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.
February 2010

Mark blogs at

kpcc.jpg It expands on my Tuesday morning chats with Steve Julian. We got things going a few days ago.

GM is hot again

GM1.jpg Less than a year ago, it was assumed that a General Motors bankruptcy would be disastrous. So much for conventional wisdom.

*Legal schmegal

First-National-Bank-4.jpg The company that placed a supergraphic ad on the First National Bank building didn't have a permit. But so what?

*Jobless extension held up

bunning.jpg It's a little like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," except with Jimmy Stewart playing the bad guy.

Tiger gets the brush

tiger3.jpg The Tiger de-coupling has unfolded pretty much as expected. Only the companies that really need him are keeping him.

ABC shutting L.A. bureau

Boy, network officials weren't kidding when they announced a huge downsizing.

*New support for Obamacare

Alas, those supporting the president don't need convincing and those opposed are beyond hope.

Car registrations plunge

cars.jpg In round numbers, you're looking at almost 100,000 fewer registrations in 2009 than a year earlier - and 2008 wasn't such a hot year.

Claim: Toyota withheld docs

For anyone naïve enough to think that the carmaker's problems couldn't possibly get any worse, well, they just did.

Califonia's got company

Budget shortfalls have opened up in 41 states, and things might get even worse for FY2011.

Burger porn

The parent company of Carl's Jr. is in the process of being sold. Fine, but what about the commercials?

Friday morning headlines

Californians can't pay their mortgages, Carl's Jr. parent to be sold, state insurers subpoenaed, and lots of travel delays today.

Rotten tomatoes

tomatoes.jpg The arrest last week of Frederick Scott Salyer on charges of racketeering and fraud got some attention, but oh, what a backstory.

Why the economy stinks

Sandra Pianalto, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, offers a pretty good summary.

Frightened Council

A few members are wondering whether city workers could do some of the work now being handled by private contractors.

Thursday morning headlines

Obama's fallback on health care, businesses paying bills faster, illegal workers slipping through, and KABC goes Hollywood.

Central banking 101

The California Congresswoman got confused between the discount rate and the fed funds rate.

Service departments in trouble

When folks don't buy cars, they don't need service. That's why service departments could see big declines between now and 2013.

Film financier on brink?

Published report says David Bergstein's creditors have begun circulating a petition to force him into bankruptcy.

Northrop hunts for space

The aerospace company's decision to leave L.A. has set off a frenzy of interest among local governments in the Washington, D.C. area.

Say goodbye to California

Always be suspicious of scare stories showing the number of businesses leaving the state or L.A. The numbers are almost always off.

Hockey gets tape-delayed

What would an Olympics be without NBC socking it to West Coast viewers?

Strange bedfellows

That would be Newport Beach plaintiffs attorneys Mark Robinson and Kevin Calcagnie, who appear on the oped page of the WSJ.

Wednesday morning headlines

Pickup in jumbo loans, layoffs in Long Beach, McCourts are tax free, and setback for Karatz.

From Alarcon's lips...

The councilman doesn't think much of S&P's decision to lower the city's general fund credit rating from AA to AA-.

Not enough renters

rentals.jpg There's just too much supply, much of it the result of foreclosed homes and condos being turned into rentals.

Billboard suit

billboard.jpg City Attorney Carmen Trutanich goes after those responsible for monster-sized supergraphic signs.

*Major cuts at ABC News

When it's over, up to 25 percent of the news division could be slashed, or 300 to 400 staffers.

Why the drop in confidence?

sad_face.jpg Americans really turned gloomy in February. The question is why.

Betting on Hollywood

The stock exchange will allow users to take long or short positions on upcoming films.

Problem banks

They're receiving closer scrutiny by the feds, usually because they have weak capital cushions to prevent against failure.

Turning 20K into 489K

Shia LaBeouf, who stars with Michael Douglas in the upcoming "Wall Street 2," tells Jimmy Kimmel about his huge (supposed) payout.

Tuesday morning headlines

Home prices edge higher, Toyota's fractured management, Anthem gets whacked, and Magic deal for Ebony collapsing.

Continental plans cuts

cont.jpg More passengers are arranging their own travel by computer, and besides, Continental charges $20 to make a reservation by phone.

Credit card primer

Lots of changes starting today, many of the related to interest rates and fees.

Post-Indymac suits, $$$

New questions are being raised about OneWest Bank, the local savings and loan that was formed by several wealthy financiers.

