Writers prep for deadline: They'll meet tomorrow with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers - this time joined by federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez. On Thursday, a general membership meeting is planned to provide updates on the negotiations and options (including whether and when to strike). WGA West President Patric Verrone urged guild members last night to be discerning in where they get their information. “In the days to come there will be many rumors, lies, and even threats that will come your way," he said in an email. "There is a genuine climate of fear on both sides of this negotiation and it is only natural that misinformation will spread." Here's more from the email:
On Friday it became clear to us that management's plan is to stall the talks until the final hours and divide us with a low-ball eleventh hour offer. This sort of brinkmanship will likely be met by fear, confusion, and even acrimony. All that is natural and expected. Therefore, we must be strong and steadfast in our convictions so that we convey the proper message to our employers, to our allies in the entertainment community, to the industry at large, and to each other: That, as much as we don't want a strike, we want a bad contract even less.
Another rate cut?: The Commerce Department is expected to report Wednesday that the economy grew by at least 3 percent in the third quarter – a pretty impressive number in light of all the turmoil in the housing and credit markets. But there's growing sentiment that has the Federal Reserve lowering the benchmark federal funds rate tomorrow by a quarter of a percentage point, to 4.5 percent. The idea is to act pre-emptively against the possibility of a serious downturn. NYT
New Hilton CEO: Man, talk about your bad timing. Matthew Hart was being groomed to replace Stephen Bollenbach as CEO of the Bev Hills-based hotel company – a logical choice since Hart had been president and COO and was in part responsible for Hilton’s growth spurt. The place had become so successful, in fact, that private equity firm Blackstone offered the company a deal it couldn't refuse. And now, Blackstone has hired Christopher Nassetta to be CEO, not Hart, and the announcement is expected today. Nassetta will leave his position as CEO of Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., the nation's largest publicly traded hotel owner. Hart has accepted a position of adviser, which ain't exactly CEO. From the WSJ:
In plucking Mr. Nassetta from Host, Hilton gets a manager with a strong track record in real estate, hotel ownership, and finance as Hilton is rapidly expanding. Some 40,000 hotel rooms under construction in the U.S. alone will eventually carry a Hilton flag and an additional 57,000 rooms are in the development phase. The announcement, which comes less than a week after Blackstone finalized its $20 billion acquisition of Los Angeles-based Hilton, quells doubts about the private-equity giant's vow to keep Hilton's assets in tact. That contrasts with some of Blackstone's recent, large real-estate acquisitions -- particularly the $23 billion Equity Office Properties Trust purchase in February -- in which most of the company's assets were quickly carved up and sold. "If they were planning to break this thing up, I wouldn't be sitting here," Mr. Nassetta said Friday in the Park Avenue office of Jonathan Gray, senior managing director of Blackstone.
Nahai gets DWP job: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will make the announcement this morning. The utility's general manager, Ron Deaton, announced his retirement on Friday. Villaraigosa appointed Nahai to the Water and Power Commission in 2005, and he was considered almost a lock for the job, despite some noises about the need for a national search. He's head of a Century City law firm specializing in real estate, transactional matters and litigation. (Daily News)
Trusting real estate: Money management giant TCW Group Inc. is buying a majority stake in Buchanan Street Partners, a Newport Beach-based real estate investment banker and portfolio manager. Announcement is expected today, says the LAT. There has been some concern about commercial real estate entering a slump, though institutional investors remain interested in office buildings, warehouses and retail. Buchanan Street has a portfolio of managed properties worth $2.5 billion.
Hello to Hulu: This is the creation of NBC and Fox that will bring free, ad-supported television shows to the Web. With more than 100 employees and its own offices in L.A., Hula.com begins testing its news service this week to select users - as well as send its videos to distribution partners Microsoft, AOL, MySpace, Yahoo and Comcast. Critics say the service has no chance for various reasons - not the least of which is YouTube - but the NYT says that it might surprise some people. Besides TV shows, the service will begin with 10 movies, including "Sideways" (though they run with commercial breaks).
Hulu’s long-awaited introduction and new content deals are giving the executives involved in the effort a chance to respond to the criticism. “I think there’s a snarky desire to say this is big dumb media and this is a big dumb joint venture,” said Peter Chernin, president of the News Corporation. He said he first conceived of Hulu when thinking of ways to get Fox shows distributed as widely as possible. “If there is a product that’s attractive to consumers, we’ll be just fine,” he said. Hulu might prove most attractive to advertisers, since the videos on Hulu are chock-full of promotional opportunities.
Another A380 flight: The world's largest airliner, already in service in Asia, will make a second test landing at LAX next month. No passengers will be aboard the super-jumbo jet, but the plane's double-decked cabin is expected to be equipped with seats in first, business and coach classes (a hollowed-out Airbus A380 debuted at LAX on March 19). Qantas will be the first to offer A380 service out of LAX beginning in October 2008. The airline wants to make sure that L.A. can handle the big load. (Daily Breeze)