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.
March 2010

Extensions, extensions

Disney selling Miramax, MGM struggling with creditors, Tribune slogging through a bankruptcy - will any of these sagas be over in our lifetimes?

*Kindle book prices going up

The days of all e-books priced at $9.99 are fast coming to an end.

Music videogames are struggling

guitar-hero-3-wii-a.jpg Too much growth too quickly is usually a recipe for trouble.Music-themed games fell 36 percent in 2009.

Oxy's Irani is #1

rayirani.jpg Survey finds a drop in executive compensation for 2009, the second straight year that's happened. But not for some people.

Working at Goldman

It was "like a psychological and intellectual boot camp for the very best young minds in the world, the most ambitious and most driven."

Immigrant population has peaked

The peaking has come earlier than expected and is the result of stepped-up border enforcement and a downturn in the economy.

Wednesday morning headlines

Jobs report is weaker than expected, Toyota sales looking better, and L.A. location shooting rebounds.

Cheap and decent trumps quality

Apple-iPad-gets-hands-on-450x300.jpg Selling things that aren't bad and cost less can be preferable to selling things that are good and cost more.

Council approves rate hikes

Under the compromise rates would go up 4.5 percent for residents and 5 percent to 6 percent for businesses.

Shakeup at Activision

The Santa Monica-based videogame publisher has restructured its senior management group without telling anybody about it.

China invests in L.A.

Chinese investors have gotten into the foreclosure market, either as an investment or as residences for their kids.

Shiller talks double-dip

He tells Bloomberg TV this morning that there's a 50-50 chance of another downturn in the housing market.

Home sales peaking out?

homeforsale.jpg The federal credits are worth up to $8,000 and California tax credits are worth $10,000. So there's quite an incentive to buy a house now.

Finding work in San Jose

For every online job advertised, there are 1.7129 folks out-of-work. That makes the Silicon Valley city the easiest place to find a job.

Tuesday morning headlines

Apple at all-time high, Council considers DWP rate hike, AT&T loses iPhone monopoly, and Larry King gets beaten up in ratings.

Tribune's legal fees

They're monumental - $138 million, or about one-quarter of the company's cash flow last year.

How L.A. spends money

bundle.jpg The average L.A. household spent $39,422 last year on stuff, a paltry 4.3 percent higher than the national average.

Unveiling McCourts' lifestyle

Jaime's divorce lawyer, Dennis Wasser, insisted that the couple shouldn't be judged on the basis of their obscene spending.

Inside selling at Skechers

Shares of Manhattan Beach-based Skechers have been soaring, so what better time for the co-founder to sell some of his stock?

KFWB may be sold

For years, the FCC has been telling CBS that it would have to dump one of its L.A. properties.

Monday morning headlines

L.A. transit pitch gains traction, CA safety net is failing, American Apparel shares are sinking, and not so fast on 3-D.

Why was Gekko bumped?

wall_street_2_money_never_sleeps_pictures_02.jpg Why was Oliver Stone's sequel to "Wall Street" pushed back from April 23 to September 24?

Budget chief arrested for DUI

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana was arrested early Friday for allegedly driving under the influence.

Mortgage markdowns

New Obama program might do some good, but there are still too many people who should never have become homeowners.

Greenspan is so sad

He's aged like 57 years since leaving the Fed and seeing his low-interest rate policy nearly destroy the nation's financial system.

L.A. adds jobs, lowers jobless rate

The county gained 24,300 payroll positions in February, even as the state overall showed a loss of 20,400 jobs.

Slow-go on Wilshire Grand redux

The chairman of Korean Air, which is bankrolling the project, was sounding less than enthused about the progress.

Friday morning headlines

Jobless benefits blocked, more Toyota deaths claimed, DWP's pricey power, and latest plan to stem foreclosures.

Feb. job losses in CA

The state's unemployment rate held steady at 12.5 percent in February, but the separate payroll survey showed a loss of 20,400 jobs.

Making the most money

Guess where per capita income was highest in 2009? Would you believe the District of Columbia, at $66,000?

*Lions Gate out of MGM bidding

It offered between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion, MGM said it was too low, and that was that.

