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.
December 2009

As time goes by...Oy

Everyone keeps describing 2009 as "transformative," which is another way of saying that you can kiss off a lot of the oldies but goodies.

Year ends on losing note

Stock-Market-Watch-Malaysia-1.jpg That still leaves the Dow up 19.6 percent for the year, including a mega-rally from its March low. So what now?

The real Tiger story?

tiger.jpg This account about what happened that Thanksgiving night in Florida is flying all over the Internet.

Fox, stocks, bank, etc.

FCC might intervene in cable squabble, Woods loses another sponsor, and stocks post huge gain from March low.

Break in Fox, TW battle?

simpsons2.jpg The willingness by Time Warner Cable to submit to binding arbitration could be the first step towards a face-saving cease fire.

Broadcom settles suits

broadcom.jpg It looks like the Irvine-based chipmaker is ready to clear the decks in its legal scuffles over the backdating of stock options.

Calpers gets tough

calpers.jpg Pension fund signs off on a new ethics policy that seems so logical you have to wonder why it took a scandal to have it enacted.

Year at the pumps

gas-station2.jpg We're paying a lot more than at the beginning of 2009, when an average gallon of regular in the L.A. area was a mere $1.84.

Home prices edge higher

L.A.'s numbers were better than most of the cities on the Case-Shiller index, though there are still concerns about another wave of foreclosures.

Will Fox channels be cut?

The prospect of no NFL games, no "American Idol," - in short, no nothing - could finally be getting to Time Warner.

Ups, downs of terror scare

It's good news for a local company that makes scanning equipment and bad news for everybody else.

Shopping, movies

The surprisingly strong retail sales and box office numbers probably overstate what really happened.

Betting against clients

Goldman believed that the housing market would crash, while its clients were looking for vehicles to ride the housing wave.

Thursday morning headlines

Last-minute shopping and traveling, Madoff reportedly treated for broken ribs, plan for economic recovery, and Iger makes $29 million.

Will US bail CA?

Earlier this year, the White House ruled out any such help, and there's no reason to believe that anything has changed.

B.O. hits $10b

With still 11 days left in 2009, the domestic box office has crossed the $10 billion mark for the first time.

Madoff mystery

He's been moved to a low-security medical center at the federal prison complex in Butner, N.C. Reasons are not known and nobody is talking.

Tough times for US Atty

The wrist slap for supermarket mogul George Torres is just the latest setback for federal prosecutors.

Senior economist?

That would be Barclays Capital analyst Michelle Meyer, who might look 12 years old but is making her mark as a top housing economist.

Wednesday morning headlines

Governor wants $8 billion from D.C., Toyota not disclosing defects, grocery mogul gets off easy, and Tiger ties loosened again.

The Leno effect

We all know that viewers have been bailing on poor Jay in the 10 p.m. time slot, but where are they bailing to?

Health care vote set

It'll happen on Thursday, Christmas Eve, at 5 a.m. our time.

Half-off tuition

The UC Irvine School of Law will provide scholarships covering at least 50 percent of annual tuition for students arriving next August.

Don't worry, be happy

You have to hand it to our mayor. L.A. is basically a mess and he's telling the Daily News that 2009 was "one of the best years we've had."

Tuesday morning headlines

Slower-than-expected growth, hacking at Citi, Brits back Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger, and Starz hires Albrecht.

Apple TV service?

Both Disney and CBS might be interested in the computer company's plan to sell TV subscriptions over the Internet.

Funny headline

It's on the media page of the Huff Post.

L.A. pay: 64K

That's the average compensation for L.A. County in 2008 - $64,265 to be exact - but average is the operative word.

Chaos over Bratz

Mattel, relying on a previous court ruling, is ready to launch its own line, while MGA is preparing its own version for next season.

LAX back to normal

The quasi-holiday work week begins with no flight delays, but lots of folks are still stuck.

Monday morning headlines

Mixed signals on economy, downtown vacancies edge higher, Calpers keeps probing, and Ron Popeil asking for $5.9 million.

First Fed seized

Pasadena-based OneWest Bank, which is basically the old IndyMac, will take over all deposits, as well as FirdFed's 39 branches.

Climate deal

They've come up with something that the White House is calling a "meaningful agreement.

