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.
November 2009

Tiger waits it out

Looks like he's prepared to sit tight in the belief that the frenzy will blow over. It's a risky strategy.

GE-Vivendi deal

WSJ describes it as a tentative agreement in which General Electric will buy out French media conglomerate Vivendi's 20 percent stake in NBC Universal.

Local angle on Dubai

Among the many holdings of Dubai World's investment unit is the still-stalled Grand Avenue project in downtown L.A.

More free tickets

The Drucker Business Forum's next breakfast is with Justin Fox, Time's business and economics columnist. He'll be talking to Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace and Paul Zak of the Drucker School of Management on whether the financial markets are rational. Session will be Thursday morning at the downtown library (breakfast is 7:45 to 8:30 and the forum is 8:30 to 9:30). I have a few free tickets. Let me know if you're interested....

Monday morning headlines

More confusion about Dubai, Cyber Monday awaits, business owners losing confidence, and trash is piling up downtown.

On holiday forecasts

They're typically based on surveys taken weeks ago and are frequently wrong. Last year even the pessimists were too optimistic.

Tiger Woods coverage

That it's gotten this much attention says a lot about celebrity, voyeurism, and the fact that there's so little other news today.

Chaos at Wal-Marts

The retail giant didn't put its Black Friday specials on sale until 5 a.m., and that led to a real mess in at least several locations.

About Black Friday

The annual stampede to the stores began in earnest this morning - oh, and there were shoppers there, too.

*Et tu, Dubai?

When the mega-rich city-state can't meet its payments it's a signal - however symbolic - that the world economy is far from recovered.

Rescuing Comcast deal?

GE's CEO meets with Vivendi's CEO in Paris to try and push along talks over the eventual jettisoning of NBC Universal.

Black Friday preview

It's almost certain to be a busy day. The retailers have almost insured as much by having those Midnight Madness sales.

Hunting for crazy returns

You would think that after all we've been through investors might be a little wary of 12-15 percent returns. Guess not.

New home mirage

Sales were up and prices fell by the smallest margin in nearly a year. But it's helpful to examine the fine print.

Wednesday morning headlines

Getaway day begins, Toyota replaces pedals, Downey considers Tesla deal, and the mess continues at Calpers.

WashPost shuts bureau

Besides L.A., where Karl Vick and TV columnist Lisa deMoraes are based, the Post is closing its bureaus in NY and Chicago.

Screaming kid debate

A little brat is on your flight and out of control. The pilot kicks him and his mother off the plane. Then, the airline apologizes to the mother!

Saab could be dead

In the event of a closure, owners would be covered by GM warranties and assigned to a new dealer for service.

Hazards of statistics

We all want as much economic data as possible as soon as possible, especially nowadays. But can we rely on it?

Tuesday morning headlines

Economy is growing slower than first thought, L.A. home prices edge higher, one-in-three CA borrowers are underwater, and Tesla may be coming to Downey.

Tough holiday season

For what it's worth, shoppers in the Pacific region (that's us) are expected to be especially frugal.

Interview hell

Applying for a job in private equity involves such a grueling process that you might hope to be turned down.

Debt & deductions

Adjusting Prop 13 is a non-starter - could you imagine the pushback on taking away our God-given, all-American mortgage deduction!!!

Monday morning headlines

Consumers paying off debt, Jerry Brown getting showbiz help, and Target might be coming downtown.

'New Moon' = $$$$$

A couple of things worth noting: The box office potency of teenage girls and the value of turning movies into communal events

Oprah's (sort of) big event

CBS and ABC have far bigger fish to fry - namely whether their stations can get back the auto and retail advertising that fell off a cliff in 2009.

Cash and carry

As the countdown begins to Black Friday, fewer shoppers are expected to take out their credit cards this holiday season.

*Ignoring insurer denials?

State regulators resist even simple steps to help claimants fight denials on disability claims. But that's not the whole story.

L.A. jobless uptick

The county's unemployment rate in October was 12.8 percent, up from 12.6 percent the month before. It could have been worse.

Friday morning headlines

Guessing games about Oprah, GE-Vivendi are far apart on price, more immigration audits, and bloodbath at BW.

CA jobless rate is up

The October rate was 12.5 percent, up from 12.2 percent in September and 8 percent in October 2008.

Downtown foreclosure?

The developer planning to build two towers not far from L.A. Live failed to make several payments. He owes the bank almost $46 million.

Oprah to end show

Final air date is not for a while - Sept. 25, 2011, according to CNN. She'll talk more about it during a live show tomorrow.

Council sure beats Sacto

L.A. Councilman Paul Koretz is still the new guy on the block, but he exudes lots of freshman enthusiasm - and optimism. We'll see.

Student hike done deal

The Board of Regents signed off on the 32 percent increase in student fees, which would bring the basic UC education fees to about $10,300.

Speaking of airports

Don't be fooled by the sluggish economy - flights are selling out and last-minute airfares are getting higher.

