Countrywide put to bed: Bank of America, which acquired the Calabasas-based mortgage company, will be phasing out one of the most toxic names in banking. Starting April 27, the mortgage unit will be rebranded as Bank of America Home Loans. From the WSJ:
Hailed during the real-estate boom for its innovation and dominant market share, Countrywide became a symbol of the industry's loose lending practices, aggressive salesmanship and risky mortgages once the housing market collapsed in 2007. Bank of America purchased the business in July 2008 for $4 billion, installed its own leadership team and announced plans for 7,500 job cuts over two years. The name change allows Bank of America to separate itself from Countrywide's reputation. The company hopes the new brand will simplify its relationship with customers while also emphasizing that Bank of America is a "responsible lender" and "accountable" for sustained homeownership, said Barbara Desoer, the executive in charge of the business.
Recession hits supermarkets: Albertsons will shut nine stores between now and April 9, Ralphs is demoting more than 150 meat cutters to clerks (slashing their pay by more than a third), and Vons has fired 97 workers this year. (LAT)
Shakeup at Disney: An unspecified number of workers will be laid off as the U.S. theme park operations are restructured. The latest job cuts follow Disney's offer of voluntary buyout packages to 600 executives in the parks division. Revenue and attendance were off in the latest quarter. (AP)
Port activity still down: January shipments through the Port of L.A. fell 10 percent from a year earlier, while the Port of Long Beach saw a 23 percent drop (the lowest level in five years). (LABJ)
New LAX service: Low-fare Allegiant Air will begin flying from L.A. to a bunch of small cities. Service starts on May 1 with nonstop flights to Medford, Ore. Other destinations that will be added in May include Billings, Mont.; Des Moines, Iowa; Fargo, N.D.; and Grand Junction, Colo. From the LAT:
Though little-known, the carrier is one of the nation's most profitable and has been expanding while most other airlines have been retrenching because of the recession. "We're not a known brand in L.A., but we're well known in places like Fargo and Bellingham [Wash.]," said Tyri Squyres, spokeswoman for the airline. Allegiant also has one of the more unusual business plans. It provides inexpensive air service to leisure travelers typically from smaller communities in the nation's colder regions flying to Sun Belt destinations such as Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix; and Las Vegas.
Earl Scheib is sold: Kelly Capital, a San Diego private equity fund, will acquire the Sherman Oaks-based chain of auto paint and collision repair shops in a deal valued at $8 million. Here's how bad things had gotten for Scheib: the $2 per share in cash deal is a 567 percent premium to the 30 cents per share closing price Wednesday. (LABJ)
Playboy looking around: In the wake of a big fourth-quarter loss, the Chicago-based company (with a large L.A. presence) will consider an outright sale or a reorganization. Any deal would need the support of 82-year-old Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who holds a controlling stake. (Chicago Tribune)