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.
September 2010

Is Carl Icahn pushing an MGM-Lions Gate merger?

The billionaire investor has been buying up big chunks of MGM debt to help his cause.

*Whitman looking for cover

She's actually having to deal with a story that has no pre-packaged sound bites or policy positions - and she's stumbling.

California's long slog back

The jobs recovery is roughly on par with the 1991 downturn, which took several years correct itself.

September to remember

The Dow slipped 47 points today, but for the month the index jumped 7.7 percent, the best September since 1939.

Live Nation board is "a circus"

In assessing the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation for Los Angeles magazine last year, I wrote that "ego and testosterone will only get you so far." So now it appears as if the egos are screaming at each other. The Wrap's Sharon Waxman picked up some juicy tidbits from Monday's board meeting that concluded with Barry Diller announcing that he would step down as chairman of the Bev Hills-based concert/ticketing company. The meeting devolved...

Do the rich work harder than everyone else?

Billionaire Richard Branson says no, that they're just more fortunate than everybody else. But studies on the subject suggest otherwise.

Why so little harangue over LAT ad?

LAT.jpg It's the grudging acceptance of Internet advertising that, in many ways, has been far more intrusive than anything the Times can dream up.

Time to start thinking about IOUs

The governor and Democratic leaders have gotten bogged down on pension reform, and talks appear to have been put on hold.

Thursday morning headlines

Long odds of finding work in L.A., Chase suspends foreclosures, Mattel's Fisher-Price recalls toys, and USC, UCLA among the nation's best executive MBA programs.

Brown, Boxer pulling away

In the governor's race, it's Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman 52-43 percent among likely voters.

CA jobless rates are falling?

Report finds that for a bunch of California cities the jobless rate actually fell in August from July.

L.A. poverty rate goes up

Census Bureau has 1.6-million county residents below the poverty threshold, which is $10,956 for a single person and $21,954 for a family of four.

'New normal' doesn't feel so good

Pimco's Bill Gross says that those paltry investment returns will be with us for quite a while.

Wednesday morning headlines

CEOs are gloomy, CA budget talks stall, Diller to step down as chairman of Live Nation, and Sherman Oaks Ponzi suspect arrested in France.

Millionaire density

The millionaire populations and millionaire densities of Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, California and New York increased in 2010 from 2009.

Two Valley Barnes & Noble stores to close

Locations in Encino and Calabasas are expected to be shuttered by the end of the year.

Business Update on KPCC

My business chat looks at this morning's shareholder vote at Barnes & Noble and the lack of many new names to this year's Forbes 400.

Shaky case against POM Wonderful?

The lawyers will be having a field day in the Federal Trade Commission complaint against the makers of the popular pomegranate juice.

Last call for Robert Reich tickets

The former Labor Secretary and author of "Aftershock" will be in conversation with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal tomorrow night at the Colburn School.

Power update

As of 8 a.m., the DWP says that 15,000 of its 1.4 million customers are without power.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. home prices edge higher, widening gap between rich and poor, more progress on budget talks, and Northrop outlines jobs cuts.

Burkle loses Barnes & Noble battle

The big bookseller has fended off a proxy challenge by the L.A. billionaire at this morning's shareholders meeting.

More hints that budget deal is close

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says that the Legislature might vote on a state budget within the next week or so.

*108 in Westwood, 111 downtown

All kinds of records being set. This shapes up to be the hottest day in more than 20 years.

Layoffs at Northrop

At least 500 local employees will be losing their jobs by the end of the year as the aerospace giant prepares to move its headquarters.

FTC says POM juice ads are deceptive

Federal regulators accuse the makers of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice of making false claims.

Free tickets for Robert Reich event

The former Labor Secretary and author of "Aftershock" will be in conversation with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal on Sept. 29 at the Colburn School.

Crazy crazy hot

It's 101 degrees downtown, several degrees warmer than the readings in Burbank and Van Nuys, according to the National Weather Service.

The road to privatizing libraries

The city of Santa Clarita hired an outside company to operate its three libraries, and lots of folks are not happy about it.

