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.
August 2008

Assessing Gustav

Preparation for the quasi-hurricane is as much about politics as it is about prudence.

*Deciphering LAX strike

Lots of luck. This is yet another example of the pitiful coverage of organized labor by local media.

Wiretap convictions

Anthony Pellicano and attorney Terry Christensen were found guilty of conspiring to illegally wiretap the ex-wife of Kirk Kerkorian.

Friday morning headlines

Gas prices fall for 10th straight week, Valley home prices increase slightly, and Culver City blogger charged with felony.

McCain is picking who?

CNBC's John Harwood is reporting that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has only been in office a little over a year, will be John McCain's choice for Vice President. This would definitely be a talker. BTW, today is McCain's 72nd birthday....

Betting on Pawlenty

The Minnesota governor tops the list of Republican VP candidates over at Intrade, the current events futures market.

Lots of travel discounts

You can get some deals in Palm Springs, San Diego and Vegas over the next few weeks as hotels reduce room rates.

LAX workers on strike

Several hundred baggage handlers, security personnel and janitors walked off their jobs today.

Thursday morning headlines

Economy revised upward, pay-as-you-drive plan proposed, Mexico gears up on port, and local movie shooting is down.

Jurors get Pellicano case

The Hollywood detective and L.A. attorney Terry Christensen are being tried in connection with illegal wiretapping.

All about oil

Let's suppose gasoline prices hadn't soared a couple of months back. Would folks in Santa Barbara still want offshore drilling?

Wednesday morning headlines

IndyMac bill rises, Santa Barbara supes support oil drilling, Southwest cutting flights, and Vons trims double coupons.

Limited delays at LAX

A computer glitch at a Georgia facility that processes flight plans is creating all sorts of problems in the eastern half of the country.

Mattel only gets $100 million

That's what a Riverside jury just awarded the El Segundo toymaker in a copyright infringement case against MGA Entertainment over the Bratz franchise. It's way less than the nearly $2 billion that Mattel had been looking for - and much closer to the $30 million that the MGA attorneys had proposed. Damages were awarded for contract interference and copyright infringement. No punitive damages were ordered against MGA. Last month this same jury determined that the...

Hilton's secret wing

Who knew that the Hilton Garden Inn LAX is where the Bev Hills-based hotel company tests out its new ideas?

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. home prices keep dropping, gridlock concerns for Universal City, Ticketmaster does well in China, and MGM is not for sale.

Tipping point on gas?

The average price of unleaded regular is under $4 a gallon for the first time since the middle of May.

Mattel jury facing dilemma

How exactly should they assess damages in the copyright infringement case involving Bratz dolls?

Monday morning headlines

Stocks are off on financial worries, Merrill reassessing UA deal, higher electric rates being considered, and Wells isn't shopping.

Predicting mortgage crisis

A top FBI official said early on that the mortgage business was attracting a not-so-savory element. Nobody listened.

No Schumer probe

AG Jerry Brown has decided not to pursue claims by former IndyMac employees that the NY senator triggered a run on the thrift.

Thank goodness for TV

Folks might not be able to swing a new house or car, but they've got to buy something, right?

Friday morning headlines

Ban-on-texting bill moves on, gas prices could be headed up, Warner Bros. wants superheroes, and "Brangelina" scores at newsstand.

Oil takes off again

But what does it mean for me? Itís probably an end to those sharply lower gas prices. For a while. Maybe.

Debt woes at Univision

Sam Zell isn't the only guy who took on huge amounts of debt in pursuit of a big deal.

Thursday morning headlines

Mattel wants $2 billion, new day for Ticketmaster, LAX workers move closer to a strike, and American Apparel opens in China.

Kirk Kerkorian on stand

The Bev Hills billionaire testified in the trial of attorney Terry Christensen and Hollywood gumshoe Anthony Pellicano.

Remembering the MD-80

Today's crash in Madrid comes as the McDonnell Douglas-designed plane is being phased out by the airlines.

