Variety for sale: It's part of Reed Elsevier's Business Information arm that also includes Publisher's Weekly. CEO Crispin Davis told reporters this morning that the process could take some time, given that it's not easy borrowing money these days. "We don't have any particular buyer in mind, we do think there will be a wide and strong level of interest in this business both from strategic and private equity buyers, we are very open minded on who and when," Davis added. The sale is part of an overall restructuring that could result in hundreds of job cuts company-wide. (Reuters)
Microsoft-Yahoo a done deal?: That's what a couple of "Wall Street M&A moguls" tell Henry Blodget at Silicon Alley Insider. They expect Microsoft will give Yahoo a couple of weeks to have talks with others (they'll go nowhere), and at some point both sides will really start talking. A higher bid is possible, they say, but not by much. (Why is this starting to sound like the Clinton-Obama race?)
State deficit balloons: It's now $16 billion - up $1.5 billion from the governor's forecast just over a month ago. That's the largest deficit since the collapse of the dot-com bubble. In his January budget proposal, Schwarzenegger suggested slashing virtually all state programs by 10 percent. So what now? "We certainly recognize that very tough decisions are ahead," Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill said. Hill does not favor the across-the-board approach, preferring that lawmakers decide which programs are worth spending money on and boost revenues by closing tax loopholes. (Daily News)
Health Net sued: The L.A. City Attorney's office alleges that the Woodland Hills-based health insurer sold individual policies while engaging in an illegal scheme to drop patients if they required expensive treatment. Health Net, the suit says, defrauded thousands of policyholders using "a wide range of unlawful, unfair and fraudulent acts and practices." From the LAT:
The lawsuit is the latest action by state regulators, lawmakers, doctors, patients and now law enforcement officials targeting insurance company practices -- notably canceling policies when they become too expensive for the insurers. The companies, however, maintain that they do this to keep costs down by weeding out people who may have failed to disclose preexisting conditions when they applied for coverage. Health Net has been in government investigators' cross hairs before. In November, the company's bonus program was made public in an arbitration hearing and sparked outrage. Within a week, Health Net was socked with a $1-million fine by state regulators for lying twice to investigators about such payments. The state is still investigating the company's bonus and cancellation practices.
Anti-recessionist: Yep, there are still a few hearty souls out there who believe the economy will avoid contraction, among them Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. During the EDC's annual forecast, Kyser said housing will obviously be a big problem but that other sectors like aerospace, technology and tourism remain in decent shape. L.A. County should add about 30,000 jobs this year for an anemic growth rate of 0.7 percent. Other forecasts are far gloomier. (LABJ)
Hollywood law firm folds up: Peter Nelson of Nelson Felker Toczek Davis is joining up with former partners George Davis and Mark Wetzstein to start a new firm called Nelson Davis. Marquee clients Peter Jackson, David Duchovny, Andrew Adamson, Allison Janney and Tea Leoni are expected to follow Nelson. (Deadline Hollywood Daily)
And then there's Omar Sharif: The long-ago film star - is the guy actually still alive? - was ordered to pay parking valet Juan Anderson $318,190 for punching him in the face. Sharif tried to pay up with a 20-euro note, apparently unaware that the U.S. currency is the dollar. When Anderson explained that he could only accept greenbacks, Sharif allegedly punched him and called him a "stupid Mexican" (Anderson is from Guatemala). He sued Sharif for assault and battery, emotional distress and commission of a hate crime. A 2005 state law prohibits racially motivated violence. From the LAT:
The Beverly Hills parking lot incident was not Sharif's first altercation. In 2003, he was fined $1,700 and given a one-month suspended sentence for head-butting a French police officer. "It made me the hero of the whole of France," the actor later told the New Yorker magazine. "To head-butt a cop is the dream of every Frenchman."