Monday morning headlines

Southwest buys AirTran, Stanley Chais dies, arrest in Donald Bren scam, and city shelves streamlining plan.

Samueli, cleared of backdating charge, wants to focus on hockey

Ducks owner - and Broadcom co-founder - Henry Samueli did something this week that he rarely does: Answer questions from reporters.

Hedge fund to seize Robert Taylor Ranch

robert_taylor_ranch.jpg The 112-acre Mandeville Canyon property is owned by former KROQ owner Ken Roberts, who owes $27.5 million to the fund.

Layoffs at Newsweek

No word yet on numbers but it apparently came down a few hours ago.

The GOP's war on arithmetic

Not surprisingly, NYT columnist Paul Krugman doesn't think much of the Republican "Pledge to America" (nor do lots of Republicans).

Napping on the job

A half-hour of dozing can be a very good thing - physically and mentally restorative in all kinds of ways.

Jeff Zucker leaving NBC

The CEO of NBC Universal says he will be leaving the company upon completion of the acquisition by Comcast.

Friday morning headlines

Questions about the state budget deal, California utilities must get greener, Amgen recall involving anemia drug, and Disney's Internet chief resigns.

State budget deal could be close

A framework for an agreement has been put together by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and top lawmakers.

Fiorina getting support from Koch Industries

Both the Senate Republican candidate and the right-wing campaign contributor support Proposition 23, which would suspend California's global warming law.

Favorite business movie?

"The Godfather," "Chinatown," and "Trading Places" are some obvious picks.

Cracks start to appear in subway boondoggle

At last the nonsensical plan to build a Westside subway is being challenged.

The Ron Burkle Mystery: Why does he care about Barnes & Noble?

With the company's annual meeting less than a week away, shares fell sharply yesterday and are down better than 30 percent from the 52-week high.

How many jobs are leaving CA?

Study finds that the state lost, on average, a paltry 9,000 positions a year between 1992 and 2006, or 0.05 percent of labor force.

Thursday morning headlines

Brown and Whitman tied, local stations clean up on political ads, Blockbuster files Chapter 11, and C-17 deal with India is close.

Socal's richest people

The magazine's annual roster of richest Americans has OC real estate mogul Donald Bren in the top spot.

Understanding health care reform in under 10 minutes

The Kaiser Family Foundation has prepared this helpful video, narrated by Cokie Roberts, on what the overhaul is all about.

How to cope with being laid off

Prepare a crisis plan, don't take time off before you start looking for a job, and don't refinance your house are among some tips.

Big bump in Thanksgiving air fares

The average round-trip fare over the holiday is up 10 percent from a year ago, according to Travelocity.

*Bell's internal controls 'virtually non-existent'

An audit by State Controller John Chiang on Bell's finances has discovered a bunch of abuses.

Chinese company working with L.A. has been stumbling

That would be carmaker BYD Co., which is receiving a modest $5.2 million worth of incentives from the city.

Wednesday morning headlines

Socal home prices all over the map, Obama gets low marks from investors, Blockbuster nears bankruptcy filing, and electric car company taking deposits.

LAX concession process is 'radioactive'

The winning bidder becomes the losing bidder, and the losing bidder gets another, undeserved chance.

Eli Broad has some company in L.A.'s clubby art world

The words Los Angeles, billionaire and art will almost always lead you to philanthropist Eli Broad. But over the last few weeks, Broad has been sharing the stage.

L.A. is picked best place for hotels

WSJ's Laura Landro wrapped up her stint as the paper's Finicky Traveler with a rundown of her favorite hotels.

Strange bedfellows oppose Prop 23

The initiative to repeal the state's global warming law is not getting nearly the kind of industry backing that would have been expected.

Business Update on KPCC

My business chat on KPCC includes a postmortem about the August unemployment numbers.

Fed defers action

The central bank is starting to get antsy about the nascent recovery, but it decided against taking any new steps to try and shake up the recovery.

Wal-Mart at midnight

walmart.jpg It'll tell you a lot about how people are trying to cope with the economy, says one of the retailer's executives.

How does California stack up on jobs?

Badly. August's 12.4 percent jobless rate was the third highest in the nation (after Nevada and Michigan).

