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.
April 2009

Mozilo on trial?

The state of Florida has charged the former Countrywide CEO with engaging in deceptive and unfair trade practices - and he may have to go to court.

Twitter quitters

Diehards got all hot and bothered when Nielsen found a huge attrition rate after only a month. So Nielsen reran the numbers and guess what happened?

Suicide and email

A Washington, D.C. attorney who was about to lose his job apparently shot himself in the head with a .38-caliber handgun. An email bounceback hints at his fate.

CA growth slows

The 1.1 percent increase last year was about the same growth rate as in 2007. The worsening economy is clearly at play.

Thursday morning headlines

Unraveling the Chrysler mess, judge blocks part of ports program, Virgin comes to OC, and Disney joining Hulu.

Chrysler to file Chapter 11

Talks with a small group of creditors broke off last night. The automaker will keep operating and a restrucutring plan in the works for some weeks will move forward.

Ken Lewis tossed out

He stays on as Bank of America CEO, but shareholders narrowly voted to split the chairman and CEO posts.

Fortune 500's local angle

As usual, the top of the list is pretty thin - only three L.A. County companies (Disney, Northrop and Occidental Petroleum) made the top 100.

Obama on tough choices

I realize we're being bombarded with "First 100 Days" overviews and underviews and overlays. But there is at least one Obama piece really worth checking out.

Wednesday morning headlines

GDP numbers good for Wall Street, cruise lines stop docking in Mexico, the demise of all-news KFWB, and Socal still leads the nation in pollution.

GDP takes tumble

The 6.1 percent first-quarter decline was worse than expected (4.7 percent had been the consensus). Also, it was the third straight quarter of contraction.

Burkle firm files Chapter 11

Source Interlink, the publisher of Motor Trend, Hot Rod and several dozen other titles, is seeking bankruptcy protection.

Chrysler avoids bankruptcy?

Under a preliminary agreement, banks and other unsecured creditors would excuse about $7 billion in debt in exchange for $2 billion in cash.

Tuesday morning headlines

Bratz maker in receivership, L.A. home prices keep falling, local commuting time is down, and some William Morris and Endeavor agents start to scurry.

Biz journalists take rap

Plenty of stories were written about the looming disaster. It's just that nobody paid attention. People believed what they wanted to believe.

Agency deal is done

William Morris and Endeavor are now one - a new entity called WME Entertainment that is certain to shake up the talent agency business.

LAT circulation: 723,181

That's for the six-month period ended March 31, a 6.5 percent decline from the like period a year earlier. It's also down from a peak of 1.2 million in 1991.

Monday morning headlines

Lots of scrubbing at LAX, no more Pontiac, Countrywide or Portfolio, and next phase for Newhall Land.

Agency merger nears

A couple of news organizations are reporting that the William Morris/Endeavor deal, in the works for months, finally will be announced early this week.

Dole case dismissed

A Superior Court Judge has ruled that Nicaraguan attorneys recruited fraudulent plaintiffs, allegedly coaxing them to fabricate their work histories.

Kickback case goes L.A.

A NY private equity firm apparently did not disclose that it paid fees to an indicted political adviser who helped arrange an investment from a local pensions board.

Exhaling in Burbank

Jay Leno will be off again tonight, but NBC says that the late-night host will return on Monday. Network honchos have a lot riding on this one guy.

Friday morning headlines

Freeway construction without funding, greenhouse gas regulations approved, JetBlue to stay in Long Beach, and "Soloist" gets mixed reviews.

State sues Wells Fargo

The SF-based banking giant is accused of misleading investors by selling them $1.5 billion worth of auction-rate securities that it claimed were as safe as cash.

Chrysler bankruptcy readied

Still unclear is what happens to Chrysler's lenders, who hold $6.9 billion in company debt. The government's proposed deal would give them 22 cents on the dollar.

Thursday morning headlines

B of A's Ken Lewis was told to keep quiet, MySpace founders step down, California bond sale revives infrastructure projects, and LAX traffic nosedives.

*US News law school list

No offense, but is there any other time of the year when people pay attention to this magazine? UCLA ties for #15, USC is all alone at #18, and Pepperdine ties for #55.

Variety ads way down

Publisher Neil Stiles cites the writers strike, the credit crunch, and fewer "For Your Consideration" ads because "Slumdog Millionaire" was such a prohibitive favorite.

MySpace shakeup?

Nothing has been announced, but the Web is filling up with heavy speculation that the two founders of the social networking site could be out the door - soon.

More folks stay put

New Census data shows fewer Americans moving in 2008 than in any year since 1962. Also, immigration from overseas was the lowest in more than a decade.

L.A. defaults jump 38%

A total of 27,981 mortgages default notices were filed in Los Angeles County during the first quarter, according to Dataquick, up from 20,339 a year earlier.

