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.
November 2008

Sizing up holiday sales

Well, how many ways can you say yuck? This could be the worst season in many decades.

Closing in on New Century

Stock sales made by executives of the now-defunct OC mortgage lender are at the center of a criminal investigation.

Zell unplugged

The Tribune CEO lays out his mostly unflattering view of journalists - and he's right about a lot of stuff.

Tuesday morning headlines

Gas prices keep falling, corporate donations start shrinking, and TV sets are on more than ever.

Striking for a few pennies?

Sad to say, that's what the current impasse between the Screen Actors Guild and the media companies amounts to.

Countrywide's switcheroo

Ever wonder why the Calabasas-based mortgage lender, now part of Bank of America, was pretty much left alone by federal regulators?

Citi gets reprieve

With the stock still only trading at around $5.50 a share, the big question is how sustainable that upturn will be.

Citi, feds working on deal

They're talking about the creation of a "bad bank" that would carry Citigroup's riskiest, most toxic assets.

Strike? Now?

This is not a great time to walk off your job, but does that mean much to the 80,000 SAG members who barely make any money as actors?

RIP - Downey, PFF

The new owner is Minneapolis-based US Bancorp, which suddenly becomes a much bigger player in California and Arizona.

Two words: Retail liquidators

Forget plastics, the real action these days is arranging going-out-of-business sales.

Rags to riches to rags

Louis Verdad was one of L.A.'s hottest designers, but he had little idea of how to run a business.

Obama picks for Treasury

NY Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner will be nominated for the post, according to several news reports.

Jobless rate climbs

L.A. County unemployment in October was at its highest level level in more than 12 years.

Friday morning headlines

Gas prices are way down, DVD sales are sliding, Kaiser gets four-star rating, and no progress in SAG talks.

Citigroup considers sale

WSJ reports that Citigroup executive are looking into the possibility of selling the financial giant or auctioning off pieces.

Roubini told us so

The NYU professor has predicted with confounding accuracy that the markets will keep going down.

Stocks get battered

Markets went south after it became clear that a possible deal to bail out the automakers was not imminent.

California's eHarmony case

A Superior Court judge has granted a plaintiffs' motion to certify a class to seek damages against the Pasadena dating service.

New bailout for stocks?

Word of a possible compromise that would bail out Detroit's Big Three has the stock market moving back up.

Outrageous fortunes

The next time you're brave enough to open your brokerage statement, think about Angelo Mozilo, Bruce Karatz and Chad Dreier.

Thursday morning headlines

Oil falls below $50, IATSE cuts three-year deal, slip in MTA and Metrolink ridership, and workers paying more for deductibles.

Stocks keep falling

The Dow is down more than 150 points in the first 30 minutes of trading. I suppose it could be worse - but it's early....

More LA Live debuts

Downtown's retail/entertainment complex is set to open a bunch of restaurants throughout December.

Disney bets on Imax

The Mouse House will be releasing five movies in the super-sharp format, starting with "A Christmas Carol."

Dow slips below 8000

Guess Wall Street is signing onto the warnings being delivered by U.S. automakers.

Bankruptcy not an option

So says GM CEO Rick Wagoner who told lawmakers today that there would be no choice but to liquidate.

eHarmony for same sex

The Pasadena online dating service has reached a settlement with the New Jersey AG's Office over a discrimination lawsuit.

All those unsold cars

Thousands of Toyotas, Nissans and Mercedes are sitting at the Port of Long Beach with no place to go.

How piggish can you get?

It's bad enough when you profit on other people's misery. But flaunting that success brings you into a whole different league.

Wednesday morning headlines

Living is lots cheaper, holiday air travel expected to tumble, MOCA in financial trouble, and auto show opens amid gloomy times.

Broad museum proposed

The L.A. billionaire is looking at a Bev Hills location to display works from his charitable foundation and personal collection.

Port traffic declines

Exports have been one of the few bright spots for L.A.'s economy, but the October numbers point to a global downturn.

Sales up, prices down

L.A. County homes sales jumped 52.6 percent in October from a year earlier, but the median price fell 29 percent, to $355,000.

Tuesday morning headlines

Car talk on Capitol Hill, Countrywide loans not easy to modify, Steve & Barry's to close, and Rose Bowl may move to cable.

Gas falls another 21 cents

Gas hasn't been cheaper since Nov. 6, 2006. But is that such a good thing?

