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.
July 2009

WSJ takes on LinkedIn

The Journal is working with a Santa Monica outfit called Slingshot Labs in developing a professional social network.

Economy 3 ways

Good luck figuring out where growth is headed. It'll either be terrific, horrible or so sluggish that many of us won't even notice.

Friday morning headlines

Earnings offer hope, Southwest interest in Frontier questioned, Platinum Equity looks at BW, and gas prices edge higher.

GDP improves

The economy was still contracting in the second quarter, but only at an annual rate of 1 percent, a huge improvement from the previous three months.

Home selling blues

The Daily Show offers a very funny take on Treasury Secretary's Tim Geithner's unsuccessful efforts to sell his home in Larchmont, N.Y.

*Disney profit down 26%

The Mouse House saw Q3 slippage in almost every area: networks, studio operations, parks and resorts, and even interactive.

Stocks pull back

Dow finishes up 84 points, about half of what it had climbed to earlier in the session. Still shapes up to be the best July since 1939. Index at 9154.

What about that raise?

There's so much slack in the system that when the economy does begin to grow business owners won't be under much pressure to increase wages.

New woes for trades

Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and the consumer electronics trade Twice are being put on the block by Reed Elsevier, parent of Variety.

Thursday morning headlines

L.A. not a foreclosure hot spot, mass layoffs in CA, PennyMac goes public, and airlines clean up on cancellations.

Rivers bashes Leno

Asked about Jay's new show at 10 p.m., Joan tells TV critics, "America can get bored more easily and go to sleep earlier."

Insider affair

Here's the story of an Ernst & Young partner who was foolish enough to log onto a Web site for married people looking to have affairs. And then...

Dear Mike....

That would be Mike Milken, who is financing a business advice site where executives at small and mid-sized companies can pose questions.

Wednesday morning headlines

Budget cuts hurt L.A., Madoff speaks, Marciano loses suit, and Avery Dennison pays fine.

More bleak numbers

L.A. unemployment is likely to top out at 13 percent, and the area won't see significant growth until the fourth quarter of 2010.

Another fine mess

Sometimes this city does stuff that's so dumb and irresponsible you just want to scream.

New budget cuts

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger finally signed the budget but he cut hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending.

Cleaning up the mess

The one-time president of Countrywide is taking public a firm that buys distressed loans on the cheap and collects a return on the debt.

Tribune wants more time

Parent company of the LAT, now in bankruptcy protection, has asked for four additional months to file a reorganization plan.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. home prices stabilize, traders pushed up oil prices, governor makes more cuts in budget, and B of A to close branches.

Professional flirts

In Japan, where office jobs are tough to come by, hostessing has become a reasonable alternative.

Hollywood lite

Entertainment lawyers tell the National Law Journal that the recession is eating into the number and value of deals.

Friends of Angelo (cont'd)

More questions about whether Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Chris Dodd knew they were getting preferential treatment from Countrywide Financial.

New hope for CA?

Historian Kevin Starr thinks the latest budget agreement could become a watershed event for the state - in a good way.

Monday morning headlines

Banks still slow on lending, SD condos sit vacant, CA could be hot real estate market in 2010, and network ad rates get cut.

Silverman leaves NBC

He'll be leaving his post as co-chairman of NBC Universal Entertainment to start up a new venture in partnership with Barry Diller's IAC.

Shift in L.A. jobs

Non-payroll jobs like freelancers, independent contractors and laborers are becoming more prominent within the local workforce.

The term limit mess

You mean that state lawmakers haven't a clue about how to handle the budget because they lack experience? Like, what a surprise!!!!

Bidding wars in Socal

Some house offers continue to beat asking prices - and a lot of the action is in Socal. Why? Bargain foreclosures and sought-after neighborhoods.

Most of budget passed

The Assembly rejected a proposal to take $1 billion in transportation funding from local governments. Also turned down was allowing oil drilling off the coast.

NYT milestone

It's looking as if circulation revenue will pass ad revenue for the first time. At the OC Register, classifieds are starting to look up.

Comic Con's 'dopey tradition'

Director Kevin Smith says of the masses attending this year's conclave in San Diego: "You just have to be glad that these folks aren't organized."

Friday morning headlines

CA Senate passes budget plan, 7-Elevens sprouting all over L.A., Denny's sued over salt, and OC payrolls shrink.

Paying for journalism

Whether the's online model can be adapted for general news sites has been a long-running question in journalism circles.

More IOUs in store?

CA Controller John Chiang doesn't know if the state will have enough cash to repay those IOUs when they become redeemable on Oct. 2.

CA's sausage factory

The state's budget proposal is actually made up of 28 separate bills, many of which have not been gone over by lawmakers and some of which barely have been written.

Thursday morning headlines

CA budget vote tonight, big drop in location shooting, LAX traffic falls, and Disney considers paid site.

Big CA oil find

The new field is in Kern County and could contain 150 to 250 million barrels of oil and gas - the largest new oil and gas discovery made in California in more than 35 years.