L.A. jobless rate drops

November unemployment was 12.4 percent, down from a revised 12.7 percent in October. So was October the peak?

Tiger's tough guys

The Century City firm is a boutique operation with fewer than 20 attorneys, but it's well known within the world of celebrity crisis management.

Friday morning headlines

More jobs lost in CA, GM to shut down Saab, KB's CFO resigns unexpectedly, and News Corp. plays hardball with Time Warner Cable.

Dip in CA jobless rate

November's unemployment rate was 12.3 percent, down slightly from 12.5 percent the previous month.

A deal too good to refuse

California's disastrous $4.5 billion long-term debt offering left the state with 8 percent less money than expected and an extra $123 million in interest costs.

Broadcom jurors dubious

That's been the challenge in any number of backdating cases: Proving that a crime has been committed.

Bracing for 'Avatar'

Let's sum up the reviews as "other-worldly," which could mean a lot of things but in this case is very good (mostly).

CA population slows

This is what happens when the economy is in the toilet: Folks stay away.

BlackBerry outage

It's affecting all email users, regardless of carrier, and it appears to be widespread.

Thursday morning headlines

Arnold's approval rating hits new low, studios hold back on trade ads, L.A. has the nation's worst roadways and layoffs at NYT.

Going to work sick

The obvious answer is that you shouldn't, but for people who don't get sick days, staying home can be a financial drain.

Tiger-Elin splitting?

People magazine is quoting a source as saying the marriage is over and that she's in the process of moving out with the kids.

Early Disney years

Archive of American Television did an extensive interview of Roy Disney in 2007.

Roy Disney dies

Walt's nephew found his voice relatively late in life as he joined up with lawyer Stan Gold and became a very successful investor.

Holiday giving lags

More than half of the charities surveyed by the Chronicle of Philanthropy expect a drop in donations by year's end.

Business births, deaths

Is it possible that California has lost its touch as an entrepreneurial stronghold?

Top Chef gets skewered

Not sure how this scathing review will affect business - some folks will want to check it out just because it's Fabio's place.

Wednesday morning headlines

Exports are looking good, Lopez on the economy, big showbiz PR merger, and one columnist's view of Villaraigosa's trip to Copenhagen.

Gov in Copenhagen

Everybody is there, it seems, so why not the guy who helped pass some of the most aggressive environmental legislation in the nation?

Betting on Vegas

CNBC's Jane Wells finds someone who feels good about buying a penthouse at the MGM Mirage's CityCenter.

Grading Obama

Lots of predictable punditry these days on how well or poorly the president has done after Year One, but this one rings true.

Maiden voyage

Pretty cool shots of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner making its first flight this morning in Everett, Wash.

Fraud charges dropped

Federal judge dismisses charges of backdating stock options at Broadcom, another example of how hard it is to prosecute white collar cases.

Slow housing market

November home sales were up sharply from a year earlier, down sharply from a month earlier, and in general going nowhere fast.

Rags to riches goes bad

It's the unhappy story of Guess jeans founder Georges Marciano who become a mega-millionaire and then proceeded to blow it all.

Tuesday morning headlines

Warning on Best Buy profits, B of A still can't find new boss, Broadcom case may be dismissed, and Golden Globe nominations.

MySpace eyes Flixster

The struggling social networking site is going after a popular social networking site for movies.

Snapshot of unemployed

Poll: Many of them are borrowing money, cutting back on doctor's visits, and suffering from depression or anxiety.

Private texting debate

Anyone with a pulse should know by now that a workplace computer or messaging system is not private. Nor should it be.

Nike boss talks Tiger

Phil Knight doesn't sound like he's about to cut the cord on Woods. He says all the hub-bub will eventually become "a minor blip."

Santas and hard times

They can tell you plenty about the tough times some children are facing - as in asking for shoes or being able to stay in their homes.

Monday morning headlines

L.A. hotels still weak, ex-TCW star starts own firm, Alarcon proposes L.A. film commission, and Tiger's condo in OC.

Health care hope

What finally emerging out of Congress is certain to be a hodgepodge. But perhaps a hodgepodge is what we're looking for.

