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.
October 2010

MGM creditors approve bankruptcy plan

The movie company will be reorganized in a prepackaged bankruptcy and emerge under the management of the CEOs of Spyglass Entertainment.

Fox and Dish Network resolve dispute

Satellite subscribers have been without Fox's regional sports networks, FX and the National Geographic Channel for a month.

Mixing air cargo and terrorism

Why not just screen everything? Well, it would be expensive and very time-consuming.

Bristol Farms is sold

Parent company Supervalu is selling the upscale chain to an investment group led by the Bristol Farms management group and Endeavour Capital.

Another version of why Barnes & Noble is leaving Encino

Developer Rick Caruso says that the bookstore chain wasn't doing well. That's not what Barnes & Noble says.

Krugman's dire outlook: 'Be afraid. Be very afraid'

The NYT columnist says that a Republican takeover next week would be a disaster.

Dr. Doom misses mark

It always happens - an economist or stock analyst who seemed prescient in making one forecast eventually falls flat on another.

Friday morning headlines

Growth revised upward, Toyota accused of keeping quiet, foreclosure sales might be slowing, and DWP workers accused of fraud.

Boxer-Fiorina race still tight

New Rasmussen poll has Boxer up by three points, 49-46.

Lionsgate sues Carl Icahn

Just when it seemed as if the movie company and the billionaire shareholder were on the same page.

Jay, Conan and another battle for late night

conan.jpg Lots of chatter today about Bill Carter's behind-the-scenes account of the Leno-O'Brien war over late night.
Do you believe in time travelers? Irish filmmaker George Clarke can't help but wonder.

Whitman getting support of tech executives

There's a very long list of contributors from the Silicon Valley and other tech-centric locales.

Westside subway route approved

Besides the Westside route, the MTA board also approved plans for a $1.37-billion regional connector through downtown.

LAX traffic picking up

The airport reported a 4.5 percent increase in domestic passengers last month compared with September 2009.

Thursday morning headlines

Foreclosure rates still high in CA cities, Brown takes 10-point lead in new Field Poll, MTA board considers subway routes, and MGM battle reaches final stage.

Ex-San Diego officials agree to fines in pension fraud case

The SEC accused them of failing to disclose the size of pension shortfalls when the city sold municipal bonds.

*Blaming the doctor for saving my life

The patient survives but then sues the doctor and paramedics for not making him as good as new. If only you hadn't meddled, everything would be all right.

Tubeless toilet paper: Why didn't I think of that?

If sales take off, Kimberly-Clark may introduce the line nationally and globally.

L.A.'s wacky business regulations

As in requiring a dance school to have a police permit, or a used bookstore to hold books for 30 days before selling them.

Millionaire are (sort of) optimistic

This may mean something, or nothing, but a monthly index that measures the confidence of folks at the higher-end rose significantly in October.

Saving MySpace

CEO Mike Jones is giving it a try with a redesign of the clunky social network site.

Wednesday morning headlines

OC economy to improve in 2011, L.A. chamber to make business pitch at City Hall, good news for Brown and Boxer, and Fox plans another "Avatar" in 2014.

Pension reform on March ballot

The City Council voted 13-0 to ask voters to scale back the retirement pay of L.A. cops and firefighters - but only for future hires.

Brown, Whitman, Schwarzenegger on one stage

NBC's Matt Lauer must have known he'd get a rise by asking the two candidates for governor if they would dump all the negative ads.

Business Update on KPCC

My business chat on KPCC looks at whether the investigation into how foreclosures were processed will affect the overall real estate market.

Carly Fiorina is hospitalized

The Republican Senate is being treated with antibiotics for an infection that her aides said was related to her reconstructive surgery.

Who will be watching the Series?

Absent the Yankees, what will matter most is how close - and exciting - the first couple of games are.

Socal foreclosures tumble in 3rd quarter

There continues to be a logjam between the beginning and end of the foreclosure process.

Talking back to stupidity

debtdepressionwar.PNG You're an idiot. No, you're the idiot. Hey, did you just call me an idiot?

L.A.'s low-key effort to rewrite the zoning code

An overhaul of the city's outlandishly complicated, 64-year-old zoning code certainly makes sense - except how do you do it?

Tuesday morning headlines

Slide in L.A. home prices, California consumers holding back, high-speed rail gets federal help, and AutoTrader buys Kelley Blue Book.

