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.
June 2010

Anthem lowers rate requests

Instead of premium increases of up to 39 percent, insurer Anthem Blue Cross is now asking for a maximum rate hike of 20 percent.

*Gail Goldberg to step down

Head of the L.A.'s Planning Department is leaving after four-and-a-half years.

*Good riddance to Q2

Wall Street kind of fell apart in the last hour or so, with the Dow closing down 96 points, to 9774.

Target's L.A. moves City Council approved a new store in Hollywood, and the retailer is also looking to add stores in other locations.

L.A. billionare cashes out on firm

patrick.jpg Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong gets another big payday with the sale of Abraxis BioScience, the L.A. biotech firm he founded,

Metro jobless rates stay high

Eleven of the 13 metro areas in the U.S. with jobless rates of at least 15 percent were in California.

More depression talk

the-great-depression.jpg This isn't the 1930s, but some lawmakers are doing their best to bring back the bad old days.

Wednesday morning headlines

Recession hits workers hard, foreclosures make up more than half of all home sales, new hope for jobless benefits bill, and port workers and LAX janitors ready to walk.

State inquiry into mayor's tickets

This time it's the state Fair Political Practices Commission that has opened an investigation.

Enterprise zones are a joke

They do next to nothing to spur job growth, and they're costing the state around $500 million a year.

Dow falls 268

Index is now at 9870. Is all this a prelude to the June jobs report coming out on Friday?...

LA Live recognized

The downtown sports/entertainment district was honored by the Los Angeles Business Council at its 40th Annual Architectural Awards.

3D company's IPO cools down

Bev Hills-based RealD, which develops 3D movie-screening systems, is looking to raise about $161 million.

Fear index is back up

dow.png Meanwhile, stocks show little sign of gaining ground. Dow is off about 270 points.

Sluggish housing recovery

CaseShillerCitiesApril2010.jpg Stats have been very confusing of late because so much depends on location, but in general the uptick in L.A. has been limited.

Tuesday morning headlines

Consumer confidence plummets, CA lawmakers heading home (without budget deal), staying closer to home on the Fourth of July, and Oprah back on top.

Tesla boosts offering

Trading is expected to begin tomorrow. Company is looking to raise up to $185 million.

*It's still Bush's fault

bush.gif Tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost $7 trillion in deficits in 2009 through 2019.

Forever 21 opens in Times Square

It's four stories, 91,257 square feet, and 121 dressing rooms, the largest retail venue in Manhattan devoted to a single brand.

Facebook the Movie

It's actually called "The Social Network" and it's based on the Ben Mezrich novel (screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin). Movie is set to open Oct. 1....

Most of Sarbanes-Oxley stays

The high court only ordered a technical change. There has been speculation for months that the court would overturn the law.

Monday morning headlines

Consumers demanding discounts, jobless giving up car leases, SEC investigates KB Home, and Broad files permit for new art museum.

*Mayor kept spotty records on tickets

But the mayor's top lawyer says Villaraigosa obeyed all rules when receiving free tickets.

CA whistleblowers left hanging

whistle.png OSHA specifies that the cases be completed within 90 days, but in California it takes more than 400 days on average.

Are these job candidates for real?

I'm always amazed at the crazy stories that hiring managers tell about the applicants who come through their doors.

Signs that your business is in trouble

The co-founder of two Internet companies offers up 15 telltale indicators that things are not going well.

Stunning stat

Guess how much money was involved in the jobless benefits bill that the Republicans killed?

Reaction to reform bill

The instant analysis stuff doesn't work very well for such a complex piece of legislation - and one that's still hazy in a number of areas.

Financial reform at a glance

New help for consumers and new restrictions on banks. But there's a lot of business as usual.

Mayor's European trip cost what?

Add everything up and you're talking $120,000, give or take. Notice a pattern here?

Friday morning headlines

Head scratching on financial reform, no help for long-term jobless, movie futures trading could be dead, and Villaraigosa releases ticket records.