Highest-paying counties

L.A. County is not in the top 10. Actually, it's fairly far down the list, with an average weekly wage in the fourth quarter of $1,075.

Mixed bag on foreclosures

California saw a slight drop in foreclosure proceedings during the April-June quarter compared with the prior three months, but the numbers remain higher than last year.

CA exodus edges up

The numbers, however, are relatively unchanged - perhaps surprising for a state that supposedly is on the brink of collapse.

Wednesday morning headlines

More opposition to budget deal, grim economic forecast for L.A., shortfall in Long Beach, and East West Bank raising money.

Condé Nast beaten up

As expected, September ad pages are looking pretty bleak - and September is typically the fattest month of the year.

Double-dip recession?

With unemployment likely to remain in the double-digit range well into next year (perhaps even into 2011), it wouldn't take much to upend any meager expansion.

L.A. supes threaten suit

They say they'll go to court if state lawmakers pursue plans to seize local redevelopment and highway taxes to cover the budget deficit.

Stunning drop at Calpers

California's giant pension fund saw its value fall by $56 billion from the previous fiscal year. Real estate took a huge hit.

What's wrong with budget

Well, lots - a still-sour economy, a dysfunctional state government, and enough accounting tricks to impress Bernie Madoff.

Tuesday morning headlines

Bernanke says economy show signs of stabilizing, CA lawmakers consider budget package, and Lennar buys into Newhall (again).

Budget deal is done

As expected, poor people, old people and school-age people will be hardest hit. The agreement could go before the full legislature later this week.

Roubini back scaring us

Dr. Doom tells CNBC that the economy is no longer in freefall (that's the good news), but that the recovery is going to be "very ugly."

Citi seizes St. Regis

Owners of the 400-room Dana Point property have been negotiating for weeks with mezzanine lender Citigroup, but they apparently couldn't come to terms.

Budget deal at hand?

Several lawmakers say they're confident that a deal can be reached later today and voted on by both houses of the legislature by Thursday.

Subprimers find new work

They're offering to help modify the bum mortgages that they worked on in the first place - and they're pretty upfront about it.

Monday morning headlines

Closing in on budget deal, studios go after Jackson film, more troubles commercial real estate, and VC's reluctant to invest.

Citi extends IOUs

It'll keep accepting the registered warrants for another week, to July 24. This is the second IOU extension

'You're killing me Larry'

Gardena mattress retailer Sit `n Sleep is phasing out Irwin, who would always have a conniption when the prices got too low.

L.A. unemployment dips

L.A. County's rate fell to 11.3 percent from a revised 11.6 percent the previous month, but it might just be the result of fewer people looking for work.

Jobless rate inches up

California's unemployment rate in June was 11.6 percent, up a shade from the previous month.

Friday morning headlines

More bank profits (sort of), another Furlough Friday for CA, new woes for videogames, and a boost in DVD rentals.

L.A. port traffic down

The June numbers were down 12.7 percent from a year earlier. Inbound was off 17.1 percent and outbound 9 percent.

CIT's impact on fashion

A bankruptcy filing by CIT Group could have huge consequences on the fashion business, much of it involving small manufacturers based in L.A.

Sucking up to Schwab

Charles Schwab pulled its sponsorship from a CNBC documentary on the porn industry, only to be brown-nosed by one of the network's reporters.

Gas keeps falling

Prices are especially low for a July, which is normally the peak of the summer driving season.

Deconstructing news

Tech eminence Chris Anderson says there are two main problems with newspapers: The news and the paper.

Thursday morning headlines

Strong earnings at JP Morgan Chase, budget talks continue in Sacramento, big Boeing deal for El Segundo, and Wal-Mart thinking green.

*Closer on budget?

Hard to know whether this is real, but lawmakers and the governor keep saying that they're near a deal on the budget - perhaps as early as tonight.

Platinum's sex suits

Platinum Equity, the Bev Hills-based private equity firm that recently bought the SD Union-Tribune, is taking on the San Diego Reader.

Rosslyn finds buyer

The landmark downtown hotel at 5th and Main is being sold to affordable housing provider Amerland Group.

Angelides to lead panel

California's former treasurer will lead a new commission to examine the causes of the financial crisis.

Home prices edge higher

June's median price of an L.A. County home was $320,000, according to Dataquick, up $20,000 from the previous month but still down $95,000 from June 2008.

Wednesday morning headlines

Budget deal could be near, Kohl's takes over Mervyn's locations, more prime beef shows up in supermarkets, and Calpers sues over losses.

CA credit rating is cut

This time it's Moody's that has lowered California's credit rating two steps, to Baa1 from A2. That's three levels above junk bonds

Another port tumble

June container traffic out of the Port of Long Beach fell 28.7 percent from a year earlier, an especially sharp drop that doesn't bode well for any near-term recovery.

Univision buys WQXR

The L.A.-based Spanish-language media giant, along with NY public radio station WNYC, will acquire the celebrated classical music station from the NYT.

No more tickets

Lots of interest in Thursday's Chris Anderson event, sponsored by the ALOUD Business Forum. I'm fresh out of passes....