Travel update

Serious delays are expected at LAX and other Socal airports as the ripple effects of this morning's air traffic glitch start reaching the West Coast.

Thursday morning headlines

Air traffic improving, more IOUs in sight, glass ceiling persists in CA, and huge advance sales for "New Moon."

Michael Lewis & Hollywood

The author of "Liar's Poker" and "Moneyball" has finally gotten one of his books made into a movie.

Getting tough on TV

Every once in a while state regulators manage to get through a groundbreaking mandate that will actually do some good for the world.

Wells settles fraud case

The banking giant has agreed to buy back $1.4 billion in securities, based on what CA Attorney General's office called "misleading advice."

*UCLA protests

Several hundred demonstaors gathered outside Covel Commons as the UC Regents met this morning to discuss the budget situation

Wednesday morning headlines

CA's new deficit woes, Disney shuts down "Nemo," canned pumpkin shortage, and lots more lead in toys.

Mummies and red meat

Here's weirdly reassuring news: Hardening of the arteries goes back a ways - like 3,500 years.

Game developer closed

Electronic Arts is shutting down Pandemic Studios, which the video game publisher bought just two years ago.

Home Depot in CA

As with the housing numbers for October, they show an economy stuck in neutral - no longer a disaster but far from recovered.

Home prices dip

Lots of cross-currents are mucking up the picture, especially the number of foreclosures that may or may not be around the corner.

Layoffs at AP

They're expected to be company-wide and could run into the hundreds before the end of the year.

El Segundo film flap

City officials want to revise their on-location rules to encourage more filming, but industry honchos say it would have the opposite effect.

Interview tips

The subject is a hearty perennial, but it's especially relevant these days when jobs are at such a premium.

Tuesday morning headlines

Magic's new venture, encouraging news at Port of L.A., Maguire gets foreclosure notice, and MySpace nearing deal.

Nate 'n Al expands

This creates some interesting competition with Brents Deli, which has a location in nearby Westlake Village.

Market 'makes no sense'

Prominent banking analyst Meredith Whitney expects the recession will return sometime next year.

Beef over city taxes

L.A Internet companies are so ticked about their city tax bills that they're looking at other options - say, Culver City, Glendale or Albuquerque, N.M.

Will you pay online?

Are you willing to fork over actual money for access to information or entertainment content on the Web?

Monday morning headlines

GM finances improve, battle for Broad museum, L.A.'s fastest growing private company, and junk financing on the rise.

Best performing cities

Hint: L.A. didn't make the top 10. Or 20. But it could have been worse - we beat out Portland, Maine, Jacksonville, Fla., and Chicago.

Sluggish at port

Retailers are trimming their orders from Asia - and export traffic, though down quite as sharply as import, is still down.

Fun with Stan Lee

The man behind the Marvel Comics brand talks about how he came up with the name Spider-Man and why he never made a good businessman.

Truckers protest

Quite a scene as a truck caravan reached L.A. City Hall this morning - but not before snarling traffic on the Long Beach Freeway. The truckers are protesting the Clean Truck Program that's been instituted at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach - and which they say has eaten into their income. (I always wonder what the organizers of these protests expect to accomplish, other than angering many thousands of commuters who have...

Friday morning headlines

Madoff programmers are charged, Activision's big day, loose talk from NY governor, and more bidding for Playboy.

Hartenstein's second job

LAT publisher has been named non-executive chairman of SIRIUS XM Radio. No change in his position at the paper.

Easy for them to say

Warren Buffett thinks the worst of the financial crisis is over and Bill Gates says that American-bred innovation will save the day.

Watch those rates

New survey says they'll start nudging up by next September, even as unemployment remains stubbornly high.

Disney's mixed bag

TV was looking better in the fourth quarter, helping the Mouse House report an 18 percent increase in earnings.

Thursday morning headlines

Foreclosures slow in CA, Calpers looks into loan, John King takes Dobbs' spot, and Zell pooh-poohs real estate woes.

L.A.'s creative economy

There's Hollywood, of course, but there's also digital media, fashion, interior design, architecture, and communication arts.

Lou Dobbs quits

It's effective today. No word on where the controversial CNN moneyman is heading.

Homeless #s disputed

Would you believe that L.A.'s homeless population has fallen by 38 percent in the middle of a recession? You're not alone.

Health bill still a plus

House version looks like a bust, but the Senate bill (at least the one approved by the Finance Committee) can offer legitimate reform.

Last call for tickets

I still have a few left for Ken Auletta's chat tomorrow morning with Judy Muller.

Wednesday morning headlines

FedEx sees pickup, Wal-Mart open on Thanksgiving, CA boosts muni yields, and free Wi-Fi for Christmas.

Jury had no choice

Expect all kinds of second-guessing after two former Bear Stearns fund managers were acquitted today on securities fraud charges.

Budget relief at last

Maybe it's just a blip, but California beat expectations for tax collections in October by 7.1 percent, or $285 million.