Tuesday morning headlines

Fed considers another infusion, big jump in L.A. bankruptcy filings, Calpers doled out six-figure bonuses, and El Segundo Internet company sold for $640 million.

L.A. County's high sales taxes

All five California cities that have sales tax rates higher than 10 percent are in L.A. County.

Hearst-Davies estate for sale

For cheap, at least compared with the asking price of $165 million three years ago.

'Flash crash' report due out next week

SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter promises that the long-awaited report will provide a detailed look at why market prices suddenly fell off a cliff

Burkle gets an ally in Barnes & Noble proxy fight

Don;t count the Bev Hills billionaire out in his efforts to gain three seats on the booksellers' board.

No morning headlines

I'll be out of pocket until later today....

New suitor for MGM?

Just when it appeared as if the movie studio was resolving its financial mess a big Indian company becomes interested in acquiring the place.

Development proposed for KTLA property

The block-long stretch along Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood would have an office tower, production facility, and parking structure.

Marriage bound (via the Broadway shtetl)

Composer and lyricist Lin Manuel ("In the Heights") turns a predictable wedding toast during his wedding reception into a joyful production number.

Austin Beutner a candidate for mayor?

Both former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan and Eli Broad agreed that Beutner could be a good contender.

Economists not happy with jobs report

The loss of 33,500 jobs last month (12,800 in L.A. County) was more than expected and not encouraging news.

Bankrupt Rock & Republic chased by landlord

The L.A. premium denim company that's trying to get out of Chapter 11 owes millions of dollars in back rent and interest on a Rodeo Drive store.

Taxes are not the problem for small biz owners

economix-14smallbizprob-custom2.jpg What are small business owners most worried about? What else? - low demand.

New job losses in California

Payroll jobs fell by 33,500 in August, although some of the losses were the result of phasing out 7,700 temporary federal Census jobs.

Friday morning headlines

L.A. inflation stays tame, CA budget deal "imminent" (or not), Mozilo to stand trial Oct. 19, and more chatter about Tina Brown taking over Newsweek.

Slicing and dicing American poverty

Nearly one-third of the population had at least one spell of poverty lasting two or more months during the 4-year period from 2004 to 2007.

There's hope for L.A. - We ain't such dogs as we think we are!

ArtsandCultureDensity1.jpg Measuring the number of artistic and cultural creative workers per square kilometer, L.A. is in the top spot.

Why can't I find my Thomas Brothers?

thomas.jpg Seems as if the publisher of the famous map books has quietly left California, according to Joe Vranich, a relocation consultant who tracks firms moving out of the state. Vranich says that Thomas Brothers closed its Irvine headquarters late last year when the last of its 20 employees were let go (the facility once employed 200). Businesses are required to notify the state of California whenever 50 or more workers are let go within a...

Stimulus money has created 55 L.A. city jobs

A cumbersome bureaucracy not accustomed to expediting anything found itself with a bunch of found money, but still having to navigate existing rules.

Thursday morning headlines

Jump in poverty rate, CA foreclosures edge higher, layoffs in Long Beach, and Boeing to sell tickets to space.

L.A. is an economic basketcase

metros.png High unemployment and a weak housing market are the killers, according to the Brookings Institution's second-quarter report.

More cold water on Ron Burkle's proxy fight

The L.A. billionaire still has a chance at winning three seats on the Barnes & Noble board, but it's not looking good.

Hyundai to build OC HQ

The Korean automaker is investing $150 million in the project, which will result in more than 1,500 construction jobs.

Charred Benedict Canyon estate has quite a history

The 8,000-square-foot, two-story home in the 9000 block of Wanda Park Drive suffered about $1 million worth of damage in a Tuesday morning blaze.

Who says CA real estate is in the tank?

The state had the nation's third-highest rate of appreciation in July, according to CoreLogic (Maine and South Dakota were higher).

Health care reform is mostly a good thing - probably

UCLA economists expect little or no impact for another three years. By then, the economy might will probably be in better shape.

Budget stalemate taking a toll

Just because the state controller hasn't been forced to issue IOUs doesn't mean vendors are receiving all that is owed to them.

