Strike getting uglier: The WGA is trying to get copies of all scripts submitted to the studios over the past six months to determine if nonunion labor is brought in to polish union work. The studio and network alliance said such monitoring harkens back to the days of the 1950s blacklist (quite a hideous comparison). Meanwhile, some of the writers from one soap, "The Young and the Restless," went "financial core," meaning they gave up their status as guild members with plans to return to writing. Other soap writers might follow. This isn't necessarily a leading indicator; soap writers are often considered second-class WGA citizens compared with their primetime brothers and sisters. And soaps have been losing audiences big-time, so their future might be especially imperiled if a strike goes on for months. As for movie scripts, there apparently was a lot of action in the days leading up to the walkout. From the WSJ:
Some studios, such as Walt Disney Co., paid fees to writers for script drafts that hadn't been completed, with the promise that they would get finished when the strike ends. The fees were paid, in essence, as a way of enticing writers to think about projects during the strike, even if they aren't writing. Once the material was delivered, the studios cut checks to the writers. Many of those checks were mailed Nov. 5, after the strike began. And it was big money: In the two weeks before the strike began, for example, General Electric Co.'s Universal Pictures paid out more than $10 million to writers who delivered roughly 40 scripts, according to people familiar with the matter.
CBS writers near strike?: Talk about a potential mess: The company's writers, producers, editors and artists will take a strike authorization vote tomorrow and Friday - and should they walk, it would impact all the news shows on both the network and CBS’s O&O TV and radio stations (that includes KNX, KFWB and Channel 2). CBS wants to create a pay system that would give radio workers smaller raises than television workers. Another possibility is combining newsroom operations (KNX and KFWB, for example). The last contract offer was turned down on a 99 percent vote. (NYT)
Media ownership plan: As expected, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants to relax the longstanding prohibition of owning both a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same city. This should be good news for the Tribunes and News Corps because it allows them to hold onto their richest properties (Tribune could keep the LAT and KTLA, for example). But it's also causing some big-time headaches. Tribune is in the toughest spot because the changes might delay its plan to go private by the end of the year. From the NYT:
Mr. Zell wants to complete the transaction by Dec. 31 to take advantage of tax rules that could save the newly formed company more than $100 million. In addition, if the deal is not closed by Dec. 31, the $34 a share that shareholders would receive would rise by an additional 8 percent. Tribune executives have said that their banks need 20 working days after obtaining regulatory approval to line up $4.2 billion in financing to complete the deal. Mr. Martin expects to complete a vote on his plan on Dec. 18. While Mr. Martin said he did not anticipate granting new long-term waivers to any companies — including Tribune, he said in a telephone call with reporters that a two-week exemption might be possible if he already knew he had the votes to complete the rule making by Dec. 18.
Foreclosures are concentrated: California locations accounted for seven of the top 25 foreclosure rates in the third quarter (Florida and Ohio had five each). Stockton led the way, with one filing for every 31 households. Riverside/San Bernardino, California, had one for every 43 households. Sacramento, Bakersfield and Oakland also had high rates. (Bloomberg)
Maguire under fire: He's being asked by a major shareholder to give up some control. JMB Capital Partners, a local investment firm that has a 5.2 percent stake, wants him to sell some properties or perhaps the company itself (Maguire took on lots of debt when it paid $3 billion for 23 office buildings Socal buildings). JMB also cited shelling out big money for headquarters office space in an Ocean Avenue building owned personally by Robert Maguire. "We do not understand why one of the largest office REITs in Los Angeles leases space from the CEO of the company as opposed to utilizing space it already owns," JMB said. (LAT)
Caruso wins damages: General Growth Properties, owner of the Glendale Galleria, must pay $15 million in punitive damages to the developer for trying to prevent a Cheesecake Factory from opening in his Glendale mall. That's on top of a $74 million judgment. Caruso's attorneys argued that Cheesecake Factory executives worried that the move to Caruso's Americana mall would lead retribution by General Growth, which owns 200 malls. (Daily News)
Money managers merge: L.A.'s Quintile Wealth Management, which only handles clients with $10 million or more to invest, is joining up with SF's Kochis Fitz, which only handles the $5 million-plus class. Together, Kochis Fitz/Quintile will oversee $5 billion of investments for 380 clients. The combined company, which will be headquartered in San Francisco, competed with the big boys like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. (San Jose Mercury News)
Dead men tell no tales: Are patrons to Disneyland really scattering the ashes of their loved ones throughout the park? Last week, workers spotted a guest on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride sprinkling an unidentified substance into the water. The Mouse House didn't pursue the matter, but some bloggers have reported receiving emails saying that ash scattering was a recurring problem at the park. And no, Disney does not allow folks to disperse ashes on the premises. From the LAT:
In "Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland," author David Koenig said the park's Haunted Mansion had been the site of at least one previous ash-scattering. Koenig's book quoted an employee, whom he did not identify, who recounted the case of a small group of visitors who arrived at the Haunted Mansion on a Saturday night in December 2002. The group requested a little extra time for a quick memorial service for a 7-year-old boy who had died, the employee said, according to Koenig. But later, ride operators spotted one of the guests throwing a powdery substance off her "Doom Buggy." After the ride was shut down, the employee discovered "a smattering of dust, 'gray, like ash,' " Koenig wrote.