No more Wonder Bread: Interstate Bakeries is shutting down its four Socal bakeries in Glendale, Pomona, San Diego and in Los Angeles southeast of USC. All told, about 1,300 jobs will be eliminated. Interstate has been one mess of a company for the years it has operated under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, so this is not a huge surprise. One piece of good news: Interstate will continue to operate two Los Angeles bakeries that make Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Snowballs. (LAT)
Pricier quake insurance?: The California Earthquake Authority voted 2-1 to cut insurer contributions to the state agency by one-third and have consumers pay an average of 8 percent more a year for state-issued coverage. Backers of the financing plan say it would avert a potential crisis if the insurers cut and run. But consumer groups say that lowering the insurance industry's stake will make the earthquake fund weaker and less attractive to homeowners. The provision to have an earthquake authority expires next year, so state officials are trying to figure out what to do. (LAT)
Consumer confidence declines: It's not a huge surprise considering all the market volatility in August. The Conference Board's index fell to 105 from 111.9 in July. Economists had expected a reading of 104. The Conference Board's measure of present conditions fell to 130.3 from 138.3 in July. The gauge of expectations for the next six months dropped to 88.2 from 94.4. (Bloomberg)
Topps delays vote: The takeover effort that would never end is not ending. Topps Co. has postponed a shareholder vote on a proposed $384.5 million buyout from a group led by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. The vote was moved to Sept. 19 so that stockholders can better evaluate things. The company said that the Eisner-led group "would likely not receive the support" of most investors if the meeting were held Thursday as originally planned. The board has recommended accepting it. (Bloomberg)
Rise and fall: Do you know that in 1997 Compaq Computer offered to buy Gateway for $7 billion? A lot has changed in 10 years - Compaq was folded into HP - quite successfully as it turns out - and Taiwan-based Acer acquired the long-struggling Gateway for a measly $710 million. From Cnet:
Founded in 1985, the company was built on a direct-sales model--a la Dell--which was initially very successful. Gateway grew 20 percent to 30 percent from quarter to quarter at its peak in the 1990s, making it the Acer of its day--the fastest-growing PC maker at the time. In 1997, founder and CEO Ted Waitt rejected a proposed merger with Compaq, a deal that would have made Gateway the consumer arm of the world's largest PC operation at the time. After turning Compaq down, Gateway moved into software and services, financing and Internet connections. But it wasn't as adept at selling its PCs in cow-print boxes directly to business. In 1999, Waitt resigned, and Jeff Weitzen took over as CEO. Then, in 2000, a steep decline in demand hit the PC industry.
Countrywide stock falling: The afterglow from Bank of America's $2 billion infusion is over. Analysts at Lehman Brothers and Piper Jaffray have downgraded the mortgage lender because they believe there's more bad news on the way. A hedge-fund manager told the NY Post that Calabasas-based Countrywide is likely to get a lot smaller. "Growth is out; staying alive or independent will be the new metric for victory," he told the paper.
Owen Wilson's movies: He was to begin shooting the Ben Stiller-directed comedy "Tropic Thunder" in the next few weeks and then the comedy "Marley & Me" in January. How that might change now that he's been hospitalized is anyone's guess. DreamWorks, which will release "Tropic Thunder" next summer, just said that filming goes on. In a few weeks, he'll be appearing in Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited," and yet another Wilson film, "Drillbit Taylor," opens in March. (Variety)
Lacter on radio: This morning's business chat with KPCC's Kari Moran (Steve Julian is on vacation) covers lower gas prices, the campaign for big box stores in L.A., and the new ratings system for Spanish-language broadcasters.