Completing Tribune deal: Yup, it's all but done, with those reluctant bankers signing off on the remaining funding needed to finance Sam Zell's $8.2 billion plan to take the company private. They’re shooting to finish it up today or tomorrow. The most intriguing bit of news is the decision by Zell to be CEO, as well as chairman. The CEO part was unexpected and suggests that the guy will be making some big-time changes. Also, according to the Chicago Tribune, LAT publisher David Hiller will report directly to Zell, which means he'll be watching the Times good and hard. Well, hard anyway.
Guild ready to cut deals: Interim deals, they say, with small-fry producers. WGA negotiating committee head John Bowman said the first agreements could be announced next week, though he warned that the union needs to get enough producers signed up in order to pressure the networks and studios. All this, though, is prologue to the Directors Guild talks next month. From Variety:
"The thing about interim agreements is that (then) there are a few writers writing, and it tends to affect our solidarity. If you get a critical mass of people going to back to business, then it puts pressure on the other companies," Bowman said. "If it's just a small number, all it does is create dissention in our ranks. Our strength as a guild is our unity and solidarity. Anything that weakens that is something we'd be reluctant to do."
California's next step: Now it's time for the courts to determine if the state can implement its own regulations to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. The EPA went strictly with the car companies in denying California's request to implement its own landmark law. The Bushies claim that their own watered down legislation would do much the same thing without creating a patchwork of state laws. The decision angered a variety of folks, including Gov. Arnold. He said the state is ready to sue. From the LAT:
David Bookbinder, the Sierra Club's chief climate counsel, vowed to take the fight to court. "These guys are 0 and 4 in court," he said. "And they're about to go 0-5." Bookbinder was referring to the Supreme Court's decision this year that greenhouse gas regulation fell under the purview of the EPA and to several lower court decisions rebuffing the auto industry's efforts to head off states' regulation of tailpipe emissions. The EPA waiver decision was a victory for the auto industry. David McCurdy, president and chief executive of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a prepared statement that a "patchwork quilt of inconsistent and competing fuel economy programs at the state level would only have created confusion, inefficiency and uncertainty for automakers and consumers."
More California departures: The state's population is still growing, but only because of births and immigrants from other countries. All told, 89,000 more people moved out of California than moved here from elsewhere in the U.A. in fiscal 2007. The softening economy may have something to do with it, especially in the Inland Empire. (LAT)
LAX braces for deluge: Expect a 3 percent increase over the same period last year, with the airport expected to be busiest on the three days before Christmas and on Jan. 2, when airlines expect most flights to reach 100 percent capacity. (Daily Breeze)
Hasidic rabbi arrested: The grand rabbi of Spinka, Naftali Tzi Weisz, and his assistant were charged in a 37-count indictment with masterminding a money-laundering scheme that allegedly stretched from Israel to NY to L.A.'s jewelry district. Six other men in California and in Israel were also charged in the case. Weisz and the assistant, Moshe E. Zigelman, allegedly solicited contributions for Spinka charities by promising to secretly refund as much as 95 percent of the money to the donors. The donors could then claim tax deductions on the full amount while paying as little as 5 percent. From the NYT:
The contributions were repaid by a sophisticated series of wire transfers from businesses controlled by the Spinka sect to secret accounts in Israel, the government said. The accounts were established with the help of an official at the Israeli bank, Joseph Roth, 66, of Tel Aviv, who was arrested in Los Angeles, and a Tel Aviv lawyer, Jacob Kantor, 71, who remained at large in Israel, the government said.
Janitorial firms sued: State officials are accusing two companies of treating employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime or providing rest and meal breaks. The suit claims that janitors were sometimes forced to work 10-hour shifts seven days a week in exchange for a flat $50 payment per day. It seeks back pay for as many as 300 people. (LAT)
Fuhgeddaboutit: A NJ jury determined that a former prosecutor was not owed money by David Chase, creator of "The Sopranos." Robert Baer sued Chase in 2002 for breach of contract, alleging that he deserved compensation for taking Chase on a three-day tour of mob haunts and potential filming locations - as well as setting up meetings with police detectives. From the Newark Star-Ledger:
A former TV executive who testified on behalf of Baer said he should get $65,000 to $95,000. An entertainment industry lawyer who tes tified for Chase said Baer didn't de serve a dime, comparing his work with that of an unpaid intern. After hearing a case that produced 1,000 pages of testimony, the jury of eight women and one man quickly sided with Chase. Afterward, the two court combatants continued to talk tough. "This is an individual whose true stripes came out later and that may be something," said Baer, who said he would return to prac ticing law, maintain an interest in screenwriting and prepare to complete a doctorate in history at New York University.