L.A. ranks 31st on smart (and dumb) cities list

Hey, it could have been worse: Number 55, and last, is Vegas.

Sony to stop production of the Walkman (cassette)

It was introduced on July 1, 1979 and by the end of that August, sales had increased 10-fold.

California housing still appreciates

Prices increased 2 percent from August 2009 to August 2010, giving the state the nation's sixth-highest house appreciation rate.

Non-victims try cleaning up on BP spill

Some were seriously hurt by the disastrous Gulf spill, others merely grazed, and still others barely shaken - and they all want money.

*LAT daily circulation barely over 600,000

The number is 600,449 for the six months ended Sept. 30, an 8.7 percent drop from a year earlier.

Bill Gross leading a conga line?

The bond guru at Newport Beach-based Pimco decides that his office needed a little loosening up.

Monday morning headlines

B of A admits to mistakes, feds look into foreclosure filings, 226,000 Californians could lose jobless benefits, and LAT circulation falls.

Why Meg Whitman can't buy the election

Meg_Whitman_250x.jpg You would think that $160 million (and counting) would be more than enough to handle the ever-loopy Jerry Brown.

Tribune CEO resigns

As expected, Randy Michaels is out and will be replaced by a four-member Executive Council that will include LAT Publisher Eddy Hartenstein.

Rich people lead longer lives

Talk about your un-level playing fields: They have higher levels of a hormone called DHEAS that often results in higher life expectancies.

L.A. fares better than state in jobs report

Still quite weak, but the county did gain 11,600 payroll jobs between August and September, while the state overall lost 63,600 jobs.

Just one word: Pies

That will be the hot trend in restaurants next year, according to an SF consulting firm.

Friday morning headlines

Big job losses last month, how KCET's fortunes turned sour, $99 air fares to NY, and will Peter Chernin be moving to Tribune?

*Big job losses for California; unemployment unchanged

Payroll employment fell by 63,500 jobs in September compared with the previous month.

So much for a double-dip

doubledip.png Well, at least according to this chart of Google searches - and it makes sense.

Jump in California car sales tops national average

The number of new vehicle registrations increased 14.6 percent during the first nine months of 2010 compared with a year earlier.

Hollywood fundraiser planned for Rahm Emanuel

The Nov. 4 event is being hosted by David Geffen, Robert Iger, Peter Chernin, Haim Saban, and of course Ari Emanuel, Rahm's brother.

On covering Schwarzenegger

Prepare yourself for an onslaught of postmortems about the governor did well and did poorly.

Tribeca West up for sale

The Olympic Boulevard complex, home to a variety of movie and TV production houses, is expected to go for as much as $75 million.

Thursday morning headlines

Consumers stay cautious, Americans not saving enough for retirement, big Toyota recall, and LAX concession contracts approved.

*Brown doing a bit better than Boxer

Brown has a seven-point edge over Whitman, while in the Senate contest Boxer is only up by two points.

Stocks bounce back

So much for yesterday's long faces - the Dow gained 129 points and is now at 11,107. Looks like the rally was pretty broad based.

SLO Town about to get busy

San Luis Obispo was one of the nine cities named by Smart Money magazine as a good place to retire.
The airlines are benefiting from a pickup in demand and a planned reduction in supply (they call it "capacity discipline").

Another scary forecast for state pension crisis

Sadly, it's hard to imagine that fundamental changes to the pension program will be made unless the state runs up against an actual financial crisis.

Wednesday morning headlines

Wells Fargo reports strong earnings, another jump in L.A. bankruptcies, Brown maintains lead over Whitman, and L.A. considers Hollywood tax breaks.

Business Update on KPCC

My business chat on KPCC looks at why the pickup in port traffic may signal a decent holiday season.

Bad day for stocks

While news events generally don't move markets, the day was loaded with icky reports.

*Tribune board meets about CEO

Will Randy Michaels be sacked? Sources tell the Financial Times that it's a "foregone conclusion."

Why no rail line to LAX?

The $546-million federal loan for a light rail project to the LAX area is less a public policy achievement than a reminder of what could have been.

PBS makes its first post-KCET move

OC's KOCE-TV will be airing the popular "Masterpiece" series on Sunday nights at 8, starting Oct 24.

L.A. home sales drop again; prices increase

Foreclosure resales account for about a third of all Socal sales, which is down substantially from 2009 but still quite high.

Foreclosure doomsday scenario (cont'd)

This could be a very big deal if banks were required to buy back toxic bonds sold to investors.