More BIG reform

Sen. Christopher Dodd's 1,136-page plan to reform the financial system that has DOA written all over it.

Slow-go recovery

Janet Yellen, CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of SF, doesn't expect the turnaround to be in the shape of a V, U or W.

L.A. Live, NFL edition

Ed Roski's mixed-use complex in the City of Industry, anchored by a 75,000-seat football stadium, focuses too much on cars and parking lots.

Tuesday morning headlines

Karatz's novel defense, holiday air travel will be down, L.A.'s big legal bill, and concert biz still strong.

Good news in Vegas

The October median home price was actually up! Not a whole lot, mind you - $139,000, which is $1,000 higher than the month before.

Big day for stocks

The Dow reached a 52-week high, closing up 203 points - and no, it doesn't make much sense. But here's the bullish view, as outlined by Neil Lipschutz, managing editor of Dow Jones Newswires: -The world is awash in government provided liquidity and low interest rates. The Federal Reserve last week made clear it will keep rates extraordinarily low for an "extended period." A Wall Street Journal article today by E.S. Browning expands on these...

Ken Auletta anyone?

The New Yorker columnist will be pitching his new book this Thursday morning. I have free tickets.

Empty space for MySpace

News Corp. is stuck with a 12-year lease worth about $350 million. No luck yet in subleasing the digs.

Monday morning headlines

No appetite to reform CA government, home prices edge up, East West become's Socal's biggest bank, and closing in on NBC deal.

Toyota scandal

More than 1,000 Toyota and Lexus owners have reported sudden acceleration problems over the last decade, resulting in 19 deaths.


Bev Hills billionaire Ron Burkle has $56 million in loans against his two houses. The McCourts have borrowed $28 million on their properties.

Who is worst off?

The economy has hurt most every demographic there is, but for those who are young, less educated and black it's really bad.

Mama's revenge!

The big insider trading case has a new cast member: Dalia Goffer, mother of two guys alleged to be part of the scheme.

Freedom's bonus pool

An executive with the Irvine media company, now in Chapter 11, received some nice bonuses even as the paper she ran was struggling.

Friday morning headlines

Calpers hasn't policed itself, big loss for Hanmi, low expectations for videogames, and online DVD wars.

Unemployment at 10.2%

The jobless rate for October reached its highest level since 1983, and 190,000 jobs were lost.

Huge day for stocks

The Dow gains 203 points and is back over the 10,000 mark for reasons not entirely clear. But what else is new?

Who needs theaters?

At stake is the ability of studios to stream movies directly into set-top boxes and then onto your TV screen.

Truth vs. fiction

Wall Street has another insider trading scandal on its hands, and it looks suspiciously similar to a certain movie made more than 20 years ago.

New work blog

The popular program gets extended to April 30. It's helped revive the housing market, especially at the lower end.

Thursday morning headlines

Yankee stock index offers hope, good month for retailers, Toyota gets wrist-slapped by the feds, and Mozilo must face the music.

More homebuyer credits

The popular program gets extended to April 30. It's helped revive the housing market, especially at the lower end.

CIM and Calpers

The L.A.-based developer paid middleman Alfred Villalobos almost $10 million in fees to be hooked up with the big pension fund.

KFWB's turnaround!

I'm kidding. The former all-news station that's turned into a soap box for the conservative crowd has even worse ratings than before the switch.

Why is Carly running?

Maybe the better question is why would anyone want to run for public office these days?

Fed has nowhere to go

It's the availability of capital - not the cost of it - that seems to be holding up the works.

Wednesday morning headlines

Retailers (cautiously) hopeful, TV ad sales showing life, Mouse House in China, and L.A. bankruptcies are up.

More Calpers friendships

Now we hear that the former board member who stood to make millions of dollars in fees hosted the then-CEO's wedding.

Bye-bye to Tribune ESOP

Parent of the LAT is changing its retirement plan - most of it now involving a redesigned 401(k).

Sterling pays $2.7 million

The billionaire real estate mogul (and Clippers owner) is settling allegations that he discriminated against African Americans, Hispanics and families with children.

This is a recovery?

Not if you listen to an official with the Federal Reserve who monitors commercial and residential real estate.

Tuesday morning headlines

Why a middleman for Calpers made millions, more L.A. layoffs likely in 2010, good news from Paramount, and Lawry's settles discrimination suit.

Pensions soar

Companies are generally bringing down their overall executive pay, but many of them have found other ways of rewarding their top people.

Freedom paper to close

Arizona's East Valley Tribune, which just happened to have won a Pulitzer this year for local reporting, is being shut down by the OC-based media company,

Big $ for venture fund

Bunches of young, fast-growing companies in the L.A. area (especially in tech, health care and e-commerce) are no doubt paying close attention.

Forecasting game

Home price predictions for 2010 continue to stream in - and they continue to be all over the map.

Monday morning headlines

Companies hoarding cash, nonprofit riches for L.A. couple, banks get tough on celebs, and watching commercials on DVRs.