Ipad backlash

ipad2.jpg Just another example of how we love to pump up stuff and then shoot it down.

Monday morning headlines

Toyota's new problem, NBC making more than expected on Olympics, port hiring is up, and why Anthem has so many enemies.

Fix the budget

Downtown News editorializes on the chaos at City Hall.

Gordon Gekko is back

Oliver Stone's "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps" doesn't open until April, but the trailers are already making the rounds.

What did he say?

villaraigosa-latimes-blog.jpg Here is the mayor being asked to explain how he intends to deal with the budget crisis - and not a complete sentence in sight.

*NASA says LAX is safe

A long-awaited report, just out this morning, says that the two north runways should remain in their current configuration.

Why golf is in trouble

If today's carnival tells us anything, it's that pro golf without Tiger Woods becomes a second or even third-tier sport.

Friday morning headlines

Candys leave Bev Hills, Jaime McCourt wants more, no to three digital billboards, and LAX falls flat.

Council votes job cuts

Agency heads are being instructed to eliminate 3,000 additional jobs - by layoffs, if necessary, by July 1.

Big days for LAX

lax2.jpg Monday is the groundbreaking for the Bradley West project, which will greatly expand the congested international terminal.

Tribune given extension

Bankruptcy judge has given the media conglomerate (and parent of the LAT) until the end of March to file a reorganization plan.

Latest Oscar bets

hurt3.jpg Intrade, the online trading exchange, has "The Hurt Locker" leading the pack, followed by "Avatar."

Slow go on modifications

modify.png The numbers are getting better, but permanent mortgage relief remains elusive.

Thursday morning headlines

More manufacturers are hiring, women still lagging at corporate level, no to L.A. privatization, and additional runway lights at LAX.

Moody's bearish on L.A.

The change affects about $3.2 billion of debt, a clear indication that Wall Street doesn't like what it sees..

The murky pay model

content.png Content would have to be really good and unavailable for free, an enormous burden for an online publication.

*Ticketmaster settles

bruce.jpg Brouhaha over the handling of tickets for Bruce Springsteen concerts is apparently being resolved by the feds and the company.

Tiger to talk

He's expected to apologize and discuss his future plans at a meeting on Friday near his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Tesla employees in crash

The plane, which apparently struck a transmission tower, was owned by an executive with the electric-car company.

Disney's new mandate

proposal.jpg Now under new studio management, the Mouse House is only interested in two types of movies.

Biggest home sale in '09

katz.jpg It's the $35 million purchase of an 8,704-square-foot Bev Hills home by DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Take our workers - please

Dumping laid-off city employees to the airport, port and DWP never seemed like a good idea.

Scary story du jour

It's darkest before the dawn and all that, but today's NYT story about party gridlock is enough to get folks good and nervous.

Wednesday morning headlines

Toyota's latest problem, still-struggling L.A. economy, port traffic shows some improvement, and NYT reporter explains plagiarism.

Cashing in on housing

Absentee buyers bought 22.3 percent of the homes sold last month, the highest level for any month since at least 2000.

What a guy

Andy Rooney thinks it's pretty funny that CBS shelled out two grand to have him shuffle around at the Super Bowl.

Anthropomorphizing the market

Some singular events do stir wholesale buying and selling. But it's not the norm.

Worst disaster... ever?

The quake is believed to have killed 200,000 to 250,000 people and caused $7.7 billion in damages.

We're happy, sort of

With L.A. being such a have- and have-not region, the 25th place showing makes sense, kinda.

L.A. home prices fall

More sales in January involved distressed properties and lower-cost inland homes rather than the pricier fare closer to the water.

Tuesday morning headlines

More foreclosures expected, tax credits won't generate many jobs, new troubles for Toyota, and Mattel's hot toy.

NYT caught cheating

Zachery Kouwe, a reporter for the Dealbook blog, apparently swindled passages from the WSJ and other news organizations.

No more Oscar specials

Barbara Walters says she's sick of the post-award lovefest in which she profiles several celebs.

Southwest vs. Kevin Smith

kevinsmith.jpg The airline did everything right, and Smith is a jerk - a Hollywood jerk, the worst kind.

If only...

sanpedro.jpg Too bad the folks in San Pedro chose to squabble for so many years on how to redevelop their aging community.

Chamber's homeless lobby

Attention is focused on changing the federal formula for determining how homeless dollars get divvied out.

