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.
October 2009

Throw the bums out

Let's admit it: L.A. officials hadn't the vaguest notion of how to cope with this terrible economy - or most anything else.

Stimulus saves CA jobs

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says the federal stimulus has created or saved more than 100,000 jobs in the state, with most of those in education.

News Corp. & NBCU?

GE is still working on a deal with Comcast, but it's apparently considering other options.

Amgen sued

The Thousand Oaks biotech giant is being accused by the state of New York and 14 other states of offering kickbacks to medical providers.

*Stocks get whacked

Dow is so far down 225 points, more than wiping out yesterday's gain. A big drop in consumer spending last month is the most obvious reason, but there's also some pushback from the gains of the last few months. (NYT) *Ouch: Dow closes down almost 250 points. It's now at 9712....

Anyone for Fiji?

You can't beat the prices, but the country is going through some serious political turmoil, including reports of human rights violations.

Economics 101

The problem with the economy right now is that it's neither good nor bad, But there's more to the story.

Friday morning headlines

Sour news on spending, Villaraigosa's toot-toot dreams, Jaime's uphill battle, and investors go after CA munis - for a price.

More blood-letting TK

This week's news of the massive cuts at Forbes is not the only wave of cost-cutting at the business magazines.

Sitrick & Co. sells out

L.A.'s most visible PR firm is being sold to consulting firm Resources Connection for an initial payment of $43.3 million in cash and stock.

Big day on Wall Street

Nearing the close, the Dow was up 199 points, to 9962.

How to treat customers

Here's a list of dos and don'ts for restaurant owners and staffers that seems so basic and yet is so often ignored.

Thursday morning headlines

Economy still fragile, OC recovery to lag much of nation, Disney saves the day, and U2 is a smash on You Tube.

At last, growth!!!!!

But lots of debate on whether it reflects a real upturn or mostly the result of continued cost cutting for the sake of improved earnings.

Fewer homeless?

New report claims as much, but there's greater demand at soup kitchens and shelters, and unemployment is nearing 13 percent.

*Clarity on LAX incident

It was actually a Republic Airlines plane - and crew - that almost crossed a live runway while a Northwest jet was taking off.

Playa Vista lawsuit

The owners of a 64-acre Spruce Goose property at Playa Vista have been sued by their lenders.

Tallying Madoff losses

The court-appointed trustee puts the cash losses so far at $21.2 billion.

Wednesday morning headlines

Governor worries about Medicaid money, juicy numbers on McCourt wealth, Hilton drags down Blackstone, and Lake Elsinore has worst commute.

Americans still gloomy

Almost 60 percent of those sampled in a WSJ/NBC poll say the economic slide has a ways to go.

Promotions for our time

Who knew that when it comes to blogging CopyBuoy via Hoster Broaster is the way to go?

Downtown rockin'

If you don't have tickets to the Lakers game or the premiere of the Michael Jackson movie, you might want to steer clear of the Staples/Nokia complex.

Where's my condo?

Downtown developer Sonny Astani is asking a judge to let him close the sales on 77 units of his Concerto development.

Monday morning headlines

L.A. home prices going up, TV prices fall and shipments increase, governor touts movie incentives, and gas prices on the way up.

Near miss at LAX

Happened Sunday afternoon when a pair of jetliners came less than 100 feet from colliding with each other on the south airfield.

Stocks take U-turn

What started as a good-sized rally is ending on a sour note, with the Dow down around 100 points.

Priciest TV commercial?

A 30-second ad on NBC's "Sunday Night Football" runs a cool $339,700, on average.

Priciest TV commercial?

A 30-second ad on NBC's "Sunday Night Football" runs a cool $339,700, on average, according to an Ad age survey.

LAT circ falls 11%

During the six-month period ended Sept. 30, The Times was at 657,467 for the Monday-Friday run.

Monday morning headlines

Insurers win out, Holiday Inn goes Luxe, Leno still struggles and Eisner gets backing.