Jobs on the way?

The betting among forecasters is that the job rolls for March will show an increase, perhaps a large one.

Health care war almost over

Senate passes the much-debated reconciliation bill on a 56-43 vote, with three Democrats opposing the measure.

Thursday morning headlines

Social Security in trouble, 130,000 Californians to lose jobless benefits, CA poll shows support for health care, and "At the Movies" gets axed.

The mortgage principal problem

You just know that bank officials are holding their noses about the notion of giving up on principal.

More L.A. folks staying put

The county population was at 9.85 million, up from up from 9.78 million in 2008.and 9.54 million in 2000.

Perp walks for Lehman execs?

Hedge fund manager Jim Chanos wonders what's taken so long. "I have to think that fraud was involved," he tells NY Observer.

Small biz blues

New survey finds some optimism among CA small business owners - but very little hiring.

Accepting rejection

After Warren Buffett was turned down at Harvard, he wound up at Columbia's graduate school of business, where he learned about investing.

Wednesday morning headlines

Whitman's spending spree, cruise rebound for Carnival, CEOs still getting free club memberships, and the SEC's porn problem.

UCLA sees bipolar economy

Not much change in the Anderson Forecast's national outlook: Slow-growth and high unemployment well into next year.

Yes on health care bill

So much for Republican claims that "Americans" oppose the legislation, as if we are all grouped into one neat package.

Shopping habits change

dollar-store.jpg Dollar stores and Web sites are becoming the preferred outlets for more price-conscious consumers.

Big day for stocks

The Dow gained another 102 points and is now at a 17-month high of 10,888. It's risen 10 of the last 12 sessions.

Mayoral blackmail?

He's having a tough time getting the council to sign off on his plan to raise power rates at a time of double-digit unemployment.

Disorder in the court

court.jpg The economic downturn has brought increases in the kinds of money and family-related cases that generate hostility.

Tuesday morning headlines

China reacts to Google redirect, deal struck on trimming state deficit, Larry Ellison eyes Warriors, and Palin's new reality show.

How bad off is L.A.'s economy?

That's to say, how bad off compared with other metro areas? The basic answer is bad, but far from the worst.

MGM receives bids

No count on the bidders, but Lions Gate, Access Industries and Time Warner are all believed to be in the competition.

Pay czar strikes

aig-bonus-new-york-post.jpg Bonuses are obviously outrageous, but the far bigger issue is process. The Wall Street guys just don't care.

Dow: Ninth gain in 10 days

Mixed bag for health care stocks today - hospital companies and drug makers did well and managed care companies did not.

It's the end of the world!!!!!

That's what a few crazy-makers are saying about the health care bill.

Luxury retail coming back?

williams-sonoma.jpg As usual, the signals are mixed. William Sonoma expects to close more stores, but its earnings jumped in the fourth quarter.

Monday morning headlines

Dow is approaching 10,800, winners and losers in health care bill, Schwarzenegger's low numbers, and Larry David on TV Guide Network.

Bill Lerach et al out of jail

You might recall his being sent off for secretly paying clients to pursue shareholder lawsuits.

Tax battle over short sales

Governor and legislature are at odds over a bill that would provide tax relief to homeowners forced to sell at a loss.

Latest bets on health care

Intrade had the chances of passage up to 80 percent earlier this morning, but now it's back down to 78 percent.

Icahn wants all of Lionsgate

The Lionsgate board had already turned down his offer to buy up to 30 percent of the company.

Friday morning headlines

Boost in March car sales, Time Warner mulls MGM bid, lax federal oversight of Southwest, and JetBlue adds more LAX flights.

Karatz's accuser struggles

If all this turns out to be a he said/he said case, the prosecution might be in trouble.

More plaintiffs in Yelp case

The basic allegation is that sales reps for the online review site offer to hide negative reviews if a business buys an ad.

Go buy a Buick. Really.

jdpower.jpg All told, 25 of 36 brands improved their overall quality, a circumstance that auto repair shops are noticing all too well.

World's busiest airports

LAX slips to 7th position in 2009, down from 6th in 2008, 5th in 2007 and 3rd in 2001.

