Will directors cut quick deal? That's the Hollywood chatter this morning after contract talks over the weekend between the Directors Guild and the studios and networks. Variety reports that the negotiations have taken on a renewed urgency - not just to cut a deal with the DGA, but to use that agreement as an entry point to jump-start talks between the writers and media companies. The latest critical date is Feb. 24, when the Academy Awards are scheduled (last night’s Golden Globes fiasco provided a bit more motivation).
DGA prexy Michael Apted sounded very optimistic in a note in a message sent to members Friday, after the guild and AMPTP jointly announced that formal talks would begin Saturday. "As I have stated before, we would not enter negotiations with the AMPTP unless we were within shouting distance of an agreement on our two most important issues: jurisdiction for our members to work in new media and appropriate compensation for the reuse of our work on the Internet and other new-media platforms," Apted wrote. "There are still hurdles to jump. However, we would not be going forward unless we believed we could make a good deal." In response to Friday's announcement of the DGA talks, WGA and SAG issued a joint statement cautioning the town, and their own members, against placing too much weight on the Directors Guild negotiations.
Globes are a disaster: As could be expected, the so-called news conference that announced the winners was a silly contrivance - even sillier than the normally contrived Golden Globes ceremony itself, and that's saying a lot. Here was William Booth's take in the Washinton Post:
This was not a successful format. Usually, the Golden Globes ceremony is a fun event because it brings together all the nominated actors, both television and film, pours a lot of drinks into them and then televises the result. But on Sunday at the Hilton, the writers' strike snuffed the gala dinner and annual awards telecast. Where one might have expected to see Helena Bonham Carter and Alec Baldwin bellying up at the pre-awards champagne bars, there were -- the horror! -- milling reporters and publicists chewing on downmarket gouda and melon slices.
Rebound before the storm?: The Dow is up sharply this morning, perhaps helped along by good preliminary earnings news from IBM and the prospect of more interest rate cuts. Keep in mind, however, that Citigroup's fourth-quarter results come out tomorrow, followed by Merrill Lynch on Thursday, and neither will be pretty. CNBC reported that Citi may write off $24 billion. (Bloomberg)
Regulators investigate trading: So one of the big Wall Street banks begins accumulating stakes in a certain stock and it just so happens that the firm's investment bank is advising that company in a merger deal. Coincidence? If so, it seems to happen a lot - so much that regulators are reviewing pre-deal trades by investment banks. Their interest was sparked by a study that finds such trading happens more often than would be expected by chance - and that some banks are probably trading on their inside information about deals. From the WSJ:
Andrei Simonov, one of the co-authors, says that the data don't prove wrongdoing. Nevertheless, he says, the pattern is so strong that "the most probable explanation is that banks are trading on inside information." Critics say the research is flawed. One issue is that quarterly filings provide an incomplete and sometimes outdated picture of a bank's true holdings. Not included, for example, are certain types of options. Behind the scenes, an investment bank holding stock simultaneously could be using options to hedge its position or to bet that the stock will decline.
Zagat up for sale: The restaurant guide publisher has hired Goldman Sachs to seek a buyer, and the NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin expects broad interest among New Yorkers looking for a trophy prize, perhaps along the lines of Barry Diller, Bruce Wasserstein (he owns New York magazine) or Rupert Murdoch. The Zagat Survey was started as a hobby for Tim and Nina Zagat in 1979 as a two-page typed list of NY restaurants compiled from reviews from friends. Last year the company sold 5.5 million guides last year in more than 100 countries.
Big cuts at EMI?: The British music giant could be ready to eliminate up to 2,000 jobs, according to press reports, which is bound to raise questions about the future of Capitol Records (or more specifically the Capitol Records building in Hollywood). The Sunday Times says that British financier Guy Hands, who controls EMI through his Terra Firma Capital Partners, wants to drops thousands of artists from EMI's roster. An announcement could be made tomorrow. (DealBook)
Disney buys into basketball: The Mouse House and four Chinese investment firms will pay $250 million for an 11 percent stake in the NBA's Chinese subsidiary (Disney will own 5 percent). China has the league’s largest market outside the United States, and it generates nearly a third of the traffic to NBA.com. (NYT)
Man bites dog: The December median home price in the South Bay was $741,500, up 14.3 percent from a year earlier. Sales, though, plummeted 48 percent. Prices have held up because inventory is low and demand remains relatively strong. Also, the homes being snapped up are in the affluent beach cities and the Palos Verdes Peninsula and that tends to keep the median high. (Daily Breeze)
New hotel in Palm Springs: Morgans Hotel Group Co. announced plans today for a 200-room Mondrian Hotel across from the Palm Springs Convention Center. It’s scheduled to open in 2010. The original Mondrian is in West Hollywood. (Business Wire)