Tuesday morning headlines

Encouraging forecast for holiday shopping season, another bump in gas prices, Disney picks up Marvel films, and William Morris HQ up for sale.

Crystal Cathedral files for bankruptcy

The mega-church founded by evangelist Robert H. Schuller owes about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors.

Magic Johnson sells Lakers stake

L.A. billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong is buying Johnson's stake in the team. No specifics so far about the size of the stake or the purchase price.

B of A tries to regain foreclosure footing

The bank has resubmitted the paperwork for 102,000 pending foreclosure actions, and plans to resume sales in November.

*Pension plan avoids the heavy lifting

Very typical of Villaraigosa - it's easy to take action involving people who haven't yet been hired (and then take credit for solving the problem).

Newsweek-Daily Beast talks break off

They weren't able to figure out a power-sharing arrangement that would merge the two news organizations.

Skepticism about electric cars

After all the hype come all the concerns, starting with having to buy a $2,200 battery charger that will take eight hours to charge.

Monday morning headlines

Socal vacancies shoot up, more pension proposals for L.A., California cities in search of revenues, and Leno is losing younger viewers.

Slap on the wrist for Bruce Karatz?

Probation officials are recommending that the former KB Home CEO receive five years' probation and eight months of home confinement.

Broadway rents are outrageous

At 740-746 S. Broadway, they range from $6.45 to $12.05 per square foot per month, crazy high by downtown standards.

Mozilo settles with SEC

The former Countrywide Financial CEO has agreed to pay $67.5 million in penalties to settle the civil fraud suit against him.

Is your car a ticket magnet?

Beware of cops if you drive any of these cars: Mercedes-Benz SL Class convertible, Toyota Camry-Solara Coupe, and Scion TC.

L.A. way, way down on best cities list

It ranks 158 out of the 200 largest metro areas surveyed by the Milken Institute, down from 139 last year.

Brown edging further ahead

He's now up six points over Whitman in the latest Rasmussen poll, 50-44 percent.

Friday morning headlines

Bernanke signals more Fed action, no inflation adjustment for Social Security, Howard Hughes complex gets facelift, and MGM creditors want more time.

Mozilo, SEC talking settlement

With the civil fraud trial of former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo and two other former executives scheduled to begin on Tuesday, the feds are holding settlement talks, reports the WSJ's John Emshwiller. No telling where the conversations might lead, but a status conference on the case was ordered for Friday. The SEC alleges that Mozilo and the others misled investors about the risks connected to subprime lending. It also has charged Mozilo with insider trading...

Port traffic stays busy in September

Volume slowed a bit compared with August, but both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach reported big jumps in import activity from a year earlier.

Tribune filing deadlines extended

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey is now giving the various parties, including Tribune Co. itself, a little more time to file reorganization plans.

Foreclosure doomsday scenario?

The investors who got suckered into those toxic mortgage-backed securities might now be able to challenge the process by which their bonds were prepared and sold.

Getting married at McDonald's

The world just keeps getting goofier - beginning January 1, 2011, McDonald locations in Hong Kong will conduct wedding ceremonies.

Stunning stat on texting

The average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives 3,339 texts a month, or more than 100 per day.

Why didn't banks move sooner on foreclosures?

There's plenty of fault to go around: Borrowers knowingly went well beyond their means in purchasing a home and lenders were ill-prepared for the inevitable fallout.

Thursday morning headlines

CA foreclosures increase, big changes at Occidental, trial balloon on Yahoo sale, and United to offer service from LAX to Shanghai.

Deadbeat homeowners being portrayed as victims

As for the renewed push to modify these mortgages, the reality is that many struggling homeowners are beyond modification.

Miners are ratings draw

When the first miner came to the surface, CNN drew 4 million viewers, Fox News had 3.5 million, and MSNBC 1.1 million.

Did the state do well in its building sale/leaseback?

Depends on how you do the measuring. The sale of 11 office properties will mean $1.2 billion for the general fund, but the long-term consequences are murkier.

AEG's Leiweke makes another pitch for taxpayer money

But I thought L.A. Live was going to turn everything around for downtown. Guess not.

Dozens arrested in Medicare fraud crackdown

Federal agents say that an Armenian-American organized crime ring based in L.A. and NY bilked health-care programs for tens of millions of dollars.