IndyMac's new loan plan

Borrowers most seriously delinquent on their loans will be able to adjust mortgage payments under a new plan.

The Velvet Hammer

That would be Julia Scott, the much-profiled CEO of Glendale-based DineEquity, which used to be known as IHOP.

Wednesday morning headlines

More worries about credit crisis, new revelations in Rocky case, ESPN goes after Olympics, and age-bias suit settled.

Where the home sales are

Of the top 10 ZIP codes ranked by number of transactions last month, six were in the Antelope Valley.

Betting on Obama's VP

Based on the latest trading action, there's a 43.5 percent chance that Joe Biden will get the nod. Nobody else is close.

To live and scam in OC

You learn a lot about how wild and crazy the mortgage business had become by examining the case of James Matthew Osborn.

Debate over Downey

Is the Newport Beach-based lender in trouble or not? Different analysts are interpreting the data in different ways.

'I suspect we're hated'

That's how John Quinn believes the legal world views his firm. He's exaggerating, but not by much.

Tuesday morning headlines

Stocks taking another hit, quieter Labor Day at airports, GM pulls out of Oscars, and big gains at

Down, down, down

The average price of regular in the L.A. area is $4.03 a gallon, which is 58 cents lower than its peak in mid-June.

Home sales picking up

The bottom feeders were out in force last month, with home sales throughout Socal jumping 13.8 percent from a year earlier.

Monday morning headlines

Union Bank parent is taken over, new rifts at SAG, Phelps gets huge ratings, and Wal-Mart phasing out most music.

Singleton pays to party

Dean Singleton really wants Denver to make a good impression at next week's Democratic National Convention.

More from the Olympics

Those friendly Beijing volunteers are next to useless when it comes to providing actual information.

Behind Dr. Doom

Nouriel Roubini still may not be a household name, but the NYU economist is getting there.

L.A. magazine tightens up

Emmis Communications is cutting salaries and some people, another sign of the times in the publishing biz.

Jobless rate skyrockets

L.A. County's unemployment rate in July was 7.5 percent, which compares with 4.9 percent a year earlier.

Friday morning headlines

Gas nearing $4 a gallon, Netflix back in action, MGM wants to keep Tom Cruise, and NBC won't air Phelps live.

Trump helps out McMahon

The Donald has agreed to buy Ed McMahon's Bev Hills house in whatís being described as "an act of benevolence."

Another drop at ports

July traffic at the Port of L.A. fell 2.54 percent from a year earlier, while the Port of Long Beach saw a 12.9 percent decline.

Miserable, not horrible

L.A. ranks 26th among all California counties in foreclosure notices. It could be worse - you can be living in Merced.

Big problem at Netflix

The company didn't ship out any DVDs either Tuesday or this morning and only about half the normal volume on Wednesday.

Thursday morning headlines

Inflation jumps in July, foreclosures still high in California, Greenspan expects relief early next year, and actors taking sides.

More Tribune numbers

A $3.8-billion accounting charge for goodwill is another way of saying that Tribune overpaid for Times Mirror in 2000.

Mervyns to close stores

As part of the chain's bankruptcy reorganization, 11 stores in California will be shuttered in the fall.

Shakeup at UA

Paula Wagner, who with longtime business partner Tom Cruise was supposed to revitalize United Artists, is calling it quits.

Tribune reports big loss

Within Tribune's publishing group, revenue dropped 10.6 percent - and classified-ad revenues plunged 26 percent.

Phelps live in L.A.?

NBC might go live nationwide in covering the swimmer's run for an eighth gold medal on Saturday night - if it gets that far.

Wednesday morning headlines

Auto doldrums depress economy, Longs sale may spur closings, new fraud claims against broker, and Chris Albrecht's early exit.

LAX losing more flights

Air India is dropping its three weekly round-trip flights, which is bad news for an airport that has been pushing overseas business.

Tuesday morning headlines

New predictions of a financial failure, California's underwater homes, Downey's bleeding stops, and more trouble for Ed McMahon.