Wednesday morning headlines

State is recovering slowly, online banking problems at Chase, retailers stock up on e-readers and smart phones, and Steve Lopez on the LAX concession mess.

Ethic panel nixes freebies, but so what?

The 4-1 vote would bar high-level officials from receiving free tickets from anyone with pending business before the city.

Eisner downplays Tribune role

Continues to sidestep any interest in running the place once the bankruptcy is out of the way.

Business Update on KPCC

My weekly business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian looks at the possible bankruptcy filing by MGM and whether the storied movie company has a future.

Mixed bag on port traffic

Overall activity at the Port of Los Angeles was up almost 25 percent in August, to the highest level in four years.

Home sales take another steep drop

Down 14 percent last month in L.A. County and 9 percent in OC, according to Dataquick.

OC's deadbeat bank

It's Saigon National Bank in Westminster, which has yet to make a dividend payment as part of the federal government's bailout program.

Tuesday morning headlines

Wariness on Wall Street, LAX contracts awarded, B of A chief wants to slow down, and Bing tops Yahoo for the first time.

Buffett is upbeat

Forget about a new recession - the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway sees the company's businesses coming back, "almost across the board."

Burkle, Barnes & Noble trade blows

Nothing like a proxy fight to get the emails racing. The B&N shareholders vote is Sept. 28.

CA unions slow to campaign

The state's largest union is focusing its attention not on the November elections but this week's vote by 45,000 Kaiser Permanente employees.

Say hello to your new airline seat

seats10x-large.jpg Several U.S. airlines are taking a look at the SkyRider, a saddle-type seat that's roughly akin to sitting on a saddle.

Falling off jobless rolls

Last week, nearly 4,000 laid-off Californians exhausted their maximum 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

Monday morning headlines

Economists lower outlook, regulators order PG&E to look for leaks, THR to become a weekly, and job recruiters favor state schools.

MGM creditors to vote on deal

They'll be asked to sign off on a restructuring and pre-packaged bankruptcy plan in the next week or two, Bloomberg reports. The idea would be to come out of court protection by the end of the year. Management of the studio would then be taken over by Spyglass Entertainment Group's Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, who signed a non-binding letter of intent on Sept. 8. They would become co-chairmen and co-chief executives, As part of...

PG&E stock plummets

Well, what do you expect after last night's tumultuous gas line break and fire?

How folks feel about tax cuts

USA Today/Gallup poll has 44 percent wanting an extension for those making less than $250,000, while letting the cuts expire for those making over that amount.

Restaurant closes without ever opening

Two years after signing a lease for a downtown location, Tony's Steakhouse is out of the picture.

LAX concession circus (cont'd)

Here's an astute summation of the city's dysfunctional contracting system - and why it's driving the airport contract into the ground.

Friday morning headlines

Shopping the night away, another downer for video games, coffee prices are soaring, and a good night for NFL opener.

Why the Democrats are doomed

Almost two in three Americans say a double-dip recession is likely, even though most economists remain doubtful.

Haim Saban and Charles Munger Jr. duke it out

What on earth are these two guys doing with a couple of convoluted state initiatives that most California voters have never even heard of?

Hold off on the IOUs

Enough tax revenues rolled into Sacramento last month to stave off the need to issue "individual registered warrants" for at least a few more weeks.

LAX concession circus (cont'd)

The losing concession bidder has been hoping that a City Council committee will vote to start the process all over again. And it might happen.

Who commits corporate fraud?

The average perpetrator is male, between the ages of 31 and 45, and has no prior fraud charges or convictions.

Thursday morning headlines

Boxer under attack by Chamber of Commerce, Dems are divided on tax cuts, David Myers buys space in Hollywood, and MGM takeover is nearing.

UCLA's Anderson School wants to go private

Instead of relying on state funds, the graduate school would raise tuition and seek additional private donations.

New poll numbers on state races

Still too close to call, but a new poll has Whitman and Boxer with slight leads.

Not spreading around the wealth

Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation's income. But why?

Univision makes history

The Spanish-language broadcaster topped all other networks in the 18-49 demographic last week, the first time that's ever happened.