Now the miners have to explain those mistresses

Must be quite a scene at the rescue area where the wives and mistresses of some of the trapped miners have been getting to know one another.

Wednesday morning headlines

Apple stock tops $300, state money woes over paying jobless benefits, food trucks to be graded, and an NFL stadium on convention center property?

Where does Whitman stand on pensions?

Hard to say. At times she seems to be pushing for aggressive reforms - but only if it doesn't involve her key supporters.

Rise in gas prices unlikely to last

An average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is now running $3.10, a jump of 8 cents from last week.

L.A. budget chief briefs mayor on pensions

Miguel Santana, the L.A.'s city administrative officer, is proposing a 401(k)-style pension option that would be cheaper than the current defined benefit plan.

Film group hinting for more money

FilmL.A, the group that monitors and coordinates on-location shooting, reports that third-quarter feature film activity fell 6.6 percent from a year earlier.

Tribune, creditors agree on terms

The media giant will file its reorganization plan on Friday after reaching a settlement with a group of squabbling unsecured creditors and major senior lenders.

OC office market still weak

At least there are signs of stability - third-quarter vacancy rate was 17.8 percent, down from 18.2 percent in the previous three months.

Business Update on KPCC

My business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian looks at the not-so-wonderful California budget deal, and L.A.'s financial crisis.

Stop calling it the 'Subway to the Sea'

The proposed Westside subway extension doesn't quite have the same ring, but it's a lot more accurate.

Tuesday morning headlines

More Wall Street bonuses, Republican House is looking like a lock, California might join foreclosure probe, and Pasadena approves Rose Bowl renovation.

State office buildings find buyer

A consortium of investment firms are purchasing 24 state office buildings, including two in downtown L.A., for $2.3 billion.

Starz sells Film Roman

The animation studio best known for producing "The Simpsons" is being acquired by an investment group in an all-cash deal.

More tax money for Sacramento

Good news is that receipts for September were 15.3 percent above estimates last May. Bad news is that the state has to start paying out $8.3-billion in payments owed.

Senate buffoonery, cont'd

One of the fellows who won the Nobel Prize for economics can't get confirmed to the Federal Reserve because a senator doesn't believe he's qualified for the job.

Growth outlooks trimmed

Economists now expect GDP to rise by 2.6 percent this year, compared with a forecast of 3.2 percent in May.

Dating services coming to Santa Monica

After 56 years, city officials have decided that they're not only all right, but can benefit the economy.

Monday morning headlines

Fed expected to act, council members propose pension cuts, station swapping for PBS, and no major near-misses at LAX.

Many Asian-Americans have hard time finding work

Among the long-term unemployed (that's 27 weeks or longer), Asian-Americans top other minority groups, including blacks and Hispanics.

KCET severs ties with PBS

Guess that means no more Sesame Street," "Nova," "News Hour," and "Antique Road Show."

Dow tops 11,000

First time the index has topped 11,000 since May 3, though the gain was only 58 points.

America in decline? We've heard that tune before

The sky-is-falling routine has been around for more than 50 years. So why hasn't it happened?

Comparing job losses, past and present

economix-08jobchanges-custom1.png Recovery is going nowhere fast, as you can see from this chart.

'Romeo and Juliet' as Stan Lee supeheroes

The Montagues are powerful cyborgs made of artificial DNA, and the Capulets are genetically enhanced humans with super speed and agility.
Hadid-Estate-1.jpg This is the 48,000-square-foot home that developer Mohamed Hadid has been trying to unload since early 2009.

Bank of America halts foreclosure sales

The nation's largest bank stop foreclosure sales in all 50 states as it reviews the way it has been handling its paperwork.

Friday morning headlines

Foreclosure mess could get messier, more people eating out, more tourists visiting Mexico, and Kaiser workers stay with SEIU.

California budget bill passes

The main spending plan cleared the Senate this morning after being passed in the Assembly last night, a mere 100 days into the fiscal year.

Weak jobs report

It's hard to sugarcoat the loss of 95,000 jobs in September, considerably worse than what economists had been expecting.

Speed-reading on state budget

The package weighs in at 800 pages, with two dozen individual bills in both the Senate and Assembly. And they're looking to vote on this thing today?

Could the city of L.A. go bankrupt?

When I asked the city's chief budget officer whether massive pension obligations could result in police and fire reductions, he said, "I think it's a legitimate concern."

Pay skinny women more than heavy women?

