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.
January 2009

*Enough with the bonuses

As with so many things involving Wall Street, the subject is a lot more nuanced than many folks might think.

Up close at 'Day to Day'

Layoffs are obviously a rare occurrence at NPR, which is why there was such surprise at the show's cancellation - and resulting layoffs.

'Bad bank' plan on hold?

The plan to take toxic assets out of regular banks and put them into a government-operated "bad bank" might not happen.

Friday morning headlines

Economy contracts less than expected, gas prices leveling off, no new drilling off Santa Barbara, and Queen Mary taken over.

Hollywood cuts back

NYT Co. had a terrible December - and a terrible 2008, for that matter - and entertainment advertising was especially weak.

Layoffs at ABC

Disney plans to cut 200 people from the network and freeze 200 vacant positions. That amounts to a 5 percent reduction.

*Thinking the unthinkable

Within the past week or so the mention of bank nationalization no longer provokes a look of disbelief. Itís in the air.

Buck up, California

Sure, it doesn't look great right now, but the Socal economy still has lots going for it. Really.

Thursday morning headlines

State would benefit from stimulus, SAG president sings the blues, JetBlue to start LAX service, and big bonuses on Wall Street.

Preparing for recovery

Not that we're anywhere close to a turnaround, but at some point it will happen. The question is what then?

More Boeing layoffs

No specifics on where the layoffs are coming from; the company still has a large Southern California workforce.

Wash Post kills Book World

The problem with blaming Sam Zell for practically everything that's wrong with the newspaper industry is that, well, it's not true.

Wednesday morning headlines

Obama nearing plan to buy bad assets, layoffs at Avery Dennison, movie incentives pay off in NY, and Dreamworks gets more financing.

Shootings and recession

Economic despair is fast becoming the catch-all explanation for murder-suicide. But there's often a lot more to the story.

Misery loves company

Hooray - California does not have the highest unemployment rate in the nation. That dubious honor goes to Michigan.

Thain is subpoenaed

NY AG Andrew Cuomo wants to know more about the bonuses that Merrill Lynch handed out on the eve of its merger with B of A.

Trying to measure foreclosures

L.A. County had a modest 5.9 percent increase in fourth-quarter mortgage default notices compared with a year earlier, but ...

Lessons from the Great D

And no, FDR did not turn the economy around, certainly not to the extent that many of us had been taught.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. home prices keep falling, local bank ordered to stop lending, SAG could be ready to deal, and Cal Worthington sings the blues.

Gas hike slows down

The average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is $2.07, up three-and-half cents from last week.

Open warfare at SAG

One day after the glittery awards ceremony a majority of the guild's board members moved to oust executive director Doug Allen.

*Why the media blew it

As in, why business reporters didn't recognize that a financial meltdown was fast approaching? Actually, there were lots of reasons.

Down times for downtown

Don't let those new restaurants popping up fool you - downtown's recent growth surge has hit a wall.

Monday morning headlines

Around 61,000 layoffs so far today, Thain will pay office costs, Expo stores to close, and Obama gets tough on emissions.

Hollywood a good investment?

Everything else has gotten to be such a mess that showbiz is considered relatively safe - or at least safer.

The garbage indicator

Much of the decline is due to folks eating fewer meals at home. Also, contractors are tossing away less drywall and lumber.

No layoffs at LAUSD

Well, for now anyway. Cortines warns warns that the nation's second-largest school district still faces difficult cuts.

Charo files for bankruptcy

The Eastside nonprofit has been an politically influential organization focused on job training and minority business development.

*Big jump in jobless rate

Itís a pretty bleak report, though not especially surprising. I mean, weíre in a terrible recession and this seems to be the worst of it.

Friday morning headlines

NBC profit off 6%, gas prices keep jacking up, Obama plan could help California big time, and fine dining in trouble.

Univision settles suit

The L.A.-based broadcast giant agrees to pay Televisa $25 million in disputed royalties, and Televisa agrees to keep providing telenovelas.

Cubs finally have deal

A group led by investment banker Tom Ricketts is buying the team for around $900 million.

Did Waters play favorites?

She appears to have been aware of efforts by a politically influential bank to get dispensation in the $700 billion bailout bill.

Merrill CEO gets heave-ho

He's the same guy who wanted a $10 million bonus even though the bank was on the verge of collapse before being acquired by B of A.

Thursday morning headlines

Big cuts at Microsoft, shenanigans at Merrill, monster sign company goes to court, and Oscar nominations are out (whoopee!!).

Snipes' passport gets yanked

The actor's overseas travel was restricted to London and Bangkok, so what on earth was he doing in Dubai?