$1,000 jeans

denim.jpg "It brings the couture world back to denim," says the L.A.-based designer. Fine, but will anybody buy them?

American Apparel is at it again

Burkle holds a 6 percent stake, a credit deal has been amended, and more stories on how sexist the place is.

New housing worries

The government's tax credit program expired April 30, and it was obvious that there would be a dropoff in sales. The question has been how big a dropoff?

Honchos push immigration reform

A group that includes NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Disney CEO Robert Iger, want to see an easier path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Socialize risk, privatize gain

Eliot Spitzer writes that the Wall Street and BP calamities share a common thread.

Another PR coup for BP

BPbrand.jpg It's bested Goldman Sachs and Toyota as the most detested company in a new poll.

Thursday morning headlines

Nation on the skids, CA legislation pushes alternative energy, MGM and Lions Gate are talking merger, and dudes lining up to buy a new iPhone.

Latest on Tribune bankruptcy

The case could be resolved soon, but that will depend on a report concerning the circumstances behind the 2007 buyout.

How Americans spend (or waste) their time

sleep09.jpg The average American aged 15 or older was working 17 fewer minutes a day in 2009 than in 2007. Guess how they're spending the time.

Fed downgrades outlook

Central bank tempers its view of the U.S. economy, indicating that rates could remain at a record low until next year.

Ah, the good old days

stereo.jpg An ad from a 1964 Radio Shack catalog is a little reminder of the advances in electronics - as well as the changes in society.

McChrystal is out

AP is reporting that Gen. David Petraeus will replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top Afghan commander....

Heading for a June jobs dip?

CensusImpactJune2010.jpg With the Census winding down, many of those temporary positions are already disappearing.

Foreclosures hit Latinos hard

An estimated 17 percent of of Latino homeowners and 11 percent of African-American homeowners have lost their home or are at imminent risk.

Wednesday morning headlines

Calpers loses big on BP, November ballot initiative would delay greenhouse gas law, good reviews for iPhone 4, and Griffith Park tops in location shoots.

Why are 3D numbers falling?

toy_story_1_2_3d.jpg Hollywood types are closely monitoring the results because it's a potentially huge revenue source.

Retailers courting tourists

They're expecting a much better summer season than a year ago, led by visitors from Asia and the Middle East.

Some PR advice for CEOs

It's hard to imagine there are chief executives more inept than BP's Tony Hayward when it comes to securing good press. But just in case...

DA looks into mayor's free tickets

Making any inquiry more difficult is the apparent lack of documentation on who paid for the tickets and their financial value.

Kevin Spacey checks out Wall Street

kevinspacey.jpg The Academy Award winner was doing research in preparation for his role in "Margin Call,"

Already a budget impasse

The governor, Assembly Democrats and Senate Democrats all have different ideas on how to handle the $19.1 billion deficit.

Tuesday morning headlines

Obama gets middling grades, lead bidder emerges for MGM, CPK cuts quarterly forecast, and OC pharmaceutical company founded by Milan Panic is acquired.

Desperate for business

Wonder if they trucked in these Alabama beachgoers......

Slashing e-reader prices

Looks like war is at hand as Barnes & Noble and Amazon try to compete with the iPad (wonder what happened leading up to Father's Day?). ave cut then cut the price of its basic Kindle model to

Taking sides in NBCU-Comcast deal

Today is the deadline for comments on cable giant Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal.

Wonder why we have an oil problem?

world-oil-consumption-002.jpg Here's a look at BP's annual review of world energy that shows the U.S. once more leading the way in oil consumption.

Monday morning headlines

State workers are piling up overtime, Michael Jackson's financial mess looking better, Royal Caribbean giving up on L.A., and Sam Nazarian takes over Hollywood hotel.

Lakers and the cost of victory

lakers2.jpg Attention L.A. business owners: Don't expect to get much done on Monday. A few of your employees will be coming down with Laker flu.

Ken Crane's call it quits

One of the familiar local names in big screen TVs and home theater systems will be shutting down within 60 days.

