Wednesday morning headlines

BlackBerry blackout: It's shaping up to be a rough day if you rely on a handheld. Research in Motion Ltd., which operates the mobile-email device, apparently suffered a system-wide outage last night. "Please be advised that we are currently experiencing a service interruption that is causing delays in sending or receiving messages," the company's phone message said. Service is being restored this morning, but there have been delays in delivering messages, so you might consider the phone. WSJ NYT

Watching the market: Or specifically, 12,786.64. That's the Dow's all-time high, and at yesterday's close the index was only 13 points shy. Judging from the early action, Wall Street seemed more concerned over some ho-hum tech earnings than reaching another record, but after almost two hours the Dow is now up 14 points.

Caruso plan approved: The Arcadia City Council unanimously approved a high-end shopping center that will be built right next to Santa Anita racetrack. But the council turned down a 98,000-square-foot off-track betting facility that would have been part of the development. There were marathon public hearings on the project, with many homeowners unhappy about the prospects for more congestion. The Shops at Santa Anita will be built by developer Rick Caruso, who has played down the traffic issue. KNBC

Speaking of Caruso: He suggests in a NYT overview on downtown's Grand Avenue project that merchants arenít exactly signing up in droves. "The jury is still out on retail," he said, noting that downtown might not be ready for larger retailers that need to draw from a large base of customers. No retail leases have been announced yet, but developer Related Cos. says there have been discussions with retailers (Related has been saying that for months). The story also engaged the softening codo market, although Victor B. MacFarlane of MacFarlane Partners, one of Relatedís investment partners, says he's not worried about the long-term prospects.

Semel's days numbered?: Yahoo's disappointing first-quarter earnings are bound to turn up the temperature, according to BW. CFO Sue Decker is considered by some the heir apparent if financial results don't improve soon. Actually, the company has lots of new stuff to talk about, including the new research tool called Panama. But Google remains a tough act to keep up with. From BW:

Of course, a successful Panama and more partnerships still can't compare to what Google hasóa significantly larger number of people searching, enabling Google to make money without sharing revenue (see BusinessWeek.com, 12/26/06, "Why Yahoo's Panama Won't Be Enough"). According to an Apr. 11 Hitwise report, Google garnered more than 64% of searches in March. It had slightly more than 58% of searches for the same month last year. Meanwhile, Yahoo's search share dipped slightly from 22.3% in March, 2006, to 21.3% this year.

Trustee for New Century: The Justice Department wants the OC lender's managers and directors replaced with a trustee because of concerns about maintaining accurate financial accounting during the bankruptcy proceedings. Next week, New Century is expected to disclose results of an internal probe that should get into the reasons it had to restate results for the first three quarters of 2006. U.S. bankruptcy law allows the appointment of a trustee "for cause including fraud, dishonesty, incompetence or gross mismanagement." Reuters

Fremont's frying pan: Santa Monica-based Fremont General Corp. has gotten out of the subprime mortgage business, which seems like a great idea, but it's now focused on the commercial lending business and most of those commercial loans are in the not-so-swell condo market. From the WSJ:

Of those construction loans, Fremont reported to banking regulators a sharp increase in missed payments. At the end of the year, $321 million of Fremont's commercial loans were delinquent, up from $219 million in the third quarter and a mere $48 million at the end of 2005. With the residential real-estate market in a swoon, those defaults are likely to rise. Unfortunately for investors, many of whom have shorted Fremont stock -- or bet on its decline -- getting a clear picture of the condo loans has been next to impossible. Fremont hasn't issued a quarterly report since last fall and has postponed its annual shareholders' meeting, originally scheduled for May 17. No new date has been set. Adding to Fremont's uncertainty, the company's auditor, Grant Thornton LLP, quit on April 2 citing Fremont's lack of cooperation in providing financial documents.

Hold the ethanol orders: It's always something, right? A Stanford University study concludes that pollution from ethanol could end up creating a worse health hazard than gasoline, especially for people with asthma and other respiratory diseases. And get this - L.A. residents would be by far the hardest hit because of the city's reliance on the automobile. The area would see a 9 percent increase in the rate of ozone-related respiratory deaths - 120 more deaths per year - compared with what would have been projected in 2020 assuming continued gasoline use. SF Chronicle
LAT

Discovery in L.A.: The cable programmer has hired Angela Shapiro-Mathes, president of Fox TV Studios, to run its TLC cable channel and she'll be working in Los Angeles (a first for Discovery). Itís another element of a shakeup that started with the arrival of former NBC executive David Zaslav Ė and is aimed at the underserved women's market. Early in her career, Shapiro-Mathes co-founded Soap Opera Digest. LAT

Hollywood Tower sold: You know the one - faux French-Normandy architecture on Franklin, within sight of the Hollywood Freeway, lots of single units for show biz wannabes. The 1929 apartment building is being bought by a Phoenix landlord for $34.5 million and the plan is to build more units next to it. Natch. LAT

Universal desk?: The latest rumor spreading around Tribune newsrooms is that copy desk operations for all the company papers will be consolidated into a single universal desk. That sounds positively idiotic and totally unlikely, but when paranoia settles into a newsroom, most anything seems possible. Perhaps the copy desk idea will come up today in Chicago during a meeting of Tribune editors, publishers and TV executives. NY Post



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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