Yang to step down

Among the potential candidates: News Corp. COO Peter Chernin, former AOL head Jon Miller, and formereBay CEO Meg Whitman,

NYT folds Play

The paper's Sunday sports magazine had been scheduled to come out four times in 2009, but then came the worsening ad climate.

Subprime mystery solved

Conservative pundits desperate to shift blame for the mortgage mess away from those "greed is good" types have been sinking their teeth into the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977. Their claim is that banks were forced to make bad loans, leading to financial Armageddon. The only trouble is that it's not true - and now the OC Register has quantified it. A Register analysis of more than 12 million subprime mortgages worth nearly $2 trillion...

Monday morning headlines

Japan slips into recession, Grand Avenue project faces more delays, new look for LAX, and Sam Nazarian gets into hotel biz.

Nicholas unloads in email

The former Broadcom CEO and co-founder admitted that he did really bad stuff, felt like a liar and was not fully functioning.

Local banks get federal aid

East West Bancorp, Nara Bancorp and Broadway Financial are all receiving capital infusions from the Treasury Department.

NYT does Santa Barbara

The paper's pre-printed Sunday travel section features a profile of Santa Barbara.

Accountability needed

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson needs to offer assurance that he has the crisis under control, but he really doesnít.

Fashion mags get socked

Major ad categories have been pummeled, such as pharmaceutical, auto, technology and beauty.

Friday morning headlines

Retail sales plunge in October, gas prices near two-year low, and Century City expansion and billboard moratorium move to Council.

Somebody is buying!

U.S. sales of software totaled just under $700 million in October - up 35 percent from a year earlier.

Big 'get' for '60 Minutes'

Steve Croft has landed the first post-election interview of President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle for this coming Sunday.

MGM Mirage CEO resigns

Terrence Lanni's decision to step down just happened to coincide with the WSJ checking into his academic credentials.

Now, cut that out!

Remember a couple of hours ago the Dow had fallen under 8000? Well, it sort of recovered.

Layoffs at Trib

The one-time World's Greatest Newspaper has handed out pink slips to several folks in the Washington bureau.

Next year's recovery?

A WSJ survey suggests a downturn on par with the 1990 recession, but not the levels seen in the early 1980s or 1970s.

Dow drops below 8000

For a few minutes anyway. It's now back over the 8000 mark, barely. From David Gaffen at MarketBeat: Since its all-time closing high of 14164.53 on October 9, 2007, the index is off by more than 41%, and several components have fallen into the single digits, the latest being Alcoa, which was at $9.86 a share recently. A handful of the names in the 30-stock average are one way or another, on the public dole,...

Foreclosures fall in L.A.

They were down 10 percent in October from the previous month, but the drop might not be all that significant.

Thursday morning headlines

Global pullback for 2009, California foreclosures fall, Schwarzenegger seeks federal help (Villaraigosa too), and Barry Minkow resurfaces.

Calpers takes big hit

The nation's largest public pension fund has seen the value of its land and housing projects fall by more than $3 billion.

Macy's struggles out West

As a result of the weak market, the department store chain is delaying store openings and canceling other projects.

Giving Paulson a break

The Treasury Secretary has given up on the controversial plan to purchase toxic mortgage assets from banks.

Oil nearing $57

Prices had been stabilizing in the $60-$70 range, but there are new worries about weaker demand.

Wednesday morning headlines

Best Buy slashes outlook, GM pulls back from L.A. car show, Downey stock down to 50 cents, and another Dov Charney lawsuit.

End of Steve & Barry's?

Just a couple of months ago the company seemed to have a reorganization plan. But that may be falling apart.

No posting today

I'll be on assignment and away from my computer. Back later on. This morning's business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian includes a look at local layoffs and the reason California foreclosures have fallen. Also available at and on podcast....

Strains starting to show

This is not the news we were hoping to hear - and yet it's perfectly predictable. From Tuesday's WSJ: The U.S. government's financial-system rescue plans are coming under pressure as a growing array of distressed companies signal the need for assistance. On Monday, mortgage giant Fannie Mae said it is losing money so rapidly it may need a cash infusion from the Treasury Department by year's end. The company lost $29 billion in the third...

No end to job losses

Chapman University's leading employment indicator index fell for the 10th consecutive quarter.

Tribune's $122 million loss

The parent company of the LAT reported a 19 percent drop in ad revenue at its publishing division.

Lyon in serious condition

The OC homebuilder was speaking at a charity luncheon when his knees buckled and he fell to the floor.