Wednesday morning headlines

California cities heavy with foreclosures, Fresh & Easy keeps losing money, Hilton alleged to have taken Starwood documents, and Hollywood comes to Washington.

Love those CA bonds

High yields - at least by today's standards - explain why big investors are ready to pounce on the state's $4 billion offering.

'The Economy, Explained'

KCRW has posted "Planet Money: The Economy, Explained," the live performance by Alex Blumberg of "This American Life" and Adam Davidson of NPR.

McCourt moves business

The Dodgers owner plans to complete the city entitlement process for a proposed $500-million makeover of Dodger Stadium that could begin at the end of the season.

List of Starbucks closures

As expected, California locations got hit hard - 76 stores will be closed in the state as part of the chain's latest cost-cutting effort.

Tuesday morning headlines

Stocks still weak, Broadcom bids for Emulex, carmakers bypassing 2nd Street Tunnel, and NYT Co. reports loss.

Warner estate a short sale

After two price reductions, Harry Warner's 14-room Georgian Colonial-style house in Hancock Park is back on the market - priced at $3.675 million.

*On the Pulitzers

So where was the award for coverage of the financial collapse? Given the depths of last year's crisis, it's interesting that no one made the grade.

Wall Street pushback

An industry isn't entirely made up of bad people. It's just that working on Wall Street these days is akin to being an American Muslim right after 9/11.

Monday morning headlines

B of A beats forecasts, commercial real estate hits the skids, L.A. venture funding slips, and will SAG members ratify contract?

SAG board approves deal

Yeah, but it was pretty close - only 53 percent voted in favor of the two-year deal, which shows how precarious a toe hold the moderate faction has on the guild's board.

Actors reach deal

The proposed two-year contract is expected to be voted on by the Screen Actors Guild's 71-member national board on Sunday.

L.A. jobless rate: 11.4%

The March number for L.A. County is up from a revised 10.8 percent in February - and it's even higher than during the peak of the recession in the 1990s.

CA unemployment jumps

The jobless rate last month was 11.2 percent, which is up from 10.6 percent in February. Only Michigan, Oregon and South Carolina have higher rates.

What about it, Krugman?

NYT columnist Paul Krugman remains convinced that the "green shoots" of recovery are less than meets the eye. He's especially suspicious about bank earnings.

Friday morning headlines

Citi delivers decent news, 21st Century and Farmers to do business separately, studios deal with YouTube, and wider loss at Mattel.

Diller tries patience

The chairman of Internet mish-mash IAC doesn't believe we've reached bottom, which means that potential acquisitions are likely to keep falling in value. Why buy now?

Actions speak louder...

Best Buy's reorganization means that 1,000 salaried assistant store managers will be cut and 8,000 senior associates will receive pay cuts. Ring a bell?

NYT cuts sections

Compared with the bludgeoning that the LAT has taken, these trims seem pretty minimal. Still, they point up the industry's woes.

Thursday morning headlines

Sale nears for 21st Century, foreclosures jump in California, Glendale Galleria owner files for bankruptcy, and more questions for OC money manager Danny Pang.

Zell considers options

The Tribune CEO tells Bloomberg Television that the company is looking at all options. Translation: Everything, including the LAT, is on the table.

Danny Pang unhinged

He's accused of lying on his resume, running a Ponzi scheme, and stealing $3 million - and his wife was murdered after telling police that he had threatened to kill her.

Is housing market turning?

It's probably too early to know, but the March median home price in L.A. County was actually up $10,000 from the previous month, to an even 300K.

Wednesday morning headlines

Last-minute filers on tax day, state and local sales tax revenues fall sharply, banks ramp up foreclosures, and ripple effects from LAX downturn.

Jackson auction halted

Looks like the weird collection of items from the Neverland estate will remain with the singer, though the explanation is predictably unclear.

Be careful with stats

The Hollywood economy is way more complicated than any other L.A. industry and an isolated number can sometimes distort the picture.

Port activity improves

It's potentially a very big deal if more merchandise coming into San Pedro gets snapped up at Target or wherever.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. location shooting takes a big hit, Guess founder running for governor, gasoline prices keep going up, and Boston station to air Leno.

Those tricky insurers

Blue Cross is sending its members a check for what it deems fair payment to an out-of-network provider. That leaves the hospital having to get the patient to turn over the check or wind up with zilch.

Hanging tough

Companies that don't cut back during a recession tend to do better once the economy improves than companies that slash costs.

Nazarian home for sale

The Hollywood nightclub owner has his Oriole Drive property on the market for $18.9 million. Neighbors include Leo DiCaprio and Keanu Reeves.

Monday morning headlines

GM told to prepare for bankruptcy, new warnings on banks, questions about viability of downtown office tower, and Oprah gets new digs.

