Will my Starbucks close?: The 600 stores to be shuttered by early next year have not been revealed, but the coffee king did disclose that 70 percent of them have opened since the fall of 2005. These newer locations appear to be cannibalizing older stores, a long-held concern among many Starbucks watchers. Analysts say that Starbucks lowered the bar for choosing new locations, and in turn tarnished the overall quality of the chain. (WSJ)
Calming down at IndyMac: The rush to withdraw funds appears to be ebbing at the Pasadena mortgage company. Meanwhile, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who some say started the panic by suggesting IndyMac was in dire shape, now says that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Sheila Bair, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., "are on top of the situation," whatever that means. About $100 million in deposits were pulled out in a couple of days. That sounds like a lot but it's only 0.5 percent of total deposits. (Money & Co.)
Report denied: IndyMac strongly took issue with allegations by the Center for Responsible Lending that the company “fueled its growth with unsound and abusive mortgage lending.” The report, says the company, relies entirely on unsubstantiated anecdotal evidence contained in pending lawsuits. Well yeah, but those suits do contain serious allegations from IndyMac customers and employees (some of whom are plaintiffs). So they do have an agenda, but it also doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Besides, the credibility of mortgage companies these days is just to the south of dog catcher.
Hollywood marches on: Two days after the Screen Actors Guild contract expired, quite a bit of work continues, despite chatter about a strike or a de-facto strike. They're especially busy on the TV side. Variety does one of its talk of the town snapshots that suggests little, if any, enthusiasm for a strike - and relatively scant concern that there's one in the offing.
"The sentiment is that people who are working don't want to go out. If there hadn't been a writers strike, there might be more support for (a SAG strike)," said a veteran talent rep who specializes in TV thesps. "Right now, there's too many people who are just desperate to get something going." Indeed, while there's great skepticism about SAG's ability to rally actors for a full-blown work stoppage, there's no question the town is enduring the labor pains of a de facto strike because of the uncertainty.
Ralphs pulls ground beef: The store gets its meat from parent company Kroger, which has been recalling ground beef linked to an outbreak of E. coli illnesses. Omaha-based Nebraska Beef Ltd. recalled 531,707 pounds of ground beef produced since May. The extent of the local recall is unclear - the wires report that Ralphs markets in Silver Lake, Hollywood and Orange County were pulling meat. (KCBS)
Microsoft's new Yahoo run: This time, Microsoft is supposedly looking for a media partner(s) to help them go after Yahoo's search business. Discussions have been held with Time Warner, News Corp. and others, according to the WSJ, which has the story at the top of p1. But hold on, look at paragraph three: "Some of the people familiar with these talks say they are preliminary and unlikely to result in a deal with Yahoo." There’s a lot of head-scratching on why this story even exists. As DealBreaker correctly pleads, "Just end already! Seriously!"
Edison gets railed: A 16 percent rate hike request will do it every time, especially when gas is near five bucks a gallon. Edison customers griped about the request during a meeting in Compton, noting the executive bonuses and stock options being given to executives of the utility, a unit of Edison International. If approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, next year's rate increase would add more than $7 to the average residential monthly bill. From the LAT:
One of the most unusual provisions in the proposed increase calls for ratepayers to fork over $1.6 million to remodel Camp Edison, a public camping ground owned by the utility at Shaver Lake in the Sierra Nevada northeast of Fresno. Camp Edison boasts 252 campsites, wireless Internet service and laundry facilities. The utility plans an expansion and overhaul, which would include new bathrooms and an administrative building. In April, the utilities commission's consumer advocacy arm said less than one-fifth of Edison's rate hike request was justified. The Division of Ratepayer Advocates recommended a $156-million increase for 2009, or about 50 cents a month for the average home.
No condos at Beverly Center: A real estate company has agreed to drop plans for two high-rise residential towers that would have been part of the center's overhaul. The move came after two community groups sued the developer and the city of L.A. over the project. It's not often that developers lose these kinds of battles, especially these days, but the arguments against the high rises were overwhelming. From the LAT:
Laura Lake, a land-use consultant who advised Burton Way Foundation, said that few community challenges of development projects go to court and that, if they do, the community groups tend to lose once the cases go to trial. "This is a very unusual situation because it was so blatantly clear to the trial court" that the environmental impact report was required, she said. "It was a massive project with major impact."
Port update: Still no deal and quite a few issues to be resolved, but the dockworkers and shipping companies continue talking. News coming out of the talks has been so skillfully managed that there are few, if any, clues on where things really stand. And judging from the dearth of reporting, nobody is talking. The two sides could agree to extend the contract to continue talks, but there are no signs of that happening. And there's not been a strike authorization vote. (FT)