LA Biz Observed archive

Mark Lacter covered business, the economy and more here from 2006 until his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
The entire LA Biz Observed archive — more than 10,000 blog posts by Mark — remains online and available.
June 2008

Gas down another 2 cents

The average gallon of self-serve regular in L.A. is now $4.587, down from $4.608 a week earlier.

IndyMac a new Countrywide?

At last check, its stock was trading around 75 cents a share, and there's growing concern about the company's solvency.

Monday morning headlines

Oil is up, markets are flat, SAG contract about to expire, and they're still talking at the ports.

TV viewers hit 50!

Factoring in DVR viewing, the median age does drop, according to a new report, but only to 49.

Is housing bottom near?

Mid-May to mid-June home sales in OC were down, but by just 4.2 percent from a year earlier.

Virgin Mobile buys Helio

The two companies are in a dying business because big cell phone operators now do much the same thing.

Bear land

At last check, the Dow was down 20.2 percent from its intraday high set in October. And there's no place to hide.

Zell seeking reality

The Tribune CEO says that newspapers have been "insulated from reality" - namely what readers want.

Friday morning headlines

Market trying to calm down (but oil is up again), KB takes big hit, IndyMac stock under a buck, and new domain flavors.

More 'Friends of Angelo'

Not just celebrities, but real people. Says one Countrywide executive: “Angelo would call in and say, literally, ‘My maid needs a loan.’”

Multiplex for Koreatown

South Korea's CJ CGV chain plans to open a 648-seat, three-screen theater near Western Avenue in November.

Here come the cuts

As part of the Countrywide purchase, Bank of America will eliminate 7,500 positions over the next two years.

Have we hit bottom?

There's a pretty strong case for stocks being oversold after several weeks of losses - and today's 358-point plunge.

Could be a bad day

The Dow reached its 2008 low this morning, and then kept falling, on a bunch of icky news.

Thursday morning headlines

Ralphs goes discount route, Villaraigosa pushes sales-tax hike, Angelo chokes up, and Air Force missteps revealed.

Who would buy LAT building?

Let's be honest here: This is a crummy property being put on the market at a lousy time.

CA sues Countrywide

The mortgage company is accused of engaging in deceptive advertising and unfair competition by pushing borrowers into risky loans.

Coupon cuts, profit bumps

There's nothing nefarious about Ralphs pulling back on its double-coupon policy. It's just business.

Wednesday morning headlines

Countrywide to be sued, lots more millionaires, waiting for the Fed decision on rates, and American tests Internet.

Wolfgang defeats Wolfgang

A federal judge has ruled in favor of the steakhouse owner (Zwiener) in a lawsuit brought by the celebrity chef (Puck).

Economic dissonance

Today's news speak volumes about why it's so hard to figure out what's going on.

Hilton expands in Asia

The Bev Hills-based chain is looking especially at China and India, where the hotel biz is in its infancy.

What happened to Helio?

The L.A.-based cell phone company that was started by Sky Dayton might be sold to Virgin Mobile.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. home prices still falling, naming rights for the Coliseum, Ralphs clips coupons, and Obama holds Hollywood fundraiser.

Kozinski hires attorney

The Ninth Circuit jurist is being represented by an L.A. lawyer in a pending judicial misconduct inquiry.

Gas prices drop

Don't get excited - they're down less than a penny a gallon, to an average of $4.608 a gallon in the L.A. area.

Samueli to plead guilty

He is expected to be placed on five years’ probation and pay $12.2 million in penalties for lying to the feds.

Monday morning headlines

Oil prices steady, Hanks supports AFTRA deal, newspaper ad revenues plummet, and Americans give more to charity.

NFL Network to ESPN?

The idea would be for the league's little-seen cable channel to form a partnership with the Disney-owned sports network.

L.A. unemployment soars

The jobless rate in L.A. County was 6.7 percent in May, up sharply from the revised 5.9 percent level in April.

Are Bear indictments fair?

The feds have the emails, and the emails are pretty damning. But should these two guys be singled out in the subprime disaster?