Tribune subpoenaed on ESOP

The parent company of the LAT has provided the Labor Department with an "extensive range of documents" in connection with its employee stock ownership plan.

Local publishers eye Arizona?

Interested parties in Culver City and Santa Monica appear to be negotiating with Gannett for the purchase of the Tucson Citizen.

Friday morning headlines

Differing views of market rally, outcry over LAT ad, big jump in gas prices, and celebrities who don't pay their taxes.

Toilet flush mystery

Inquiring minds need to know: Was CNBC making an editorial comment in the middle of its feed to the Economic Club in Washington?

Eddy to address troops?

LAT Publisher Eddy Hartenstein is not exactly known for public comments, but he might want to make an exception considering the firestorm he's caused.

Long wait for job recovery

Try the second half of next year - that's the expectation of most economists surveyed by the WSJ.

Thursday morning headlines

Wells expects strong quarter, banks passing "stress tests," VCs becoming more hopeful, and lawmaker pushing for C-17.

L.A.'s top restaurant

When it comes to annual sales, the winner is Gladstone's - as usual. The beachside eatery generated $14.1 million last year and served an estimated 575,000 meals (many of them eaten by out-of-towners who didn't know any better). This is the same Gladstone's that got reamed last year by the LAT's Leslie Brenner, who called the food "abominable" and absurdly expensive. Dinner for five? I almost fall out of my chair when I get the...

Shakeup at B of A?

More rumors about Ken Lewis resigning as CEO of Bank of America and being replaced by Brian Moynihan, now in charge of the Merrill Lynch operations.

Wednesday morning headlines

L.A. rental prices are falling, homebuilder deal boosts KB stock, California gets jobless aid, and SF hotel rooms too much of a bargain.

Bart says his news is dull

Variety's longtime editor-in-chief says his new job is "not a very sexy story," which might be news to Hollywood's chattering classes.

Miramar rehab is revived

Developer Rick Caruso has reached a settlement with the neighbors of the historic Montecito property, clearing the way for a major overhaul.

MySpace is not private

When will social networkers learn that they can't just post whatever they want and not expect some pushback?

Tuesday morning headlines

Obama-led optimism, defense cuts could hit Long Beach, new downtown skyscraper is considered, and another California bond offering.

Stanford cries in interview

The flamboyant financier under investigation by all kinds of agencies also threatened to punch ABC's Brian Ross in the mouth!

AP declares war

The Associated Press said today it will take legal action against Web sites that use news stories without permission.

Monday morning headlines

SAG could be close to a deal, Peter Bart steps down, "Sportscenter" debuts in L.A., and Ruth Madoff is still shopping.

Disney cutbacks

Around 1,900 jobs are being eliminated in the theme park division, even amid cautious optimism that Americans will start taking vacations again this summer,

Mystery of 'X-Men'

A leaked copy of the upcoming summer blockbuster, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" has been traced to a month-old digital working print.

Ticketmaster gets subpoenas

Four government agencies in the U.S. and Canada, including the Justice Department, are investigating the West Hollywood company's activities in reselling concert tickets.

Chick to overee stimulus

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to name the L.A City Controller as inspector general.

More law layoffs in store?

"I don't think anybody knew how bad or how long it would be until the fourth quarter last year," said one consultant.

Irani, Iger raking it in

Compensation numbers typically get a good going over, but this year the scrutiny is likely to be even more intense, what with the Wall Street bonuses.

Friday morning headlines

More tumult on tanker deal, lenders let MediaNews forgo payment, layoffs at 21st Century, and Pasadena opens convention center.

Grand Wilshire excitement

Demolition of the Wilshire Grand, which Korean Air has owned for many years, is set for 2011. At which point the credit markets will almost certainly have loosened up.

Jobs report as expected

Another 633,000 American jobs were lost last month and the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent from 8.1 percent the previous month.

THQ up 11.25%!

The videogame company has just completed $220 million worth of cost cutting, which is one reason for the encouraging news.

Almost 8000

Bank stocks were up strongly after the Financial Accounting Standards Board voted to allow companies more leeway in valuing mortgage-backed securities.

Thursday morning headlines

Dow tops 8000, New Century liquidator blames KPMG, movie stars get squeezed, and JetBlue down on Long Beach.

Improving car sales?

Perhaps it's a small sign that the bottom might be near (don't underestimate the power of the market upswing in getting folks to feel better about their financial situation).

Dr. Doom relents

Economist Nouriel Roubini, the guy who has been scarily prescient about the recession, says that the just-completed first quarter will be the worst of it.

Actors deal on commercials

The new deal contains a more than $36 million increase in wage rates and other payments, according to SAG AFTRA.

Wednesday morning headlines

Big job drop in March, crime stats defy recession, state sales tax goes up, and more news at KTLA.