'Toy Story' scores 100%

toy-story-3.jpg Every single critic on the Rotten Tomatoes Web site -- all 134 of them -- gave "Toy Story 3" a positive review.

*Aren't economic boycotts supposed to hurt Arizona?

Great move by the those budinskis in CA state and local government to take aim at Arizona's new immigration law.

82 cents an hour - yippee!

kfc.jpg That's the new minimum wage at KFC China -- and it's a 30 percent increase over what workers had been making.

Friday morning headlines

Gold keeps climbing, Lockheed braces for cuts, state fails in collecting fines, and AEG Live could be looking for a partner.

*CA unemployment dips

The May jobless rate was 12.4 percent, down a bit from a revised 12.5 percent the previous month.

MySpace co-prez exits

Jason Hirschhorn leaves the struggling social networking site. Co-president Mike Jones is expected to become CEO.

L.A.: 1908, 2002

la.jpg Two nighttime images of our fair city. So how much better off are we now? Lots.

SEC halts alleged OC Ponzi scheme

Feds say that investors were promised short-term returns of up to 130 percent annually so that earlier investors could be paid off.

Getting around pot ordinance

The Weekly found numerous medical-marijuana dispensaries that were supposed to shut down as of June 7 but remain open.

Supremes reject worker privacy

The high court ruled that supervisors may read an employee's text messages if there are suspicions that work rules were being violated.

A380 fare: $818-$24,538

Qantas-A380-First-Class-Suite-bed.jpg That's the price range on Qantas going roundtrip between L.A. and Sydney on board the world's largest passenger jet.

Thursday morning headlines

Next to no inflation in L.A., banks starting to add checking fees, tomatoes are plentiful and cheap, and Eli Broad agrees to giveaway.

No more email?

That's what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is predicting. Of course she's not exactly a disinterested observer.

Cost of homelessness

homeless.JPG For 90 percent of L.A. County's homeless population, public costs average $710 a month. For the rest, it's $8,083.

Robert Iger on the stand

The Disney CEO is testifying this morning in a $250 million dispute with the UK creator of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

Lying about your salary

interview.jpg When you're interviewing for a job, is it all right to inflate your current pay, in the hopes of getting even more?

Should IndyMac customers be bailed?

It's not quite the same as a moral hazard, but the results are much the same:

How much for Game 7 courtside seats?

lakers1.jpg Check of ticket brokers and other outlets this morning shows that they're running anywhere from $12,500 to $60,000.

Wednesday morning headlines

Proposal to raise FDIC limits, state looks at health care hikes, coffee prices could be going up, and Disney relaxes its theme park dress code.

It's June 15 - so where's the budget?

The folks in Sacramento are a little late in getting the thing done. All right, a lot late.

Dow gains 213

Still bouncing around for reasons that aren't very clear. It's the third 200-point gain this month, which would be nice if it weren't for the losses.

Panic in Hollywood

Production types nervous about the public's waning appetite for the well-worn, whether it's a sequel or an adaptation of an old TV series.

Tax holiday for L.A. businesses?

These things typically don't have a great track record. Heck, if it were that easy to jobs, wouldn't the idea already have come up?

L.A. home prices jump in May

The county's median price was $345,000, up sharply from $329,500 in April and $300,000 from May 2009.

Tuesday morning headlines

Ad spending to grow (slowly), DWP might sell assets, Tesla going public at the end of the month, and Best Buy misses its number.

UCLA forecast: Still sluggish

Growth over the next three years will be slower than the nation as a whole, according to the Anderson Forecast economists.

Whitman was in shoving incident

eBay employee claimed that Whitman became angry about something and forcefully pushed her.

Jeffrey Gundlach speaks

He's the former moneyman at L.A.-based TCW who is accused of having pot, hardcore porn and sexual devices in his office.

When does someone take on mayor?

Will LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley will ever get into the Villaraigosa ticket scandal?

Bob Iger: 'How are we making money on this thing?'

iger.jpeg Disney's CEO was watching Saturday's ad-free match between the U.S. and England.