Truffle market crashes

Shelling out $30,000 for a single tuber might seem like a lot, but itís peanuts compared with last year's record bid of $330,000.

Monday morning headlines

Circuit City files Chapter 11, DHL pulls back U.S. operations, L.A. homes prices fall in October, and Socal radio taking an advertising hit.

The real Sec Pac

News about the tiny institution being seized by regulators brings back memories of the old Security Pacific Bank.

Movies for bad times

Thereís a lot of schedule rejiggering for the holidays - and the watchword is entertainment, not seriousness.

Dow up 248

This is why it's often foolhardy to link the real world with the Wall Street world.

Have foreclosures peaked?

Clearly, part of the drop-off is due to a new state law that requires better notification, but this is no longer just a subprime problem.

Friday morning headlines

Stocks higher despite bad news, gas prices keep falling, layoffs at Mattel, and Zell having trouble with Cubs sale.

Caruso not running

The billionaire developer just announced that he will not be a candidate in next year's mayoral campaign.

Dismal jobs report

A total of 240,000 jobs were cut in October and the revised losses in September total 240,000 - nearly twice as many as initially reported.

*Big protest in Westwood

This is the latest in a series of demonstrations over Tuesday's passage of Proposition 8, the initiative that bans same-sex marriage.

Ugly quarter at Disney

The Mouse House reported a 13 percent drop in fourth-quarter net income. EPS was well under the average estimate by analysts.

Stocks beaten up

The Dow is down more than 400 points - coming on top of a nearly 500-point drop on Wednesday.

10.25% sales tax?

That's what we're talking about for L.A. County if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to increase the state sales tax gets through.

Your city at work

Just when you think the L.A. bureaucracy couldn't become more inept and slothful, along comes another outrage.

Ventura Star layoffs

We'll probably see more post-election firings in the next few days as the LAT eliminates a bunch of Washington positions.

Thursday morning headlines

Retail sales plunge, egg prices unlikely to rise, vote on Bev Hills hotel too close to call, and low expectations at News Corp.

The Wasilla Hillbillies

Newsweek reports that McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy.

Moratorium on foreclosures?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants a special session of the Legislature to consider a 90-day ban.

Investing in Whole Foods

An affiliate of L.A.-based Leonard Green Partners has bought a 17 percent stake in the Texas-based company for $425 million.

Murdoch's soap opera

Vanity Fair runs another excerpt from Michael Wolff's biography of the media mogul, this time focusing on his involvement with Wendi.

Post-election plunge

Still a couple of minutes before the close and the Dow is down more than 500 points.

Wednesday morning headlines

Why stocks are back down, ABC leads election coverage, L.A. office market could weaken, and mortgage scam alleged.

Gay marriage overturned

With 95 percent of the precincts reporting, the vote to ban same-sex marriage is 52.1 percent for and 47.9 percent against.

Reality returns

The Dow is down more than 150 points in early trading as investors cash in on their gains from Tuesday's 300-point rally.

L.A. voting at record pace

Of the county's 4.3 million registered voters, 48.5 percent had cast ballots by 2 p.m.

Best line of day

Exit poll data: We love it, we hate it, we love it, we hate it, we love it, we hate it...

Election Day bounce

Are stocks trying to tell us something? The Dow was up 305 points today, the largest Election Day rally in 24 years.

No more political ads?

The Mouse House comes out with earnings on Thursday that could reflect the weak TV station market.

Late on $105 million

The borrower is the U.S. arm of a large Mexican real estate developer that bought Socal office buildings from Arden Realty.

Election Day headlines

Stocks up sharply, networks might call race early, gripes over how government doles out money, and no holiday party at Viacom.

Big downtown lease deal

Houston-based Hines and Union Bank of California have come to terms on the space at Union Bank Plaza.

L.A. gas at $2.85

That's the average price of self-serve regular, a drop of 35 cents per gallon in a single week and 38 cents lower than a year ago.

Bad news for book biz

"Never in all of the years I've been in business have I seen a worse outlook for the economy," says Barnes & Noble Chairman Leonard Riggio.

Grim car sales

Accounting for population growth, GM had the worst month of the post-World War II period.

Latest Intrade odds

McCain is now given only a 10 percent chance of an upset victory, according to the online prediction market.

Monday morning headlines

Circuit City closing 155 stores, Redstone considers ways of handling debt, Caruso urged to enter race, and Trump project loses financing.