Friday morning headlines

About those CEO pay cuts, City National takes hit, Relativity lands $300 million, and Fortune trims number of issues.

Dole raises $450 million

Billionaire David Murdock retains a 59 percent stake in the food company, which made shareholders a little skeptical of this week's public offering.

*Subways we'll never see

The MTA board signed off on its long-range transportation plan that includes a Westside subway that everyone knows will never, ever, possibly happen.

LAX canary?

A slight uptick in airport traffic matches surprisingly upbeat comments by a US Airways executive.

Thursday morning headlines

CEOs getting the bad word, Microsoft 7 finally arrives, Leiweke & Trutanich duke it out, and one more step for the NFL.

L.A. car sales sag

September new vehicle registrations fell almost 18 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Doll wars

Mattel's iconic doll must deal with competition from the popular Liv dolls (14 moveable joints), and Moxie Girlz.

Retailer handling change

The owner of an Echo Park furniture store must deal not only with a tough economy but with changing demographics.

Wednesday morning headlines

Bulldozer sales are up, Disney to sell movies on multiple platforms, some relief for local hotels, and car buyers shun brand loyalty.

Suspicious tax claims

It's no surprise that scammers have gone after the government's tax credit program for first-time home-buyers. It's just pathetic.

CA sues State Street

Attorney General Jerry Brown alleges that State Street Bank and Trust overcharged more than $200 million to the state's two largest pension funds

Mixed foreclosure bag

Does the drop from the April-June period mean that the worst is over? Not necessarily. The foreclosure dynamics are hard to accurately measure.

Tuesday morning headlines

LAX expansion approved, Staples re-ups, Chernin back in game, and actor suspended from SAG.

Carol Bartz on bossing

Yahoo's CEO says young people think managing is a natural progression -- "I'm good at this so I'm going to be good at that, and it's not that way at all."

Lending woes at Playa

A mortgage note on the complex's largest office development site has been put up for sale,

Monday morning headlines

L.A. shells out more in litigation costs, Vivendi's asking price on NBC, Glickman to leave MPAA, and L.A.'s largest private companies.

Scary stat

More than 17 percent of the office space in L.A. County, Orange County and the Inland Empire is empty.

'Ruthie in Wonderland'

Ruth Reichl, editor of the now-defunct Gourmet magazine, plans to write a book about what had been the rarified world of Condé Nast.

Ports still slow

With consumers not anxious to spend, retailers have been careful about ordering for the holiday season.

Jump in L.A. jobless

The county posted an unemployment rate of 12.7 percent in September, up from 12.2 percent the previous month

Friday morning headlines

NBC profits are up, trouble for Ticketmaster deal, Mattel earnings decline, and Pink's opens in OC.

Just 2,240?

The federal stimulus program is taking a long time to make any appreciable impact on the economy, in California or anywhere else.

Coffee index perks up

Safeway CEO (parents of Vons) says shoppers are switching from coffee to lattes, and from rotgut wines to the pricier stuff.

About the McCourts

With a divorce, there might finally be a chance to get inside the castle, although that will depend on how much the court will be willing to keep unsealed.

Thursday morning headlines

Stocks slip under 10,000, CA foreclosures still high, Mattel settles lead claims, and guess who covers the losses at Calpers?

More location shoots?

Feature film production was up for the third quarter, television was down, and overall on-location shooting was off 14.3 percent.

*Dow hits 10,000

Yaay!!! It's the first time in more than a year - Oct. 7, 2008, to be precise (seems a lot longer).

Calpers probes ex-director

The California pension fund is reviewing fees it paid to an advisory firm run by Al Villalobos, who had served on the Calpers board from 1993 to 1995.

*LAT gets smaller

The Times will be trimming the web width of its paper in the coming months. Conversion isn't expected to impact content.

Wednesday morning headlines

Good earnings news from JPM and Intel, Wall Street bonuses take off, foreclosures will keep climbing through late 2010, and Santa Anita back on the block.