Hilton leaves Bev Hills

Another Fortune 500 company bites the Southern California dust - not a big surprise after Blackstone acquired the hotel chain in 2006.

What's up with John Laing?

The Irvine-based homebuilder confirms a workforce reduction but offers no details on the status of several local projects.

About Inaugural costs

Too many people - reporters, pundits, bloggers, et al Ė havenít the first clue about many of the numbers they're writing about.

Wednesday morning headlines

How to deal with bank troubles, paying for the inaguration, lower traffic at LAX, and stadium-related financing approved.

Kitchen confidential

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who does guest appearances on "Top Chef," is a bit of a jerk, but he's not afraid to speak his mind.

Layoffs at Warner

The studios are hardly in real trouble, but at times like these it becomes hard to justify Hollywood's outrageous spending.

Big drop on Wall Street

Inauguration Days are typically tough on Wall Street, but this is ridiculous. Today could be one of the worst Inaugural sessions ever.

Stocks move lower

Not that many people are paying attention this morning, but the Dow is down more than 100 points in early trading.

Where will jobs be lost?

The L.A. area is projected to lose 164,000 jobs by the end of the year, the second-highest job loss in the nation after New York.

Inaugural overkill

Nothing against our new president, but a little proportionality is in order. I mean, arenít we in the worst economic mess since the 1930s?

No break on housing

Homes sales continue to skyrocket, many of them foreclosed properties in the Inland areas. Home prices continue to fall.

Tribune tries to stay intact

The plan is to restructure debt, hold onto the LAT, Chicago Tribune and other big assets, and maintain the employee-ownership structure.

Monday headlines

Jobless money drying up, bad times for gardeners, venture capital sinks in fourth quarter, and SAG's Allen still fighting.

Back to Plan A?

Paulson gave up on buying toxic assets in favor of investing directly in banks - and we've seen what a success that's been.

Prepare for more cuts

That's the word from Copley CEO Gene Bell, who says that interested buyers in the Union-Tribune aren't exactly storming into his office.

Crazy, ambitious lunatic

That's how Jeff Katzenberg describes Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who at one time thought videogames were a big waste of time.

Circuit City slow on uptake

The one-time consumer-electronics giant is about to be liquidated, but don't expect any information on the chain's Web site.

Friday morning headlines

Big losses for B of A and Citi, Circuit City likely to be liquidated, L.A. gas prices shoot up, and "Watchmen" dispute settled.

Rob Maguire did what?

The same guy who was thrown out as chairman and CEO last May has bought a bigger stake in the company - and he might buy more.

Doling out the cash

Every government official under the sun is eyeing all that moolah, including LAWA executive director Gina Marie Lindsey.

Tribune-Post deal not close

Apparently, the Post wants an outright service agreement while Tribune Co. would prefer some sort of partnership.

State of emergency

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says the $42 billion deficit is a "rock upon our chest and we cannot breathe until we get it off."

Thursday morning headlines

L.A. foreclosures jump 113% in 2008, Chase taking over WaMu branches, L.A. office rents to be slashed, and DreamWorks pays Paramount.

Apple stock nosedives

It's sinking fast in after-hours trading after the announcement by CEO Steve Jobs that he will be taking a medical leave of absence.

Jobs takes medical leave

The Apple CEO says his health issues are more complex than thought. He'll be on leave until June. "As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan. I look forward to seeing all of you this summer," Jobs says in his statement....

Actors home to close

Financial problems will result in the closing of the facility by year's end. About 100 patients will be relocated to area nursing homes.

Bad day for stocks

All the discouraging news misses a bigger point: Who in their right mind would want to buy stocks or bonds these days?

Shopless America

As bad as that 2.7 percent drop in December retail sales may look, the more detailed numbers are really discouraging.

La Mesa Grande

Unlikely as it might sound, McDonald's is introducing large communal tables to several of its U.S. locations, including one in Echo Park.

Wednesday morning headlines

Retail numbers worse than expected, port traffic way down in December, Gottschalks files Chapter 11, and SAG strike doubtful.

SAG's Allen stays

After a marathon 30-hour session, the national board of the Screen Actors Guild has adjourned with no action taken.

Yahoo star is born

Among Bartzís many tasks will be to figure out what to do with the companyís Santa Monica offices Ė and its Hollywood ambitions.

Film production dips

TV did much better, increasing 14.4 percent in the fourth quarter and 8.4 percent in 2008. The reality segment did especially well.

Waiting for SAG decision

At last check, the guild's national board was still meeting - and presumably still debating whether to fire executive director Doug Allen.

Citi-Morgan deal imminent

The merger of the two brokerage units is expected to be announced sometime after today's closing bell.

Tuesday morning headlines

SAG negotiator being pushed out, Madoff may be plea-bargaining, gas prices take big jump, and more CEOs getting the ax.