Last days for Provecho?

The restaurant's landlord has been given the go-ahead for eviction proceedings.

Buffett does Axl Rose

You gotta love him. The Oracle of Omaha goes Axl in this music video that's part of Geico's annual employees video.

Thursday morning headlines

Karatz gets creamed, DWP meets on rate hikes, Virgin America adds more flights, and Porsche and Lincoln tops in quality.

MGM bidders fading fast

Both John Malone's Liberty Media and Relativity Media are out, and Time Warner is expected to bid low.

Overheard at Goldman Sachs...

WSJ's Phil Izzo offers up this diddy for St. Patty's Day: "We assume that you know what you're doing, In this ill-advised trade you're pursuing, But the opposite bet That we place on your debt May eventually hasten your ruin."...

Market's lucky seven

The Dow gained another 47 points, but the more interesting news was that it hit its highest level in 17 months.

Pay less, want more

For all the fury about deficits, Americans still want government to provide lots of stuff - even if they're not willing to pay for it.

Are pay raises justified?

Inevitably, they bring up an uncomfortable point about how hard it is to cut billions of dollars on the run.

Nielsen: More multiwatching

New study finds that among the viewers watching last week's Academy Awards, 13 percent were also on the Web.

Wednesday morning headlines

Problems doing business in China, Blockbuster considers Chapter 11, print ad spending improves, and Conan inching closer to Fox.

*Virgin's flight from hell

virgin_america.jpg LAX to JFK is normally not a big deal, but for anyone on board a Virgin America flight last Saturday it became a Twilight Zone experience.

Monetizing Tiger's return

The ratings will be off the charts, of course, but ad revenues are another story.

Handicapping health care

Still early, but lawmakers have a right to be worried about how their vote will affect reelection chances this fall.

Another dip in home prices

February median price in L.A. County was $315,000, down $10,000 from the previous month and $24,000 from December.

Tiger returns for Masters

It's an ideal venue for him - limited media credentials, super-polite fans, and a course that he knows well.

Tuesday morning headlines

No change expected for interest rates, CA short on health insurance, iPad pre-orders reach 152,000, and questions about firing of Lehman whistleblower.

Hanmi keeps struggling

hanmi.jpg One of the Korean-American community's more prominent banks says it might not pass regulatory muster.

Latest bet on health care

Intrade gives it a 70 percent chance of passage. But it's bouncing around quite a bit....

This is really icky

To anyone who longs for the old days of polyester and "pretty 'lil things"...

Housing hieroglyphics

The number of delinquency filings is way up, but the risk of default is at its lowest point in five years.

L.A. bizfolk off to D.C.

More than 200 of them, along with the mayor and other city officials, will be pushing an agenda today through Wednesday.

Michael Lewis on '60 Minutes'

In case you missed it last night, his deconstruction of the subprime mess is well worth watching.

Continental to charge for food

The airline has been a kind of renegade in offering free meals to coach customers, but that ends this fall.

Monday morning headlines

Dodd pulls back on reform, small biz owners singing the blues, questions about Prius incident, and guys are overconfident on finance.

L.A. port boosts traffic

February was a strong month at the Port of Los Angeles, with overall container traffic up 27 percent from a year earlier.

OC DA sues Toyota

Guess that federal regulators, Congress and every plaintiffs attorney known to mankind are not good enough.

Yes, L.A. can go bankrupt

Willy-nilly layoffs are clearly not the answer - actually, the process of who stays and goes is already turning into a joke.

Their own little toxic asset

Here's an inside look at how those deadly packages of bad real estate loans are now being bought and sold in the private market.

NBC-Comcast, '30 Rock' style

Most of the names have changed - the network was sold by Sheinhardt Wig Co. to the Philly-based Kabletown.

Friday morning headlines

iPads go on sale, Disney junks mid-budget films, civil service hinders L.A. layoffs, and workers to shell out more on health care.

Love those bonds

Demand was so strong for California's $2-billion tax-free bond offering that Treasurer Bill Lockyer upped it to $2.5 billion.