A new study found that women weighing 25 pounds less than the group average earned $15,572 more than their average-weight peers.

One L.A. industry that's booming

Only the Bay Area has more clean-tech activity, according to a new study, but there's concern about the business going out of state.

Lou Dobbs hired illegal workers? Say it ain't so!

First Meg Whitman and now this. Next thing they'll be saying Sarah Palin doesn't shop at Wal-Mart.

Thursday morning headlines

Good month for retailers, Schwarzenegger reaches pension pact with union, SEC pushes Mozilo case, and new air service from L.A. to Madrid.

So much for being a Realtor

The association is meeting this week in Anaheim and attendance is way down from last year.

More budget hokus pokus from Sacramento

Accounting tricks, optimistic projections, and more federal money than has been promised - it all adds up to the budget deal.

The stimulus trap

Turns out that the $789 billion was indeed inadequate, But stimulus opponents have successfully re-framed the debate.

Business Update on KPCC

My business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian looks at the economic planks of Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown.

Parking lot next to Staples up for sale

The 2.7-acre property is being listed for $30 million. It's being zoned for multifamily residential, hotel, retail and office development.

Brown is 75% favorite

That's the latest projection by FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, and it's up from last week's 60 percent.

Rich vs. poor

richpoor.gif Here's a pretty clear snapshot of how the economy is hurting people at various income levels.

Apple to make Verizon-ready iPhone

Free at last from the confines of AT&T's gawky system. Phone is expected to be released early next year.

Wednesday morning headlines

Disappointing job news, hearings today on state budget deal, retailers are teaming up against Amazon, and more Fresh & Easy stores coming to California.

TARP bill keeps falling

The cost to taxpayers is now down to $51 billion - and might fall even further.

Carlos Slim dumps 9900 Wilshire site

The Mexican billionaire's Bank Inbursa has sold the parcel to Hong Kong private equity firm Joint Treasure International for $148.3 million.

Tom Gores loses out on Pistons?

Mike Ilitch, who already owns the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, is in exclusive talks to buy the Pistons and the Palace sports arena.

About California pessimism

it's worth pointing out that Californians have been discouraged before. It's what recessions are made of.

LudoBites coming to the Valley

L.A.'s eccentric pop-up restaurant will be taking over the space at 13355 Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.

Tuesday morning headlines

State budget plan about to be spun, unemployment checks to be replaced with debit cards, Televisa takes stake in Univision, and some e-books cost more than hardcovers.

Airplane air is not that bad

Of course, if you happen to be sitting next to somebody who has a bad cold, and it's a long flight, you might be out of luck.

Housing slump could last 3-5 years

Government programs haven't done much good - nor are they likely to, according to the chief economist of the California Association of Realtors,

State Supreme Court upholds furloughs

The governor can issue furloughs to state workers, the court ruled this morning.

Misleading LAT welfare story

Now I'm all for uncovering blatant misappropriation of government money, but 0.5 percent seems miraculously low for a state like California.

Rick Caruso gets grief for swapping Barnes & Noble for CVS

Encino residents deliver an open letter, via Facebook, to the L.A. developer for his decision to lease bookstore space to the drug store giant.

Twitter problems

Looks like the system might have been hacked. Pages are showing 0 following and 0 followers. Twitter was attacked a couple of weeks ago....

Monday morning headlines

S&P 500 companies are rebounding, doubts on whether state budget deal will be approved, and L.A. becomes a little friendlier to business.

State budget deal reached

The long-awaited agreement relies on $7.5-billion in spending cuts, along with delaying a corporate tax deduction.

Millionaires filing for unemployment

It's worth noting that 9.5 million people received jobless benefits in 2008, so we're talking about an teeny tiny percentage.

New encouraging signals on budget

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg wrote in an email to colleagues last night that he was "smiling."

Buyout firm acquires 35% stake in CAA

It's one of the highest-profile investments by TPG, and it gives Creative Artists Agency a chance to expand into new ventures.

What caused market 'flash crash'?

A single large sale touched off the truly scary 600-point plunge in the Dow back in May,

Land + Corruption = L.A.

The notion of obscure government entities pairing public money with private developers should send shivers down any taxpayer's spine.

L.A.-area housing under stress

WSJ survey of metro areas around the nation comes up with interesting numbers, though as with all such indexes, there are some obvious flaws.

Friday morning headlines

TARP may turn profit, no more money for stimulus jobs, mortgage modification marathon, and United, Continental close deal.