Hollywood's highest-paid actor

johnny-depp-wonka.jpg It's Johnny Depp, who made $75 million from films and endorsements between June 2009 and June 2010.

How to make a bad impression on CNBC

Just keep talking over the cable channel's Erin Burnett. Guess this guy moves to the back of the Rolodex file.

Long Beach budget squabble just a preview

The cost crunch will only get worse in the next few years - just not enough money coming in and too much going out.

Wednesday morning headlines

Health insurers plan hikes, big turn in LAX concession battle, governor is off to Asia, and Sidney Harman works on a succession plan.

Obama won't extend tax cuts for wealthy

Any number of economists say that's a bad idea. And the decision reeks of desperation politics.

CA regulators seek $10 billion from PacifiCare

The health insurer is accused of mismanaging medical claims, losing thousands of patient documents, and failing to pay doctors what they were owed.

Governor enjoying CA eggs

The budget talks are going nowhere fact, so why not stop off at a Sacramento supermarket and chomp down some eggs?

Business Update on KPCC

My weekly business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian looks at the expected resignation of Ray Irani as CEO of Occidental Petroleum.

Another delay for LAX contract

An all-day meeting has been postponed to next Monday. Somebody didn't notice that the session had been scheduled on Rosh Hashana.

Union organizing at the car wash

It's an unlikely bet because so many employees are illegal immigrants who would be fearful of speaking up about most anything.

Tuesday morning headlines

Obama pushes tax breaks, little local hiring expected in fourth quarter, more union members in public sector than private, and American Apparel looking for help.

Brad Grey sells home

The Paramount Chairman and CEO got $21.5 million for his six-bedroom, 11-bathroom Pacific Palisades house.

Candy Spelling lists mega-mansion

spelling.jpg Her 16,500 square-foot penthouse in Century City is just about done, so it seems as if she's getting more serious about dumping that little joint in Holmby Hills.

Jobs report: Slog, holding pattern, sluggish...

economix-03jobchanges-custom1.png Those were some of the not-so-encouraging words being tossed around in response to this morning's jobs report.

Subway won't cut traffic much

The main reason for spending mega-billions of dollars on underground rail has been shot down.

Friday morning headlines

Obama considers payroll holiday, food banks report heavy demand, state property values dip, and Miramax deal is on track.

Decent jobs report

The economy remains extremely weak, with little sign that private employers are prepared to soon hire enough workers to jack up growth.

Disney, Time Warner Cable strike deal

We can all relax - the USC game will be on tonight, as will "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy."

Marion Davies home for sale

marion.jpg The five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath Bev Hills residence, built in 1923, is listed at $12.5 million.

What the CA legislature did pass

Putting aside the plastic bag and budget failures, the legislative session ended with 98 bills being passed on Tuesday.

Jan Brewer's train wreck

Ordinary, anyone who has been in front of a live camera and blanked out might feel for the Arizona governor's stunningly bad performance.

Return of the 'growth recession'

They happen when the economy continues to grow but not strongly enough to generate significant numbers of jobs.

Three strikes for mortgage scam?

Man is charged with 23 felonies for allegedly tricking five people into unknowingly granting him title to their homes.

Thursday morning headlines

Decent month for retailers, McCourt appears to be leveraged out, Disney channels stay on Time Warner Cable, and Miramax sale may not be done.

California a laughingstock (again)

At some point both sides will really try cutting a deal, though probably not before the state starts handing out IOUs.

Big drop in illegal immigration

California's population of illegal immigrants was 2.5 million in 2009, which is 6.9 percent of the state's population and 9.3 percent of the workforce.

Chrysler's big sales month

auto sales yoy 2010-08.png The nation's kick-me automaker reported a 7 percent increase in August. Sales at the others car companies tumbled badly.

Dow up 254? But how?

August turned out to be so awful that perhaps some small flicker of light should have been expected.

Vanity Fair's Power List

What's striking about this year's list is how few locals are ranked in the top 20 or 30 positions.

Wednesday morning headlines

Wall Street is happy (don't ask me why), Oxy CEO is stepping down, sluggish summer at the movies, and big upgrade at Del Amo.