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.
May 2009

At the Pinkberry house

The 3,000-square-foot Malibu home looks a little like the store, with clean lines and clear glass and white, glossy surfaces.

CA bill coming due

Judgment day comes July 29, when the state won't have enough cash needed to meet its payment obligations.

*GM stock: 88 cents

First time in 76 years (April 18, 1933 to be exact) that the price fell below a buck a share. Ever think you would see this? Bankruptcy filing is expected on Monday. *GM finishes the day at 75 cents a share....

Friday morning headlines

GDP revised upward (a bit), Madoff victims want tax relief, GM bankruptcy filing expected Monday, and Blue Shield wins ruling.

Another Fortune 500 loss

DaVita, which has been based in El Segundo and operates kidney dialysis clinics in 43 states, will be moving its corporate headquarters to Denver.

Thursday morning headlines

Council to vote on replacing Hollywood Park, Time Warner OKs AOL spinoff, Valley home prices inch up, and Toys 'R' Us buys F.A.O. Schwarz.

Meet a GM bondholder

Dennis Buchholtz is a retired trade worker from Warren, Mich. He purchased GM bonds in 2005, and with the automaker on the verge of filing for Chapter 11, he's in trouble.

CA gets good news!

The state is no longer the nation's worst housing market. April pricing data shows that Nevada is the worse off, with annualized losses of 25 percent,

Mom's view of Twitter

Even Kara Swisher, impresario of the All Things Digital Web network, has a mother who doesn't know what to make of the hot social networking site.

Wednesday morning headlines

GM bankruptcy could be days away, Schwarzenegger releases hit list, another big jump in local gas prices, and "Idol" results may have been skewed.

NYT public editor under fire

Lots of Web chatter this morning about Clark Hoyt's comments in his NYT public editor column concerning the financial affairs of economics reporter Edmund Andrews.

Court upholds Prop. 8

As expected, the state Supreme Court ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage is legal.

Tuesday morning headlines

Consumer confidence shoots up, home price decline is easing, scamming in L.A. on the increase, and cruise ships returning to Mexico.

Journalism litmus test

Check out the Talking Points Memo offices in NY's Chelsea neighborhood. It may serve as a model for the Internet newsroom.

High-end moves online

Some of the chi-chi boutiques on the Westside are closing their brick-and-mortar operations and becoming Web-only retailers.

Slowdown in Hollywood

Lots of projects are still in the planning stage, but much of the actual construction is being put off, mostly because of financial difficulties.

Prop. 8 ruling on Tuesday

The state Supreme Court will issue its decision at 10 a.m. on the constitutionality of the November ballot measure that reinstated a ban on same-sex marriage.

L.A. jobless rate dips

April unemployment fell to 11 percent from 11.3 percent the month before. It's also 11 percent in the state, down from 11.2 percent in March. That's the good news.

Friday morning headlines

Forget about federal aid to California, local officials not happy about Schwarzenegger's plan, Playboy up for sale, and SAG members duke it out.

The $111,000 television

Timing seems a little off considering the premium being placed on frugality these days, but if you so choose Bang & Olufsen has come out with a 103-inch plasma TV.

Is CA like Italy?

The state may have a chronic inability to form a government, like a certain boot-shaped European nation, but we can't help it -- we still like the place.

Geithner doubtful on aid

This business about California being too big to fail is not getting much traction on Capitol Hill - or the Treasury Department for that matter.

Thursday morning headlines

White House backs off on cutting off state funds, Superior Court hours to be cut, Mexican economy tumbles, and TV viewing is up.

Arnold blew it

LAT columnist Mike Hiltzik says the theme of the governor's budget-initiative campaign - that gridlock could be solved by more gridlock and more borrowing - was one big lie.

Earth to Macke...

I never thought I'd see Dennis Kneale almost speechless. But check out his CNBC exchange with Jeff Macke, who contributes to the network's "Fast Money" program. returns

American City Business Journals, which is also owned by Advance Publications, will take over the site now that Condé Nast has killed the glossy print magazine.

Jim Cramer's stock picks

Unlike an earlier study that found selections by the CNBC host to be a money-losing proposition, this research draws a more positive conclusion.

L.A. Chamber on state mess

The early reading is that Schwarzenegger will want to take out the budget ax and start cutting back - a lot. That puts the squeeze on the Democrat-controlled legislature.