Friday morning headlines

Gasoline hike not as sharp, Ford numbers are worsening, Live Nation's chairman to leave, and Geffen the manipulator.

California losing tech luster

The state fell from second to fourth place in a new ranking by the Milken Institute.

Countrywide sale close

July 1 is the target date for completion of the mortgage company's sale to Bank of America.

Blackstone to buy OC firm

The private equity giant has agreed to pick up an OC-based home health care provider for $1.6-billion.

Makeover at Smart & Final

Additional space would provide more of a one-stop shopping experience - as opposed to a place to stock up on soda.

Tribune COO at LAT

We're told that the Tribune COO was meeting with publisher David Hiller and other honchos.

Thursday morning headlines

Two former hedge fund managers arrested, Americans driving less, Delta reduces LAX service, and mortgage bill watered down.

Same-sex marriage biz

It shapes up to be a decent-sized infusion for the economy, provided that voters don't oppose the court decision this fall.

Is DreamWorks deal close?

Kind of depends on what newspaper you're reading. How about the talks have entered a serious but inconclusive stage?

Boeing over Northrop

Government auditors say the Air Force made a bunch of errors in the awarding of a huge contract for aerial refueling tankers.

Wednesday morning headlines

FedEx glum on economy, aerospace giants await government ruling, port contract may be near, and more flights to Palmdale.

UCLA still says no recession

The disastrous housing market has not badly damaged the job market – and that’s why the nation has avoided a downturn.

DreamWorks nears deal

The Indian-based Reliance ADA Group would provide $500 million to $600 million in equity, the WSJ reports.

Debating Kozinski

The conduct of the chief judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gets an airing tonight on KCRW.

Tribune closer to default?

The problem continues to be generating enough cash to meet the terms of the loans that were arranged last year.

From the Personnel Dept.

In these tough times, you'd think that all job candidates would act professionally during interviews. And you would be wrong.

No new taxes

That's what L.A. bizfolks would prefer, though a $15.2 billion state budget deficit might require some compromises.

Studio lockout?

If the AFTRA deal is ratified, there would be pressure on the Screen Actors Guild to cut bait and get what it can.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. tops for congestion, gas prices up 20 cents in one week, Midwest floods will boost prices, and "Soul Train" is sold.

Angelo's DC connection

The sweetheart deals that Countrywide Financial gave to U.S. senators and other big-wigs needs some looking into.

Maguire to sell OC property

The L.A. real estate company is looking to raise hundreds of millions of dollars by selling Park Place.

Kirk to meet Ford honchos

The 91-year-old billionaire apparently will offer support for the automaker's management and its turnaround strategy.

Local airports take hit

In most cases these are not permanent reductions, but they could have an impact on local visitor counts.

More of Angelo's friends

A mortgage lender giving breaks to U.S. senators would seem to go beyond the usual Hollywood swag.

Feds narrow tomato chase

The FDA is focusing on Florida and Mexico as the source of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened people in 23 states.

Northrop vs. Boeing

After losing out on a big contract, CEO Jim McNerny must decide whether further protests are in the company's best interest.

Friday morning headlines

Inflation, gas prices and foreclosures all take off, economists iffy on recession, and Jackson in talks for lengthy Vegas gig.

Does Zell really care?

The newspaper business has far more problems than one billionaire owner who thinks he knows more than he does.

SAG gets poked around

The media companies weren't happy with Guild President Alan Rosenberg pronouncing that a deal is unlikely by June 30.

Tomato cases widen

At last check, 228 people in 23 states have come down with a rare strain of salmonella.

Time for Jaine Austen

It's June, which means weddings, which means big trouble. At least it does for my favorite super-sleuth.

Thursday morning headlines

Americans keep spending, details on Countrywide VIPs, 99 Cents Stores was robbed, and Lakers score in ratings.

Does rich mean famous?

In the world of celebrities, yes. But the amount of money made is often quite different from the acclaim received.

Warfare at Live Nation

A disagreement between CEO and chairman over "360 deals" that has name-brand artists receiving huge amounts of cash.