Odds for depression

The Intrade online prediction market puts the chances at 55 percent, which is up from around 20 percent right after the election.

Bank turns down money

Not that big a surprise - the new Congress is mulling over lots of restrictions on how the government money can be used.

Monday morning headlines

Citigroup overhaul nears, Madoff ruling due, "Slumdog" becomes Oscar favorite, and L.A. has a new slogan.

Parsing jobs report

Yes, the numbers are terrible, but they were supposed to have been terrible - and they will continue to be terrible for some time.

*Disney's price-cutting

The promotion runs between now and June 3, which is typically a slow time in the theme park business - likely to be even slower this year.

Madoff the clothes horse

He was a regular at a Palm Beach shop called Trillion, where you could spend $7,500 on a sports jacket.

Friday morning headlines

Still-higher gas prices, Krugman says Obama plan not enough, Katzenberg losses reportedly total $20 million, and better KB results (sort of).

More awful job news

Employers cut 524,000 jobs in December, bringing the 2008 total to 2.6 million. That's the largest yearly slide since 1945.

Katzenberg on Madoff

"This is extremely painful and humiliating for me,Ē he tells CNBC. "It has done extraordinary damage to my philanthropy."

IndyMac's bargain price

The $13.9 billion price tag suggests a huge discount on the failed Pasadena thrift's loans and securities.

Macy's closing a good thing?

The owner of the 7th & Fig shopping center figures that losing Macy's will be an opportunity to reposition the complex.

Madoff's exit strategy?

Investigators found 100 signed checks worth $173 million that apparently were ready to be sent to family members and friends

Tribune bonds: worthless

Those selling protection to Tribune investors will have to fork over $98.50 for every $100 of face value. Yowser!

Thursday morning headlines

Bratz sales approved, L.A. rents are falling, Grey re-ups at Paramount, and Northrop combines units.

Holiday sales were awful

Even sales at Wal-Mart, which had been holding up reasonably well because of its low prices, rose only 1.7 percent in December.

*Downtown Macy's to close

The 7th and Fig location, otherwise known as Ernst & Young Plaza, will be one of 11 underperforming stores to be shuttered.

Underwater rescue

An executive buys a house in Corona in 2006 and its value promptly falls by 50 percent. But his company is bailing him out.

Porn kings want bailout

Banks, automakers - hell, why not pornographers? Joe "Girls Gone Wild" Francis and Larry "Hustler" Flynt are asking Congress for $5 billion.

Redstone still outrageous

Somehow the guy still manages to come off as being even more obnoxious than last we remember. He insists that he'll live forever.

Good news for Register

The paper will resume a standalone business section four days a week - and it'll be renamed "Business" from the current "Marketplace."

Wednesday morning headlines

Stocks off on Intel news, why banks still aren't lending, Blue Shield reissues medical coverage, and Hollywood swag takes a holiday.

Caruso, mall owner settle

The case centers on alleged efforts by General Growth to prevent Cheesecake Factory from moving into the American at Brand center.

Ditching ties to Dreier

Entertainment lawyer Larry Stein is looking for ways to sever his connection with the NY attorney accused of bilking investors.

Budget talks collapse

An $18 billion package of tax increases and cuts being proposed by Democratic leaders appears headed for the dustbin.

Something new to worry about

The subject is earthquakes - specifically a 7.8-magnitude shaker - and how it would further devastate the housing market.

Suicide watch

Any prominent executive who takes his own life is getting lots of attention. Today, there are two such stories.

Building is 'just sitting there'

A lending bank tried auctioning the Marina property for $44 million, but there were no takers. So the unfinished place is gathering dust.

Tuesday morning headlines

Oil and gas are back up, Madoff trustee finds $830 million, new name for IndyMac, and home video business takes hit.

TV Guide switcheroo

Lions Gate is now getting the cable channel of TV listings, along with TV Guide Online, for $255 million.

Modify that loan?

Citigroup offered to modify the loan terms for an OC subprimer named Daniel Sadek. But Sadek failed to make the new payments.

*More reasons to hate Madoff

An office manager in the firm's London office is so ticked off that she's decided to yap about Bernie's spending habits.

Meg Whitman for governor?

Her candidacy would not be a big surprise - it's been the talk of Republican insiders for weeks.

Another biz goes bust

This time it's the breast implant business. One NY plastic surgeon saw his practice take an 18 percent dip in October.

Monday morning headlines

Jobs explains weight loss, box office was solid in 2008, feds investigated Madoff many times, and no more public access channels.

IndyMac deal gets done

The FDIC will be selling the failed Pasadena bank to an investment group for $13.9 billion. No details on what's in store.