Wednesday morning headlines

Assigning blame after Tuesday's election, big sale at Albertsons, home prices are expected to keep falling, and Kogi banned in OC.

Real BH housewives?

Bravo is looking for "outgoing, exciting, strong, focused women who reside in and around the Beverly Hills area that want to share their lives."

Little change in L.A. housing

April home sales were strong in the inland areas, but still sluggish in communities closer to the coast, according to the latest Dataquick numbers.

Tuesday morning headlines

Sluggish holiday weekend expected, fewer workers taking time off, Council approves cost-conscious budget, and layoffs at William Morris.

Never mind about the economy

Last night's 4.7 shaker erupted along the Newport-Inglewood fault, which is the same source for the destructive 1933 Long Beach earthquake.

Kerkorian's MGM stake is cut

The Bev Hills billionaire had owned 53.8 percent of MGM Mirage, but a series of stock and bond offerings will reduce that holding to 39 percent.

Monday morning headlines

Feds looking into what Madoff's big investors knew, magazine ads down sharply, Ryan Kavanaugh may be going after MGM, and Kerkorian buys more shares of MGM Mirage.

L.A.'s richest lose big money

The 50 Wealthiest Angelenos collectively lost more than $32 billion, leaving L.A. with just 29 billionaires, the lowest total in five years.

Still slow at ports

April container traffic at the Port of L.A. fell 12.1 percent from a year earlier, while the Port of Long Beach saw a 21.7 percent decline.

Insider trading at SEC?

Still a fair amount to sort out, but federal prosecutors are looking into whether two SEC enforcement lawyers violated insider-trading laws.

Still more on Geffen

Lloyd Grove doesn't pretend to know whether the media-made billionaire really plans to go after the NYT Co. But he does know how Geffen manipulate journalists.

Tucson paper folds

Gannett is shutting down the Citizen, Arizona's oldest continuously published daily newspaper, though the online version will keep operating (without news coverage).

Friday morning headlines

GM dealers getting the word, C-17 lives on (probably), Alameda Corridor traffic tumbles, and not as many Mexican migrants come to the U.S.

MGM creditors get antsy

It's understandable considering that $3.7 billion worth of debt is due in July 2012 (and interest payments are running $250 million a year). There's lots of restructuring talk.

Riding the subprime wave

And then crashing. In the world of finance, those who can, do. Those who can't become business writers.

Credit on Mozilo story

Too bad the Daily Journal is still so hard to access without a subscription because the newsroom will often come up with strong pieces that get very little attention.

Economy: Hurry up and wait

Look for an end to the recession by August, according to the latest WSJ survey of economists, but it could be several more years before we see a full-bore recovery.

Networks back to sitcoms

Weren't they supposed to be dead? Weren't the networks going to rachet down the number of pilots they produce? Guess strategies change pretty fast in TV land

Thursday morning headlines

Several local Chrysler dealers to be dropped, court hours might be cut, SEC staff wants to charge Countrywide's Sambol, and Fox ends fewer commercials program.

Geffen's free ride

His interest in buying a stake in the NYT Co. is described by BW as "the hottest topic on two coasts." Huh? The one-time media mogul is a master at manipulation the media.

Anyone still wear ties?

Dressing down, even in big city locales, is the way to go these days. Anything NOT to look like a banker. Of course, it does require a new wardrobe.

Whole Foods on hold

The planned Selma and Vine location is being shelved until the market takes a turn for the better. It's not a huge surprise considering the company's weak financials.

SEC may charge Mozilo

Staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission will recommend filing civil fraud charges against the former Countrywide CEO.

Wednesday morning headlines

California foreclosures fall from previous month, port traffic taking a big dip, L.A. investor pleads guilty, and Vegas going back to "What happens here, stays here."

Gathering of freighters

Singapore has become the location of choice for one of the largest fleets of ships ever gathered. They are stuck there because the shipping business is just so slow.

Low-ball Cannes coverage

Drastic budget cuts at the two Hollywood trades will result in drastically reduced coverage of the film festival. It's emblematic of how far Variety and THR have fallen.

GM stock is tanking

At last check it was trading at $1.10 a share, the lowest it's been in 70 years. Several insiders have finally decided to bail, which explains why the stock is down 23 percent.

Court blocks airport ban

The city of Santa Monica cannot prohibit certain kinds of private jets from using its airport. A federal appeals court left in place a preliminary injunction sought by the FAA.