Preview of new LAT?

Sam Zell is promising lots more maps, graphics, lists, rankings and stats. That will surely turn things around.

From dolls to hotel rooms

Why would the legal team representing Bratz maker MGA insist that the other side not stay at its hotel?

Wednesday morning headlines

Markets fall on inflation worries, SAG's attack on AFTRA, Bratz designer erased data, and new Queen Mary dispute.

How bad is the airline biz?

American is charging $390 round-trip between NY and L.A. - and the airline is spending nearly $500 per passenger for fuel.

Interpreting Grand decision

City and county officials apparently delayed voting on a construction schedule for at least seven weeks.

Zelling, pro and con

His plans to increase productivity at the LAT and tighten up news holes have generated the predictable outcries.

Tuesday morning headlines

World financial markets are shaky, SAG goes after AFTRA, Oxy CEO has hefty death benefits, and LAT flap over magazine.

Grand dispute

The developer of the massive project now has until Aug. 15 to begin construction across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

L.A. gas price tops SF

The good news is that the price of crude fell $4.19, to $134.35 a barrel. Of course we've seen that before.

Monday morning headlines

Some relief for markets, IRS goes after Anschutz, Councilwoman Wendy Greuel is disgusted, and AC/DC coming to Wal-Mart.

SAG in disarray

How else do you describe a union that's wasting time attacking another union instead of dealing with the studios?

Where is oil headed?

Arjun Murti, who has been predicting a big jump in crude prices, sees the possibility of $5.75-a-gallon gasoline.

Friends of Angelo

The Countrywide CEO treating some borrowers better than others may be legal, but sure doesn't look good.

Friday morning headlines

Oil and gas prices spike, differing cost estimates from writers strike, big numbers for upfronts, and calculating Bratz royalties.

Jump in unemployment

The U.S. unemployment rate soared to 5.5 percent, while the separate payroll survey showed a loss of 49,000 jobs.

Feel poorer? You are.

Stocks and home values helped contribute to a $1.7 trillion drop in the net worth of U.S. households.

LAT to cut pages

Zell & Co. want to eliminate 82 pages a week. They also say that productivity is lagging.

*Ex-CEO's R-rated indictment

The former Broadcom co-founder is charged with conspiracy and securities fraud - as well as distributing controlled substances.

Thursday morning headlines

Shoppers hit the discounters, housing inventory declines, L.A. to sue Time Warner Cable, and studios may owe actors.

Is LAT magazine history?

Folks at the Times say that it's part of an overall cutback within the Features section.

Stay-at-home thrills

Would you believe a "Six Flags Fun Park" videogame that you play at home? An L.A. company is developing it.

Lakers defy economy

It's gotten so crazy that folks are buying seats for next season just to have priority for the Finals.

More Hispanics without work

The jobless rate remained fairly low for most of 2007, but the slower economy is finally having an impact.

Wednesday morning headlines

Oil prices keep falling, Ed McMahon defaults, no more Ted airline, and SAG cuts 300 waiver deals for producers.

MSN goes Hollywood

Two big Hollywood names, Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, will be developing an entertainment Web site.

'Simpsons' cast cuts deal

They've reached a four-year deal with Fox that will give the top stars nearly $400,000 an episode.

HuffPost raising $$$$$

Traffic has soared in recent months, but what happens after the elections are over? gets a 'B'

Review of newspaper Web sites finds the navigation "primitive" and "clumsy," but the content is good.

Tuesday morning headlines

GM thinking small, why Wachovia CEO got the boot, SAG talks to resume, and no more Kinko's.

Century Plaza sale

The landmark Century City property is being sold for $366.5 million. No word on what the new owners have in mind.

Gas inching closer to $5

L.A. is near the top of the pricing chart, although a little relief might be near.

Monday morning headlines

Fire doesn't impact Universal schedule, SATC's up-and-down weekend, Hilton raids Starwood, and Semel goes after IMG.

Clinton and Burkle

Why on earth is the former president spending so much time with the Bev Hills playboy?