of course not having a contract to do the work. The Contractors State License Board advises homeowners to get at least three written bids on your project, make sure the contractor is properly licensed, check the status and disciplinary history of the license, get references for previous projects, and pay only 10 percent of the project price or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. Daily News

Taking feds to court?: That was the buzz at a meeting of the Westwood Homeowners Association last night. The issue is the government's plans to demolish the 17-story Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard and replace it with two new towers that would become the L.A. headquarters for the FBI. An attorney has been hired to represent the ticked off homeowners who say that the expansion would create more traffic bottlenecks on what is already one of the nation's most congested streets. By the way, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was also at the meeting, where he outlined his plan for Pico and Olympic Boulevards becoming one way (he received a completed traffic study yesterday).

Poachers gathering: It's otherwise known as the Association of Film Commissioners International's three-day conference and trade show, where reps from three dozen countries and 30 states try to lure film production away from Socal. And here's the strange part: It's in Santa Monica. The come-ons - mostly in the form of tax incentives - are obviously having an effect because local location shooting dropped 7.4 percent last year. Daily News

Who owns "Surf City USA"?: Both Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz have a long-standing claim to the title and they've brought lawyers into the fray, which means it'll be a while before it's all sorted out. The rights to that phrase belong to the Huntington Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau, or so the HB side claims. The WSJ pumps it up as another battle in the ongoing war between Northern and Southern California.

"The real Surf City is widely acknowledged to be Santa Cruz," said the Santa Cruz complaint. The judge hearing the case, filed with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, has three times turned down the Huntington Beach motion that the case be moved south. "It will be difficult for my client to get a fair trial in Northern California," says Richard Sybert, an attorney at Gordon & Rees in San Diego who is representing the Huntington Beach bureau.

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
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