Tuesday morning headlines

Budget talks resume, another dip in gas prices, SFV office glut, and L.A. firms could be looking at BW.

Madoff's new abode

He's headed to Butner, N.C. for a sentence of 150 years. Madoff will find himself earning pennies a day sweeping floors, cleaning toilets or working in the kitchen.

That was Billy Mays

For those of us in a television daze over the weekend the sight of infomercials starring the legendary pitchman might have seemed, well, a little weird.

Thoughts of a 15-year-old

The attention he has received says a lot about how clueless the media and financial worlds continue to be about what's working and what isn't.

FREE tickets!

Web guru Chris Anderson will be talking about the free thing and other online matters this Thursday morning at another ALOUD Business Forum.

Big jump in bankruptcies

L.A. County filings for May jumped 72 percent from a year earlier. OC had a 61.6 percent increase. Nationally, the numbers were 37 percent higher than a year earlier.

LABO on Twitter

Hope to hear from you. Address is

Monday morning headlines

Some progress in budget talks, housing market shows life, cruising opportunities at ports, and Abu Dhabi buys into Tesla.

Bad sign for 'Bruno'

Ticket sales for the Sacha Baron Cohen mock documentary tumbled 39 percent between Friday and Saturday, a sign of some seriously bad buzz.

MySpace goes Hollywood

New focus will be on accessing entertainment and related information (the social networking site had been headed in that direction for some time).

Progress in budget talks?

Not to sound like a broken record, but there is still no sense of urgency about resolving the crisis. Much of Sacramento is operating as if there were no crisis at all.

*Dip in gas prices

Perhaps we'll be seeing more dips in the coming weeks, what with the price of oil falling to around $60 a barrel.

Twitter serves purpose

Last night's power outage prompted the Department of Water and Power folks to tweet occasional updates on what had happened and the number of customers impacted.

Will SEC control IOUs?

Any person or firm offering to make a market in the IOUs - bringing buyers and sellers together - would have to register as a broker-dealer.

Twitter doubts

Barry Diller, appearing at the Allen & Co. get-together in Sun Valley, Idaho, expressed pessimism about the social network's prospects for making money.

U-T leasing offices

Looks like another cost-cutting move by the paper's new owner, Bev Hills-based Platinum Equity. The building has 166,000 square feet of rentable space.

Not your father's GM

Things have definitely changed since the 1950s when the automaker thought nothing of using female hotties to plug their latest models.

Dole sues filmmaker

The fresh fruit producer alleges in a Superior Court filing that it was defamed in Fredrik Gertten's documentary "Bananas." It's one more layer on an already convoluted case.

Chasing Jackson story

TMZ's Harvey Levin, fresh off his Michael Jackson scoops, says that covering celebrities requires the same skill set as covering the Iraq war, .

Who pays Jackson tab?

The city of L.A. should pay, of course. Sure, there's outrage over the costs of policing and other services. But in the life of a city stuff happens,

Wednesday morning headlines

Gloomy news for shipping, lawmakers not budging on budget, L.A. traffic a little better but still bad, and Amgen has promising test results.

Not your father's GM?

Things have definitely changed since the 1950s when the automaker thought nothing of using female hotties to plug their latest models.

Jackson and old age

We're hearing from lots of folks in their 40s, 50s and beyond - and less from those in their 20s who really didn't know much about him.

Er, what about the budget?

The central question continues to be when (or whether) the budget crisis will reach any sort of breaking point.

Presley - except more

Columnist Bob Greene remembers the hoo-hah that took place in the days after that other king's death and sees some parallels to what's happening today.

How big a tourist boost?

Don't be misled by the anecdotal comments from out-of-town Jackson fans visiting L.A. to attend the memorial service - or at least to be part of the happening.

Profiting after death

AEG Live, promoter of the Michael Jackson shows in London, stands to recoup a big chunk of its investment, thanks to insurance and two golden opportunities.

Banks play hardball

Banks were far more accommodating in 1992, the last time warrants had to be issued, and that laissez-faire stance might have delayed cutting a deal.

Reaction to jobs report

Most economists have very little good to say about the June unemployment and payroll numbers.

Thursday morning headlines

IOUs ready to be printed, feds tacking illegal workers, swindlers are on the loose, and big Wall Street bonuses are back.

Jobless rates edges up

Remember, though, that most of the forecasts had unemployment remaining high well into next year. In L.A., that means a double-digit jobless rate.

B of A takes IOUs

So far, it's only on a limited basis - through July 10. Still waiting for word from the other big banks.

Will banks take IOUs?

A few small institutions say they will honor state-issued warrants from their customers, but the major players have not decided.

New retail bankruptcy

This time it's the soap and lotion seller Crabtree & Evelyn, which has locations in Century City, Glendale and Rolling Hills Estates.

Slow-go on economy

Way slower than what the White House had been expecting at the beginning of the year, the result of depending on forecasting models that aren't reliable during a crisis.

Wednesday morning headlines

IOUs getting readied, state deficit increases overnight, American Apparel probe over workers, and Wal-Mart pushes employer mandate.