Directors get rich(er)

Now that they're being held responsible for the bottom lines of the companies they oversee, they're being paid a lot more.


Just in time for Valentine's Day - and complete with free wooden flowers. Just consider it deflationary romance.

'Ellen' is hot ticket

ellen.jpg Deal with NBC's 10 O&O stations puts to rest speculation that the ABC stations might go after her as an Oprah replacement.

Friday morning headlines

Getting a piece of Buffett, profits for health insurers, best place to find work in CA, and Disney pushes window.

Tax man cometh

Come April 15, small business owners have to shell out a sales tax covering Internet and phone purchases from out of state. If only they knew.

More city layoffs?

Villaraigosa says he plans a second wave of job cuts for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Development plans vs. reality

There's a big difference between getting city approval to begin construction and actually beginning construction.

Many jobs won't return

outofwork.jpg In the 1990-91 recession, out-of-work folks found work in new industries or started their own businesses. But maybe not this time.

Explaining rate hike

Wellpoint says it's stuck with too many sick people. But the company "cares deeply about our California customers and community."

Behind MySpace firing

myspace-logo.jpg "There were serious disagreements and something had to give," one source told Boomtown's Kara Swisher.

Thursday morning headlines

CA foreclosures fall, L.A. bankruptcies rise, Toyotas get fixed, and bumper grape crop doesn't mean lower prices.

Century Plaza spared

centuryplaza.jpg They're revamping the original plan to raze the hotel and build two 50-story high-rises.

*Shakeup at MySpace

After less than a year, Owen Van Natta is out as CEO of the struggling social network site.

State coffers filling up

But nothing has really changed - the state's cash position will still fall below safe levels this spring.

Big drop in illegal immigrants

But are the numbers declining because fewer people are entering the country or because more are leaving?

Party time!

Wall Street traders unable to get home tonight will be eating, drinking and goodness knows what else.

Travel troubles

Not a great day to be flying, even if you aren't going back east.

Gundlach countersues

He's the ex-bond fund manager at L.A.-based TCW Group who was ousted and then formed his own money management firm.

Law school mystery

Why are applications at UCLA up 6 percent from last year while Cornell reports a 52 percent increase?

Wednesday morning headlines

Honda recall expanded, improving HMO scores in CA, L.A. apartment rents get cut, and Hooters is on the block.

The layoff list

CityWatch has gotten hold of the 1,000 jobs presumably on the chopping block. Actually, it's kind of interesting.

Mindless populism

It's all about angry voters who want things to get better, but aren't interested in those devilish details.

Will they ever work again?

scary.jpg The average length of unemployment during the recession has been 31 weeks, the longest on record.

Market rallies

The Dow pulled back quite a bit from its earlier high, but still managed to finish about 150 points on the upside.

L.A.'s haves, have-nots

rand.jpg United Way study notes a higher poverty rate and a greater percentage of working poor than the rest of the nation.

Now that's a price cut

price cut.jpg San Clemente home hit the market at $4.2 million, and then, four days later, it was reduced to $2.9 million.

L.A. credit worries

Fitch Ratings says it's monitoring L.A.'s budget situation for a possible downgrade in the city's rating.

Tuesday morning headlines

Toyota details its brake recall, upbeat forecast at the ports, L.A. Council looks to restructure, and that pillow is going to cost you.

Deal cut in pay-to-play case

NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has settled with two L.A. private equity firms in connection with an ongoing corruption probe.

Why all the local TV news?

Stations have been inundating the L.A. air with news, mainly because it's cheaper than running top-tier syndicated fare.

Another down day

Dow loses 103 points, finishing below 10,000 for the first time since Nov. 4.

Newsstand sales plummet

Some of the individual declines for general interest magazines are breathtaking.

Anthem hears from feds

.Huge increases for individual policyholders have caught the attention of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Super Bowl's girlie men

What was it with the ads that had men trying to affirm that they're really, truly MEN?

Monday morning headlines

Crackdown on health plans, risks in L.A. budget plan, Santa Anita avoids sale, and pushback on Broad.

Why Toyota messed up

"If it stinks, put a lid on it." That Japanese proverb captures the car company's ineptness leading up to the current crisis.

Super Bowl bulls

This should be an up year for stocks, at least based on the goofy-but-often-accurate Super Bowl indicator.

Chico paper to charge

Chico Enterprise-Record will allow free access to as many as 25 "premium" articles each month, after which readers will have to pay.