Tasting whale

whale.jpg For anyone curious after this week's raid of a Santa Monica restaurant, whale meat is a little like reindeer or moose. What, that doesn't help?

What saved us from disaster

Credit the Federal Reserve for rescuing the U.S. economy from the financial crisis.

Big bump at port

February container traffic jumped almost 30 percent at the Long Beach, with inbound cargo especially strong.

Must we worry about Greece?

greece.jpg The short answer is probably not. But that doesn't mean financial disaster is not possible.

Thursday morning headlines

Credit market thaws out, dip in CA foreclosures, pay hikes for some state workers, and Villaraigosa pitches subway plan.

Down and dirty at TCW

L'Affaire Gundlach gets a pretty good going over in the new Fortune, including a blow-by-blow of his firing.

More tax money coming in

A potentially hopeful economic indicator: State revenues came in above projections for the third month in a row.

Heavy demand for CA munis

Boy, for a state that's supposedly on the verge of implosion, individual investors have been snapping up California's tax-free bond offering.

OJ prices going up

Blame it on the deep freeze down in Florida. Also look for some of the containers to get smaller.

About the Variety lawsuit

Up_Daily_Variety.jpg It's easy to see how it would happen: Ad salespeople promising the moon and an editorial department that perhaps wasn't clued in.

Misery loves company

Thirty states, including CA, saw their unemployment rates go up in January in a sobering but hardly surprising report.

Final call for Suze

Pop me a quick email ( if you're interested in seeing Suze Orman at the Nokia Center this Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday morning headlines

Toyota sales spike, Alarcon wants out of banks, little relief for CA policyholders, and CEO bonuses are down.

Scam on scam

As if the Madoff victims haven't been taken quite badly enough, along comes some characters up to no good.

Bonaventure gets hacked

westin.jpg Check your credit card statements if you ate or parked your car at the downtown hotel between April 2009 and December 2009.

Do jobless benefits help?

large_unemployment-453.jpg The Congressional Budget Office finds that they can actually help pump up the economy.

*Obamacare looking good

The betting markets are giving the president's health care package a better-than-even chance of getting through both houses.

Free Suze Orman tickets

Another reminder that I have four free tickets to her speaking gig at Club Nokia in downtown L.A. Let me know if you're interested.

Scary stat

43% -- The percentage of American workers who have less than $10,000 in retirement savings.

Tuesday morning headlines

Labor picture stabilizes, Northrop's retreat could cost locally, Karatz trial gets started, and Caruso targets LAX.

America gripes

A 42 percent jump in bank complaints to the Better Business Bureau is "a sign of the times."

California and bankruptcy

going-out-of-business.jpg So what would happen if the state could no longer pay its debts or borrow any more money?

'Hurt Locker' was so small...

... that screenwriter Mark Boal stood on street corners with his teenage nephew handing out free tickets.

Northrop drops out

So much for another showdown with Boeing for the massive contract to replace the Air Force fleet of refueling tankers.

Free Suze Orman tickets

She'll be speaking at Club Nokia in downtown L.A. this Sunday March 14. Let me know if you're interested.

Boost in Oscar ratings

More than one in four U.S. households were watching last night's telecast, which appears to be a jump from 2009.

Post-Oscar bounce?

Probably not in the theaters, but DVD sales for several of the nominated films will likely get a boost.

Monday morning headlines

White House pushes short sales, women still trail in workplace, investor interest in state office buildings, and digital media beats out print.

Is jobs outlook really up?

The labor market is indeed stabilizing- unemployment, both nationally and locally, have peaked. But that's not the key question.

Bad year? Not for Ray Irani

The CEO of L.A.-based Occidental Petroleum received $31.4 million in compensation last year.

L.A.'s big losses

Nearly 74,000 payroll jobs were lost between December and January, a huge dropoff that was seen in most segments of the economy

Council wises up on Internet, and other Los Angeles-based Internet companies threatened to leave the city

Cold water on job stats

jobschart.jpg businesses have learned to live with fewer workers, and so their hiring is likely to be a lot less robust than in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Delay in L.A. jobs report

January unemployment numbers were supposed to have been released this morning, but they're running into glitches.

Register adds RE section

That's right - a newspaper is actually adding to its print product.