S&L CEO steps down

FirstFed Financial's Babette Heimbuch has been battling to save the L.A. savings and loan.

Gillette pulls Tiger

The Procter & Gamble division says it will be "limiting his role in our marketing programs" - all in the interest of supporting him, of course.

*Tiger's indefinite break

It's time to become a mensch. So no more golf for... well, he doesn't say, other than to call it "an indefinite break."

The latest conquest

The week wouldn't be complete without another one of those goofy animated videos from Taiwan on the travails of Tiger.

$$$ pours out of TCW

The financial soap opera continues at the giant L.A.-based money manager. But the outflows appears to be slowing.

Jean maker nears sale

That would be L.A.-based J Brand, one of the first denim companies to push the skinny-leg jean.

Tighter financial controls?

From the start of the financial meltdown, it was a good bet that lawmakers would shift from too little oversight to too much - and here we are.

Are we spending or not?

Hold the doom. November's strong retail sales report has analysts raising the possibility of a solid holiday shopping season.

Friday morning headlines

Mixed messages for retailers, inside Madoff's cell, Paramount thinking small, and yet more press for Bazaar.

Retailers get nervous

Holiday shoppers weren't buying much during the first week of December. New markdowns could be near.

Saban attorney pleads

L.A. tax attorney pleaded guilty in connection with a $36 million kickback scheme that steered the media mogul into an illegal tax shelter.

Corporate cruelty

One year ago today, CBS announced a new president and general manager of KCBS and KCAL. It's a not-so-happy anniversary.

Why Nielsen bailed

It's not much of a mystery why it sold The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek, Billboard, etc. and killed off E&P and Kirkus.

State cash report

November's receipts were relatively close to estimates, down a mere 0.7 percent, or around $41 million.

Give it up and rent

Forget about the politically correct idea of saving those hopeless mortgages at any cost.

Gov't help on jobs?

The majority of economists in the latest WSJ survey say yes, though they were divided on what exactly should be done.

Ending 'era of meanness'

GE CEO says the U.S. is at the end of a generation when greed drove leaders and "rewards became perverted."

Thursday morning headlines

CA foreclosures decline, Apple looks at iTunes reboot, more trouble for local ports, and Lakers become NBA's most valuable team.

OC subprimer mystery

Why did robbers select the Newport Beach home of former subprime lender Daniel Sadek? Screenwriters take note.

Speaking of exports

Chinese consumers are beginning to resemble American consumers - two or three years ago.

One word: Exports

It's been about the strongest sector of the economy, fueled by the manufacturing of airplanes, movies and all kinds of technology.

Pay games

So which is it: Furloughs or raises? California's Administrative Office of the Courts seems to be playing both sides.

Wednesday morning headlines

TARP program effective, CA late on unemployment checks, Bridge theaters reportedly sold, and Tesla battle continues.

UCLA: Slow times ahead

The news from UCLA's Anderson Forecast isn't horrible, but it's far from wonderful. State unemployment will remain in double digits until 2012.

Public option dropped

Democratic senators say they have a tentative deal to drop a government-run insurance option from health care legislation

Price wars hurt Ralphs

The parent company took a $1.05 billion asset writedown, most of that directed at the Socal-based supermarket chain.

Smoking ban advances

The L.A. City Council is nearing a vote that would ban smoking in the outdoor sections of restaurants.

*Dueling forecasts

Beacon Economics, a private consulting firm co-founded by former UCLA Forecast Economist Chris Thornberg, is out with its own forecast - the day before UCLA's widely followed report is being released. Interesting timing. The Beacon forecast sees California home prices at their bottom and residential construction picking up steam. From the report: After falling for nearly two-and-a-half years consecutively, single-family building permits have increased slowly over the past nine months. We expect this trend to...

Mortgage failures

Congress got an earful today on why the administration's loan modification program is such a mess.

*Lede of the day

Admit it, wouldn't you love to write a newspaper story with the phrase "sex-crazed hubby?

Relief at LAX?

Looks like airport officials finally received government finding to help pay for a new baggage-screening system by 2012.

Tuesday morning headlines

FedEx more upbeat, holiday hiring is improving, riches for "2012" director, and the latest Expo delays.

Redbox is dangerous!