Stocks recover

The Dow had been down as much as 170 points, but made a late-day charge.

Battle of the exes

bigelow.jpg More on the relationship between James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, the top contenders for best director and best picture Oscars.

Art imitating life

HBO is developing series that centers on a powerful female online showbiz journalist with a no-holds-barred style.

Steamy pics update

David Kiely, the investment manager who was seen opening semi-nude pictures of Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr, gets to keep his job.

Job news reaction

Generally, it's pretty good, despite the economy losing 20,000 jobs in January.

Friday morning headlines

Toyota chief is sorry, why job news could be good, council president tap dances, and Katzenberg buys $35-million home.

Slight relief on jobs

A very mixed bag - and very reflective of the transitional period that the economy still faces.

*Budget confusion

Villaraigosa announces immediate layoffs of 1,000 city employees to help to balance the city's budget.

Toyota resumes sales

The carmakers had suspended sales of eight models because of concerns over sudden acceleration.

Bizboys, here's your chance!

jen1.jpg Jennifer Aniston is fed up with show biz types, according to her friends, and now wants to be set up with a wealthy businessman.

*Market rubble

At the close, the Dow falls under 10,000 - and down 270 points, or 2.6 percent, for the day. *Final numbers bring the Dow up to 10,002, down only 268....

Million-dollar tumble

manhattan.jpg More than 18,000 homes statewide sold for $1 million or more last year, down almost 24 percent from 2008.

2012 is the year!

That's when L.A. is likely to see a real recovery in the commercial real estate market, according to a new report.

NY-LA: 7 hours?

Same type of plane, same fuel, same distance - so why does it take so much longer these days?

Wall Street getting socked

There's the usual concern about the economy, along with new worries about the European financial system.

Jon Stewart on Toyota

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cToyotathon of Deathwww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Crisis Funny stuff - so long as you're not one of the recall-ees....

Thursday morning headlines

Prius brake update, L.A. Council delays cuts, NBCU execs being scrutinized, and teens turned off to blogging.

Council's secret slush

Well, what have we here? More than $30 million being used by City Council members for, ahem, special projects

Corridor downgrade

Citing the drop in cargo activity, Moody's downgraded $1.7 billion of Alameda Corridor bonds and placed the debt on its watch list.

Least-trusted banks

Bottom seven includes Bank of America, Chase and Citibank. Customers grouse that the banks are too interested in earnings.

*Blind leading the blind

Hundreds of people are griping about the cuts being proposed by L.A.'s chief budget official.

Long-term unemployment

unemploy.jpg The state jobs crisis is far more serious than December's 12.4 percent unemployment rate would have you believe.

*Boom lowers on Toyota

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is known for speaking his mind, but he might have gone one step too far this morning.

Wednesday morning headlines

Improving job reports, L.A. council caving, still more trouble for Toyota, and big cuts at CBS News.

Big jump at food banks

Almost one million L.A. County residents - or nearly one in 10 - received food assistance in 2009.

Terrorist attack 'certain'

Intelligence honchos testifying on Capitol Hill say that Al-Qaeda will try to strike in the U.S. within the next three to six months.

Say cheese...cake

Boy, it's gotten so that a guy can't even surf the net for nudie shots anymore.

Toyota sales fall

They were down 16 percent in January, not a big surprise given the recall and sales suspension.

Nominees TBD

hurtlocker.jpg The good news is you got nominated for Best Picture. The bad news is that if you might not get credit.

L.A. layoff update

The Council will consider a plan to eliminate at least 1,000 positions, but the measure could not muster majority support from the budget committee.

Tuesday morning headlines

How to fix Toyota pedals, L.A. budget cuts advance, Sony layoffs, and Super Bowl sells out.

Burkle after Barnes & Noble

burkle.jpg The L.A. billionaire wants to buy up as much as 37 percent of the bookstore chain. But he's getting pushback.

C-17 targeted - again

c-17.jpg The White House budget calls for scrapping the Boeing-made cargo plane, though we've heard that tune before.

Concerto work resumes

That would be developer Sonny Astani's downtown condo tower, which got snagged up last fall by the failure of its first construction lender.

Irvine Co. moves homes

A total of 70 homes worth $45 million were sold in advance of the formal opening of two communities.

Monday morning headlines

Toyota lays out plan, Tesla going public, Miramax up for sale, and SAG and AFTRA talk partnership.