Trouble at the DMV

A pretty nutty scene this morning when I pull into the parking lot of the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Santa Monica.

Bloomberg buys BW

The amazingly skimpy offer - $2 million to $5 million plus liabilities - says plenty about the state of business magazines.

Home prices flat

Foreclosures still make up a bulk of Socal sales, though the $500,000-plus range is showing a little more life.

Optimism on housing

Economist Mark Schniepp predicts that by 2012, Socal home prices will be up 30 percent from their lowest rates recorded earlier this year.

Tuesday morning headlines

New concerns about the recovery, Disney revamps its stores, bad times in Hawaii, and DVRs improve ratings.

Sex and work

Do you think Letterman "took advantage" of the women on his staff? Is it all right to date an intern? Inquiring minds need to know!

Bayer and 1918 epidemic

What at the time had been marketed as a "wonder drug" appears to have been deadly for people who mistakenly took gobs of aspirin

Monday morning headlines

Local angle on Nobel winner, new studios expected in Long Beach, KB under investigation, and Fox is looking at Lou Dobbs.

Stunning cruelty

Even in the prissy world of insurance contracts, there are ways of doing the right thing, even when it's not always spelled out in the fine print.

Enough smiling!

The always perceptive Barbara Ehrenreich takes aim at the positive-thinking culture that surrounds breast cancer patients.

Mixed tourist scene

Our own unscientific survey shows a mixed picture - attendance at Hearst Castle is down, but both the visitors' center and the tours were actually pretty full.

Time out

A chance to catch my breath and smell a few of our roses.

Gold hits record high

Gold has been on the upswing, in part because of the weak dollar and all the money being pumped into the financial system.

'Too Big to Fail'

Andrew Ross Sorkin presents a detailed - and often riveting - account of how the government was desperately trying to save Morgan Stanley.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. rents tumble, fast-food ban no cure for obesity, weak holiday forecast, and McDonald's comes to the Louvre.

Letterman (cont'd)

During tonight's show the late night host apologizes to his wife Regina for having had affairs with staff members.

Measuring L.A. GDP

The biggest drags on growth in 2008 came from, not surprisingly, construction, trade and financial activities.

Toys on the cheap

Frugality will be in style this holiday season, and retailers and manufacturers have planned accordingly.

405 hotel sold

Most of us know the Hotel Angeleno as that circular-designed place that's just off the Sunset Boulevard exit of the San Diego Freeway.

Upheaval at Universal

Reports suggest that this had been in the works for quite a while. The studio's recent releases have been underwhelming.

*Why is Gourmet closing?

The Internet is now overrun with recipes from hundreds of sites - and recipes used to be one of the big draws of both Conde Nast titles.

Monday morning headlines

Disney names new film chief, Gourmet magazine to close, Murdoch sees pickup in ads, and about those Tribune bonuses.

Friday morning headlines

Pollution plunges at ports, food fight over noodles, Universal's traffic makeover, and new operator for Queen Mary.

Weak jobs report

The 263,000 jobs lost in September were more than what economists had been expecting, and it certainly puts off any talk of a speedy recovery.

Crazy Gideon's closes shop

For those who haven't had the pleasure, Gideon Kotzer's schtick is throwing around his merchandise and otherwise acting, well crazy,

Latest on NBC-Universal

WSJ reports that the deal under consideration would give the cable giant a 51 percent ownership as part of a joint venture with GE.

Stocks take big hit

Just lots of lousy news - a big drop in September car sales, worse-than-expected manufacturing numbers, and the prospects of a weak jobs report.

Comcast sideshow

When a business reporter gets beat on a big story, like a possible Comcast purchase of NBC-Universal, the response is pretty predictable.

Richest Angelenos

Eli Broad tops the LA contingent on the Forbes 400, followed by David Geffen, Patrick Soon-Shiong, David Murdock and Ron Burkle.

Thursday morning headlines

Comcast denies NBC-U report, why Saturn was junked by Penske, boycotting Leno in prime time, and Hotel Bel-Air lays off workers.