Thursday morning headlines

Another slow opening: It's quiet out there - too quiet. The Dow is down about 50 points after two hours of trading.

AIG paybacks: Some of the executives making $1 million+ bonuses have agreed to return the money, including Douglas Poling, who received the richest payment – more than $6.4 million. All told, roughly 418 current and former employees from AIG's financial-products unit received bonus payments. The witch hunt has reached the point where the executives' lives have been threatened. (WSJ)

Buying on the cheap: WSJ reports that Bev Hills-based Platinum Equity is picking up the SD Union-Tribune for less than $50 million, while voiceofsandiego pegged the price at around $15 million, with Copley Press retaining a stake. In 2004, says the Journal, the paper's valuation was in the $1 billion range, based on cash flow that year of about $100 million. Real estate seems to be a bigger incentive than the paper itself. From the Journal:

In an interview, [David Black, owner of the Akron Beacon Journal and a string of Canadian papers and also is part of the buying group], said he is "a big believer in newspapers, as is Platinum Equity" and that the Union-Tribune's location, readership and Web site made it an attractive property. Mr. Black said he will have to cut costs to help offset the bleak newspaper revenue outlook. "In this case the paper hasn't had [cuts] as of the sale process and a whole lot of other papers have," Mr. Black said. "There's some catch-up there."

No action on billboards: L.A.'s Planning Commission is deadlocked on a series of proposals to overhaul the city's billboard law. Sounds like a lot of noise on which plan would result in the fewest number of ads. From the LAT:

Commissioner Mike Woo led the fight against the 151-page proposal, which would prohibit new digital billboards and most large-scale vinyl supergraphics on a citywide basis but allow them in up to 21 potential sign districts. Woo said the city needs more strict criteria before allowing such sign districts. "What people are going to see is a massive proliferation of signs in the city" if the ordinance goes unchanged, he said.

Identifying the uninsured: More than a quarter of construction workers lacked insurance for an entire year, according to a study that was conducted before the economy collapsed. Other professions with large percentages of uninsured include leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, transportation, utilities, and wholesale and retail trade. (LAT)

Movies nobody will see: Michigan offers some of the biggest incentives for producers - so much so that a portion of the costs are actually picked up by the state (and many of those releases are never picked up by distributors). Er, is there something wrong with that picture? From the NYT:

“What matters is that you maximize employment for residents in the state,” said Eric Witt, chief of staff to the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, who began an extensive incentive program in his state shortly after taking office in 2003. Still, the audience has something to say about the sustainability of incentives. “If you’re making shoes and nobody’s wearing them, it doesn’t create a brand,” said Mr. Witt, whose state has helped underwrite films as prominent as “Terminator Salvation,” a $200 million action epic set for release by Warner Brothers in May.

Developer sued: Eight buyers who put down deposits at downtown's Roosevelt Lofts (7th and Flower) allege that Milbank Real Estate misled them into believing more units had been sold than was actually the case. The lawsuit seeks damages. From Curbed L.A.:

Six of the plaintiffs who put down deposits in summer 2007 were told by sales staff that the development was 50 percent sold out. Those buyers were told they would be able to move in November 2007. Additionally, two buyers who put down deposits in December 2007 were told they could move in January 2008. The Roosevelt has seen no closings to date.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
Recent stories:
Letter from Down Under: Welcome to the Homogenocene
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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