Downtown is a dorky place

NY, SF and Chicago are grown up places where cabbies will pull over when you hail them. Try doing that in L.A.

New twist in tanker bid

This could just be posturing, but Boeing might not submit a new bid for the $35-billion contract, opening the door for Northrop.

Downside of cheaper gas

Higher oil prices can cause recessions, but lower oil prices will not spur recoveries. That requires a healthy economy.

Up close in Beijing

"Call me weak," says a WSJ reporter, "but sitting at the opening ceremonies in a pool of my own liquefied salt was a unique form of torture."

Monday morning headlines

Markets hold up despite Georgian fighting, DreamWorks honchos near deal with Indian company, and NBC scores in Beijing.

Oil is tumbling

At last check it was nearing $115 a barrel, which is down more than $4 on the day - and $32 from its peak.

Million-dollar vacation

Seven nights in a palacial suite, chauffeur-driven Maybach, private jet to Iran - any takers?

*Countrywide's 'win win'

Check out CNBC's August 2007 interview with Angelo Mozilo - the guy is practically tap-dancing in his chair.

Friday morning headlines

Oil and gas prices keep falling, deli packages keep shrinking, Mozilo inquiry gets stepped up, and ways to watch the Olympics online.

Billion-dollar Olympics

Overall ad sales have been dreadful, but the Beijing games are one of those grand events that prove to be the exception.

Nixing Caruso's Miramar

L.A.'s developer extraordinaire says he's ready to just sell the land he bought 19 months ago and call it a day.

Thursday morning headlines

Hospital scam uncovered, only so-so July retail sales, movie-going takes dip, and proposal to ban smoking on restaurant patios.

The Oilver Stone of oil

That would be Howell Raines, former executive editor of the NYT - and now a knuckleheaded conspiracy theorist.

A real, live homebuyer

As much as the so-called experts would like to paint the housing market with a broad brush, the reality is quite different.

FirstFed posts loss

FirstFed is struggling to work out all the bad loans it handed out - almost literally - a few years back.

Wednesday morning headlines

Stocks down in early trading, why Ontario is losing so many flights, and more conventions coming to L.A.

FirstFed all the time

The company's big problem: how to handle the raft of pay option mortgages, many of which are now going bad.

Many lives of Rick & Larry

That these two guys are still in charge - and still talking to each other - makes for one of L.A.'s longest-running acts.

Most expensive streets

These rankings are always a little suspect, but what's interesting is the evidence of global wealth.

Tuesday morning headlines

Stocks up strongly on lower oil prices, DirecTV may be a merger candidate, and TV tops newspapers in ad revenue.

Judge denies mistrial

A federal judge turned down MGA's motion for a mistrial in the Bratz case, despite a juror's reported ethnic slur.

Meruelo gets loan

The politically connected parking lot king has been struggling to finish up what would become downtown's tallest residential tower.

Gas: What a deal!

Maybe it's a bit early to roll out the SUVs and pick-ups, but pump prices continue their downward move. The government's latest numbers show that the average price of unleaded regular in L.A. is $4.221 a gallon, down from $4.339 last week. Prices have fallen by almost 40 cents a gallon over the last seven weeks (they are well under $4 a gallon in many parts of the U.S.). Actually, the numbers might be even...

Bratz trial returns

A federal judge will hear Bratz-maker MGA Entertainment lay out its motion for a mistrial in the case with Mattel.

This guy has no shame

How else do you describe a departing Countrywide executive who is using the company jet for a vacation to Africa?

Disneyland raises prices

Get outta here - $69 for a single-day adult ticket and $59 for kids? Remember when tickets were just a buck?

Young and out of work

The jobless rate for 16- and 17-year-old men rose to 29.4 percent, the highest since the government started counting in 1948.

Friday morning headlines

Jobs report is bad but not terrible, L.A. gas prices keep falling, movie production to resume, and Cher lists Malibu villa for $45 million.