Catalina fire: This is likely to be a pretty significant economic event because of the area's strong tourism base. Three weeks before Memorial Day Weekend and the start of the summer vacation season, the timing is especially bad - and hundreds of firefighters rushing to the island can't make up for the many thousands of tourists who will stay away this weekend and perhaps for a lot longer. From the Daily Breeze:
Employees at Vons, the island's only grocery store, plugged away until about 8 p.m., when smoke and ash made it impossible to continue working, said manager Yolanda Perez. During the afternoon, workers left to secure their homes and families, but returned to work to help customers and keep firefighters supplied with water, she said. The biggest rush of customers came from 4 to 6 p.m., when residents scurried to buy water, soda and snack foods to tide them over through the night, Perez said. "It was hectic at first," she said. "But my people pulled together and came in. I'm so proud of them."
KB receives bid: It's for the L.A.-based homebuilder's 49 percent stake in Kaufman & Broad SA, the biggest homebuilder in Paris. The unidentified offer is for 53.13 euros a share ($782 million), which is 15 percent less than Kaufman & Broad's closing price yesterday. Even with KB's financial struggles, that low-ball offer will almost certainly be turned down, but it might put the company in play. KB Home said it is evaluating the offer - as well as other strategic alternatives, including selling the rest of its shares in a public offering. Hmmm. Ever since Bruce Karatz was ousted as KB's CEO, there have been sporadic rumors about the company dumping its long-held French asset. Bloomberg
Allstate stops selling: The state's third-largest home insurer will cut off new home insurance policies, saying that it needs to better manage the risk of losses from fires and earthquakes. It's not just California - Allstate has stopped writing new policies in much of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. So far, there's no sign of an exodus among the other insurance companies, which will be getting lots of new business with the Allstate announcement. LAT
Speaking of insurance: Blue Cross of California agreed to stop canceling individual health coverage as it tries to settle a class-action lawsuit on behalf of as many as 6,000 people canceled. Blue Cross became known as the "use-it-and-lose-it" insurer because it would often cancel policies once policyholders tried to file a claim. This is an especially big deal because Blue Cross is the largest insurer in California. LAT
Still-higher gas prices: But the Auto Club reports in its latest survey that the numbers have settled down over the past couple of days. Not that anyone is going to notice - the average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $3.482, which is 6.2 cents higher than last week, 22 cents higher than last month, and 9 cents higher than last year. But there has been a drop in the wholesale market, which fits with the tendency over the last few years for prices to peak in May.
Taking sides on Albrecht: Variety reports that the "industry" - whoever that may be - is split over the expedited firing of the HBO chief executive. It's interesting how Albrecht's buddies, like Ari Emanuel and Bill Maher, keep insisting that no one knows the facts of last weekend's incident outside the MGM Grand, even though the Vegas cops read the police report to the LAT. "The only facts I know about Chris Albrecht are that he is a genius television programmer, a great friend and a good person," Maher said via email. "It's a shame that the same sort of 'gotcha,' rush-to-judgment mentality that has infected politics has also come to show business." I'm a huge Maher fan, but c'mon, if this were a right-wing senator from South Carolina, would he be taking that same donít-rush-to-judgment position?
David Milch, the exec producer of HBO's "Deadwood" and the upcoming "John From Cincinnati," said that Time Warner had acted appropriately even if its motives were subject to debate. As a recovering addict himself, Milch said, "All these people saying the corporation should have forgiven him, what they're really saying is the corporation should have kept him sick."
Writers want WGA: About three dozen Comedy Central writers have asked to be represented by the Writers Guild of America. The WGA has made deals for CC's NY-based "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report," but most of the network's writers are not covered by a Guild agreement. Organizing non-union shows, including reality programming, is a big priority at the WGA. Variety
Speaking of writers: Some tidbits from the just-out WGA study on writers. The results are based on 2005 data.
--Most TV and movie writers are still white males.
--Writers between the ages of 41 and 50 are the highest paid.
--Writers younger than 40 are being hired at a much faster rate.
--Women TV writers have virtually eliminated the gap in earnings with their male counterparts.
--Women movie writers earn $40,000 less than males.