Hike in state jobless rate

The economy continues to be in a muddle - not quite a recession and quite a recovery,

Friday morning headlines

Assessing employment report, theme parks inundated with job seekers, iPad hits stores on April 3, and gas prices shoot up.

Mish-mash on jobs

No change in the jobless rate. But the last few months show an economy that's going nowhere fast.

Lincoln vs. bloodsuckers

Cool ad (especially for the stodgy book business), but aren't we getting a little tired of this vampire stuff?

Don't call it organic wine

wine.jpg UCLA study finds that consumers get turned off by wines that are identified as organic, even though they often rate higher than non-organic.

Jerry Brown speaking up

jerry_brown.jpg I realize that the guy doesn't want to waste campaign money so early in the process but those Meg Whitman's ads are just sooooooo lame.

Still betting on 'Hurt Locker'

Despite the recent negative press, it's still favored to take home the Best Picture Oscar.

Paulson credits Bush

Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was sounding almost apologetic last night in praising George W. Bush's handling of the financial crisis.

'Call of Duty' ex-execs sue

The former heads of the development studio that worked on the popular videogame series allege they were fired over a royalty dispute.

Thursday morning headlines

U.S. companies flush with cash, Facebook in no rush for IPO, Pom Wonderful gets warning, and Palin pitching docudrama.

Oscar night gabfest

abc_walters.jpg The first time Barbara Walters did her silly but eminently watchable Oscar thing - it was 1981 and she had Brooke Shields, Loretta Lynn and Ringo Starr - ratings were sky high. So the following year the network did the logical thing: Schedule Luciano Pavarotti for an hour of opera singing. "No one watched," Walters told the NYT's Bill Carter. She was back for good the next year. But this Sunday will be it -...

Jobless rate vs. mortgage woes

California doesn't quite rank as the worst of both worlds, but the numbers are bad enough.

Californization of Washington

WSJ's David Wessel says the capital is taking on some of Sacramento's same dysfunctional features.

Macy's ends gift wrapping

giftwrap1.jpg Yet another service disappears from what used to be the full-service department store.

Live from the WH bedroom!

It's Barack Obama, along with the last six presidents, and the subject is consumer protection. It's pretty funny - really.

Infighting @ Activision

There are 8 million stories in the Naked Corporation - and two of them are no longer with the Santa Monica-based videogame company.

Wednesday morning headlines

New Toyota headache, CA not the highest bankruptcy state, weather eats into tomato supply, and Oscar balloting is over.

Senator relents

Kentucky's Jim "Mean 'Ol Man" Bunning ends his one-man blockade of emergency legislation to extend jobless benefits.

Why car biz is struggling

AutoFeb2010.jpg February sales translate to an adjusted annualized rate of 10.4 million vehicles, far below what a consumer-led recovery is supposed to look like.

More budget nonsense

Latest Field Poll: No to new taxes and no to messing around with the state constitution.

L.A. revenues to tumble

There's nothing all that new in Greuel's report, but it's another sobering picture of just how broke the city is and will continue to be.

Walking out on 'Avatar'

academy-awards.jpg The visuals were amazing, no question, but Best Picture? Please, please don't let it happen.

Bracing for bad job news

Looks like last month's snowstorms are going make a jumble out of the February employment report.

Turn out the lights

California has the seventh-highest energy costs in the nation, according to a study. Last year it was ranked 11th-highest.

Tuesday morning headlines

GM sales are up, creditors take over Panavision, big jump in gas prices, and ABC in cable dispute.

This guy's priceless

Doesn't Sen. Jim Bunning remind you a little of Henry Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life"?

Are we prepared?

chile.jpg The disasters in Haiti and Chile make the perennial question all the more relevant - even if no one can offer absolute assurances.

Buffett's sound bite fears

The Oracle of Omaha prefers being interviewed on CNBC, probably because he gets to say whatever he wants.

Jobless confusion

Reporting two separate sets of employment data on the same day is bound to cause a little confusion.

Monday morning headlines

Job benefits extension may get through, Buffett worries about health care, Calpers considers cutting rate of return, and Jay's back.