Tuesday morning headlines

Nissan reports first loss in a decade, L.A. gas prices shoot up, Bruckheimer tries videogames, and trouble looming for Live Nation/Ticketmaster deal.

Housing market unchanged

April home sales for L.A. County are way up from a year earlier, while median prices are way down from a year earlier.

Geffen went after NYT

The one-time Hollywood mogul offered to buy a 19 percent stake in the NYT Co. held by hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, but no deal was struck.

Monday morning headlines

Postage rates go up, L.A. is eighth-priciest place to rent, "Idol" keeps raking in the cash, and DirecTV may be on the block.

Up close at LinkedIn

Some snippets from my Inc. magazine interview with Reid Hoffman, chairman and founder of the popular social networking site.

CA's cash crunch

There's just not enough money coming in, and Controller John Chiang says that starting this summer the state faces a cash problem "unseen in nearly eight decades."

'Accidentes' lawyer fingered

Juan J. Dominguez is suspected in that massive scheme to extort Dole Food while preying on impoverished rural Nicaraguans.

Friday morning headlines

SB hotels facing a crazy weekend, trustee discovers Pang's "piggy bank," car dealers waiting for grim word, and Activision widens franchise.

Jobs report: How bad is bad?

Expect a positive spin on the April employment numbers, which are not quite as terrible as those for January, February and March.

Way to go, Kevin!

Just a note of congratulations to our own Kevin Roderick for being honored last night by the L.A. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Layoffs at Union-Tribune

The firings come just three days after Copley's sale of the paper to Bev Hills-based private equity firm Platinum Equity was completed.

Stress test results

Ten of the 19 largest U.S. financial institutions will be required to raise a combined $75 billion in capital. But it could have been a lot worse.

Chicken riots at KFC!

Ever since coupons were posted on the Oprah Web site, lines have stretched out the door at a number of locations, and some stores have run out of chicken.

CA nearly out of cash

Tax receipts are plummeting because of the recession, leaving the state more than $20 billion short of what it needs to pay the bills over the next several months,

Thursday morning headlines

GM loses $6 billion, stress test results are mixed, California jobless claims fall for the week, and poker players sue card clubs.

Madoff's secretary talks

Eleanor Squillari, who was with Madoff for 25 years, spent two months helping the FBI gather evidence. She spills the beans about massage parlors and Ruth's eagle eye.

One California a bellwether?

The 42-story Bunker Hill office tower, which has been on the market since January, could provide some clues on just how low L.A. commercial real estate can go.

Millionaires don't feel rich

Fidelity Investments found that 46 percent of the 1,012 millionaires surveyed "do not feel wealthy and are taking action to reassess and rebuild their wealth."

Wednesday morning headlines

Job losses are slowing, Socal subprimers at center of mortgage meltdown, Disney's movie woes, and City National's effort at payback.

TV Week kills print edition

The weekly television trade magazine, which began its life in 1982 as Electronic Media, will become online only in June - with a significant reduction in staff.

Up close at The Wrap

The future of online journalism - or at least one part of it - can be found in back of Sharon Waxman's home in Santa Monica.

Numero Uno is sold

The eight-unit L.A. grocery chain had been started by George Torres, who was convicted last month on federal racketeering charges.

Figuring out CA economy

What we're seeing is a wide disparity in how people are faring. L.A. County's unemployment rate in March was 11.4 percent, but that's just part of the story.

Tuesday morning headlines

Bernanke says recession is losing steam, bank decides it's cheaper to demolish Victorville homes, Santa Anita sale is cleared, and C-17 included in House bill.

Be careful with 'guides'

A Simi Valley outfit has been touting its 2009 "Guide to America's Top Financial Planners," but it's little more than a come-on for the "winners" to buy a plaque.

Biz mags in big trouble

The May 11 edition of Fortune has only 21 pages of paid advertising, which makes you wonder about how much longer it can hold onto its large editorial staff.

Some Iger insight

Disney CEO Robert Iger talks about managing people - as well as himself - in a NYT interview over the weekend.

Monday morning headlines

L.A. home prices not that low, driving habits change, and Buffett and Munger talk about newspapers.

Friday morning headlines

Consumer confidence is way up, Ken Lewis will likely stay on as Bank of America CEO, kickback scheme widens, and flights to Mexico cut back.