Jack Kyser to retire

Jack_Kyser4.jpg The chief economist of the Economic Development Corp. of L.A. County will be leaving at the end of June.

Monday morning headlines

Car sales slower than first thought, city proceeds with layoffs, E3 Expo opens downtown, and are Weinsteins back in the hunt for Miramax?

Weak outlook for stocks, economy

A double-dip recession still seems unlikely, but the mid-year forecasts I've been perusing are not very encouraging.

Lakers-Celtics tops on TV

Thursday night's game delivered an 11.6 overnight rating, the highest of the series so far and a 6 percent boost from last year's Game 4.

Do people really eat this stuff?

whopper.png It's tough to expect any improvement in the health of Americans when these monstrosities remain on fast-food menus.

Forever 21 keeps expanding

forever_21_052603.jpg The latest proposal by the L.A.-based fashion chain is to take a 40,000-square-foot slice out of the huge Sears store at South Coast Plaza.

*Port activity looks better

May imports increased 12.5 percent from a year earlier, another sign that consumers have started to buy again.

Friday morning headlines

May retail sales tumble, Greuel not naming names, NY might issue IOUs, and taxpayers could be getting their GM money back.

Scary stat of the day

U.S. companies are holding more cash in the bank than at any point since 1963. This is not great news.

Recovery for the rich

Upper-income Americans spent an average of $145 a day in May, which is the highest monthly average since November 2008.

USC's costly sanctions

reggiebush.bmp.jpg Ironically, the loss of two seasons of postseason play might be the least of the financial costs.

Millionaire ranks grow

The U.S. and Canada saw a 15 percent increase last year in the number of seven-figure households.

Thursday morning headlines

Mixed bag on CA foreclosures, mortgage rates near all-time low, reviving California Adventure, and Boeing labor deal is approved.

Odds of a double-dip recession?

I've seen the recession odds at anywhere from 15 percent to 30 percent, more or less where they've been for some time.

Sizing up governor's race

brown_whitman_doomsday_604x341.jpg Looks pretty even at this point, though a lot could depend on this summer's budget squabbling in Sacramento.

Only $35,000 a night

hotel.jpg C'mon, it's vacation time - why not splurge a little? As in the Ty Warner Penthouse at NY's Four Seasons Hotel.

L.A. Live's ESPN Zone stays open

The L.A. location is run under a licensing agreement with Anschutz Entertainment Group and thus won't be among the restaurants being shuttered by Disney.

Lakers courtside roster

jack_nicholson_lakers.jpg Everybody knows about Jack Nicholson (and now Antonio Villaraigosa), but here's a sampler of other folks lucky enough - and rich enough - to sit right next to the action.

Wednesday morning headlines

Charitable giving slips again, no nurses strike on Thursday, more Californians lose jobless benefits, and WSJ may start L.A. edition.

200 years that changed the world

Fascinating progression of the human race over the last two centuries, based on life expectancy and income.

Gold hits record high

Would you believe $1,245.60 an ounce? Four years ago, when the financial world seemed so carefree, it was $543....

Why Web users are in trouble

Nicholas Carr says the Web has changed our cognitive circuitries - and not in a good way.

UC nurses prepare to strike

State officials are preparing a court order this morning to prevent a one-day walkout on Thursday by 12,000 nurses.

Is the spill that big a deal?

spill.jpg The emotional response to a disaster can sometimes block out everything else. That appears to be happening in this case.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. job prospects not great, Waters says Comcast tried buying her support, local gas prices move higher, and more questions about BP's future.

Hey Honda, want to connect?

california_final1.jpg Nothing like providing as much information to as many people as possible, even while waiting in traffic.

Paris Hilton reminisces

The Princess talks about living at the Waldorf when she was a kid (was?) and how she crashed bar mitzvahs.

Sports $$ take dip

L.A.-area sporting event revenues fell 18 percent in 2009 compared with two years earlier, as attendance declined and ticket prices fell.

Federal dollars may not arrive

California's $19 billion deficit might get larger because Washington money that the governor had been counting on is looking shaky.