Here we go again - another threat to the local entertainment industry that could cost jobs.

Taking NYT buyout

It's none other than Edmund Andrews, who wrote a book about his financial problems centering on a mortgage he could not afford to pay.

Toyota's new problem

Of all the complaints registered about sudden acceleration in 2008, Toyota and Lexus vehicles made up 41 percent.

Subprime fraud charges

The SEC is filing civil fraud charges against three of its executives, alleging that they misled investors and overstated profits.

Monday morning headlines

Ugly breakup at money management giant, new plans for Grand Avenue, and L.A. valets may need operating license.

Runaway myths

Just because other states are trying to grab our Hollywood production dollars doesn't mean the entertainment industry is ready to leave L.A.

Immigrant economics

New study finds a negligible impact when the costs of illegal immigrants are weighed against the benefits.

Broidy's philanthropy

The L.A. financier who admitted paying off NY state pension officials has been a major player in the local Jewish community.

Stocks: Always something

The best piece of economic news in well over a year and the Dow ends the day barely on the plus side.

Loan Mod madness

Many of the borrowers should never have received loans in the first place. How do you modify something that's faulty to start with?

Friday morning headlines

Work hours go up, Broidy faces Calpers scrutiny, Comcast hedges its bets, and Rolling Stone goes Hollywood.

Why the good news?

The very unexpected improvement in the jobs picture could be the result of what economic bulls have been saying for some time.

Stealing quotes

The's Notice to Readers is a whopper: A Nov. 10 "New Global Indian" online column by New York City freelance writer Mona Sarika has been found to contain information that was plagiarized from several publications, including the Washington Post, Little India, India Today and San Francisco magazine. In the column, "Homeward Bound," about H-1B visa holders returning to India, Ms. Sarika also re-used direct quotes from other publications, without attribution, and changed the original...

Tiger's checkbook

The Daily Beast reports of negotiations in which Woods' wife Elin has been offered a $5 million payment if she agrees to stay.

Spitzer, WSJ, capitalism

The Tiger Woods stuff this week is a reminder of how celebrity redemption tends not to work in politics.

Mattel's black dolls

You'd think that folks would have more urgent matters to be concerned about these days, but...

Broidy pleads guilty

L.A. investor's guilty plea in NY state court in Manhattan is for "rewarding official misconduct."

Pay-to-play in NY & LA?

NY attorney general's office looks into an L.A. investor funneling $300,000 to an executive of a NY state pension fund.

Thursday morning headlines

Quick roundup on a busy morning: Tough retail month: November sales were lower than expected for a number of big chains, even with Black Friday. Even Costco struggled. (AP) Bernanke defends Fed: He tells lawmakers that the financial crisis would have been a lot worse without intervention by the central bank. But he's getting grilled.(NYT) Business as usual: at NBC: CEO Jeff Zucker says in a memo that the Comcast deal could take up to...

Comcast news pledge

Among the meatiest bits of speculation is that the Comcast deal for NBC would impact the network affiliated stations.

When GE got serious

The question of whether GE wanted to dump NBC has been a media parlor game for many years - and always denied. So what happened?

It's Comcast's show

The cable giant will pay $6.5 billion in cash and contribute programming valued at $7.25 billion for a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal.

Jobless in El Centro

The Imperial Valley community is accustomed to high rates of unemployment, but 30 percent?

SAG-AFTRA merger?

New Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard keeps pushing the idea.

More double-dip talk

NYT columnist Paul Krugman worries that stimulus-related growth is likely to peak around the middle of next year and then start to fade out.

NBC deal is close

Comcast winds up with a majority stake after France's Vivendi agreed to sell its 20 percent.

*Tiger travails

NY Post reports that the National Enquirer killed an earlier story about his roving eye in exchange for him doing a cover-shoot for a sister magazine.

Wednesday morning headlines

Wells to shut branches, Northrop may back out of bidding, Comcast faces antitrust scrutiny, and a tough search for L.A. hotel jobs.

Nielsen adds Web

The idea is to create a single-source measurement system that covers both Internet and TV viewing.

Tuesday morning headlines

Strong Cyber Monday, L.A. billionaire wants to buy planes, GM board to decide on Saab, and Dobbs might be looking at CNBC.