Paris released: No reaction yet from Wall Street (well, the Dow is down a bit). We'll keep you posted.
SEC probes Activision: It's now a formal probe, upped from just a plain old informal inquiry that the feds launched about a year ago - and it relates to stock option grants. The inquiry, disclosed in a regulatory filing, allows SEC investigators to subpoena witnesses and seek documents. You might recall the Santa Monica-based videogame publisher completed an internal investigation earlier this year that turned up instances of backdating over a 13-year period, but no evidence of wrongdoing by company honchos. The stock is down a touch. AP
Retail rebound: Relax, we're still spending, though May's same-store sales, announced this morning, were kind of a mixed bag. Saks led the way with a 38 percent jump (triple the increase that analysts had expected and another sign of lopsided spending by the affluent). Nordstom also did very well, and Wal-Mart had a decent month, with sales up 1.1 percent. But Macy's posted a 2.3 percent decline and J.C. Penney was off 2 percent. Among locally based retailers, Hot Topic was down 6.1 percent. Bloomberg
Banker too stingy?: East West Bancorp Chairman Dominic Ng is known around town for his civic and philanthropic work, but the Greenlining Institute, an economic advocacy group, claims that he gave too little to charity and made too few small loans to non-Chinese minority businesses. Ng accused Greenlining of trying to strong-arm him into contributing to groups without first checking their credentials. "This is just so much nonsense," Ng told the LAT, calling for regulators to look into the charges. "I don't need this hassle, and my employees will be just as ticked off as I am." (Without taking sides, it's always refreshing to have a CEO actually speak like a human being.)
Passport panic: You’d think that 13 weeks would give the government plenty of time to process a passport application. But Huntington Beach resident Jeff England is still waiting and he's supposed to leave for Cancun today. With U.S. passports now being required for travel to and from Canada and Mexico, there have been all kinds of delays - even if you pay $60 for expedited service. Apparently, there are third-party expediting services that can somehow pull strings for $100-$180. The State Department estimates that it will process more than 17 million passports this year, a 40 percent increase from 2006. Both the LAT and NYT had basically the same story.
"Jericho" coming back: Raising a stink can make a difference. Just ask CBS, which reversed course and ordered seven new episodes of the apocalyptic drama. Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, called it an "impressive and probably unprecedented display of passion." From the NYT:
The reversal and Ms. Tassler’s reaction were in response to a campaign that led to thousands of pounds of roasted nuts being sent to CBS executives by viewers of the show. The nuts were a reference to the first-season finale, in which Jake Green, the character played by Skeet Ulrich, uses a somewhat outdated expression to refuse his enemy’s suggestion that he surrender. The expression led to a “Say ‘nuts’ to CBS” campaign that Ms. Tassler called “creative, sustained and very thoughtful and respectful in tone.” While thanking fans for their passion, Ms. Tassler also had a few words of warning. “For there to be more ‘Jericho,’ we will need more viewers,” she wrote.
No buyout of CBS: Sumner Redstone, L.A.'s second wealthiest man, told CNBC that he likes things just the way they are, dismissing recent suggestions that the broadcast company could be a buyout target. Redstone controls Viacom and CBS through his privately held National Amusements Inc. He also showed no interest in duking it out with Rupert Murdoch for control of Dow Jones. "The news business is not a growing business," he said. Reuters
Apple TV is no iPod: No sales figures yet, but you know things aren't going well when Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls the TV effort a "hobby." Actually, Apple TV is a "digital media adapter" that connects PC to TV, allowing you to use a big-screen home entertainment system to watch movies or videos that are stored onto your computer. It sounds like a nifty idea, but Apple TV, along with other products in this category, is tough to set up. Besides, there are just too many other ways of getting at content. Jonathan Gaw, an analyst for market research firm IDC, told the San Jose Mercury News, "I don't know about your hobbies, but my hobbies don't pay the rent," he said.
Topps gets sued: That's the baseball card company in the midst of a nasty $385 million takeover effort by a Michael Eisner-led group. Upper Deck, which is offering $1 a share more than Eisner, claims that Topps has refused to entertain its higher bid. It also has sought an injunction to block shareholders from voting June 28 on the company's deal with the Eisner group. In addition, Topps shareholders have launched a proxy contest against several directors. NY Post
Takeoff from AV: United begins service today from Palmdale to SF, part of the effort by L.A. officials to spread out passenger service and not rely so much on LAX. The airline, which is getting $2.3 million in revenue guarantees (otherwise known as a subsidy), will offer two flights a day, seven days a week between the airports on 50-seat regional jets. Earlier efforts at introducing service to Palmdale have gotten nowhere. LAT