BofA deals on Countrywide case

The banking company will pay $108 million to settle charges that the loan servicing business collected excessive fees from homeowners.

Madoff: 'F*** my victims'

Madoff official mug.jpg That's what the swindler supposedly said after one of his fellow inmates kept badgering him about all people he scammed.

Monday morning headlines

Tentative deal in C-17 strike, small rise in May home sales, 430 L.A. pot shops must close today, and latest iPhone to debut.

Unpleasant oil scenario

This is how a computer model sees the oil spreading well into the Atlantic....

Dow finishes down 323

stocks6.png Or thereabouts. The index is now under 10,000 on a day that looked bad from the opening bell.

How Wall Street computers cheat

How else do you describe a process in which supercomputers calculate stock prices a fraction of a second before other investors see the numbers?

Game 1 scores big in ratings

Last night's opener pulled a 10.4 rating, up 17 percent from 2009's Lakers-Magic series.

Here's why we're in trouble

chart2.jpg The current recession shows a huge job loss - biggest of all the post-war recessions - and only recently a weak upturn.

Friday morning headlines

More talk about jobless recovery, hopeful news on oil spill, betting on Madoff money, and Paige Rense leaves on a sour note.

Stocks down after jobs report

May employment report raises concerns that the private sector is getting skittish again about the economy.

Discouraging forecast

Economists now expect OC to lose 18,000 jobs this year instead of an earlier forecast of a 1,000-job gain.

*Mayor gets free Lakers ticket tonight

villaraigosa.jpg No word yet on where he's sitting, but I've got a hunch it won't be in the rafters.

Austerity at UC? Not likely

All those students who have seen their tuition go up must be thrilled to hear about this.

Price cut for Wells Fargo party home

wells.jpg This is the Malibu Colony property that was taken over by Wells Fargo - or more precisely, a Wells Fargo executive.

Eurocrisis explained

Still confused with what's going on? John Clarke and Bryan Dawe lay it all out.

Thursday morning headlines

Plastic bag ban looks likely, feds still eying Live Nation, drug cash disappears in Mexico, and "Titanic" is coming out in 3-D.

Slight dip in L.A. area jobless rate

That's somewhat encouraging compared with other parts of the state. U.S. employment report comes out Friday.

CA controller: $$ through August

But the positive cash position "does not indicate the state's cash flow is beginning to rebound along with the general economy."

The Ponzi artist of Sherman Oaks

Bruce Friedman will never be as notorious as Bernie Madoff, but federal authorities discovered that he held the same line of work: scamming people.

May car sales jump, but....

The increases aren't quite as impressive as they might seem because they're based on easy year-earlier comparisons.

Jobs on pay walls, iPad origins

The Apple CEO says, "I don't want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers myself. I think we need editorial more than ever."

Wednesday morning headlines

Cheaper pricing for iPhones, report that NBC's Jeff Zucker is out, FDA approves Amgen's osteoporosis drug, and will oil leak last until Christmas?

Low probability, high cost

haiti.jpg We could greatly minimize the losses from a destructive earthquake, but the price would be too high.

Lakers resale tickets soar

lakers.jpg The average resale price for Game 1 on Thursday is $1,071, according to price forecaster

Job advice: Forget job boards

Former career counselor tells Andrew Sullivan that they're mostly a waste of time, unless you have a very specific technical skill.

Elon Musk is broke

musk.jpg Founder of Tesla Motors has run into money troubles and is living off personal loans from friends.

How do Gores split Montecito house?

gore4.jpg Now that Al and Tipper have announced their separation, they'll have to deal with the $8.8 million Montecito home.

Council OKs another giveaway

If ever there's an example of why city governance is a lost cause, a $19 million loan to CIM Group is it.

More Hollywood dirty tricks?

millionaire.jpg That's what the creator of the quiz show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" will be claiming in federal court.

Tuesday morning headlines

Still worried about debt, bad news at the box office, iPad sales hit the 2 million mark, and Chinese Amway reps hit U.S. shores.