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.
January 2011

Brown's State of the State is short and sweet

The governor spoke for less than 15 minutes, telling lawmakers that "California faces a crisis that is real and unprecedented."

Looking back on Apple's '1984' commercial

Steve Hayden had been creative director of Chiat/Day, the L.A.-based ad agency that came up with the legendary Super Bowl spot introducing the Apple Mac. Hayden, now chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather, provides some nice nuggets about what it was like producing what some consider the best TV commercial ever. From his Adweek piece: The spot had a brush with death after [Apple marketing executive] Mike Murray and [co-founder Steve] Jobs played...

*Would 007 have been as successful without the music?

John Barry, the great film composer who has died at the age of 77, clearly hit upon the right mix of sex, adventure, and elegance in composing many of the early Bond films.

Decent day for stocks

Wall Street seemed to disconnect from Egypt today, with the Dow gaining 68 points.

Free tickets to see Broadcom's CEO

Scott McGregor will be talking about privacy issues, the digital living room, and fostering innovation, among other topics

Can you explain what this 'Internet' thing is?

Somebody recorded an edition of the "Today" show that has Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel trying to understand this @ stuff.

Oil scorecard in the Middle East

oildem.jpg Egypt doesn't have much of it, certainly when compared with Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Monday morning headlines

Egypt rattles oil markets, Brown presents his case tonight, no housing crisis in San Marino, and Disney's Bob Iger gets 30 percent pay bump.

Mozilo knew what was happening in 2004

The former CEO of Countrywide Financial was warning company executives about a possible housing market collapse.

Here's what happens when the Internet switch is turned off

internet.jpg Traffic falls off a cliff.

Markets take hit; Dow down 166

Egypt clearly was a big factor in the Dow's decline, though given the market's extended rally it might also have been an excuse to pull back.

So why is a drop in the jobless rate not always a good thing?

A lot depends on the number of people entering and leaving the job market.

Tweet of the day

RT @andylevy: I remain concerned that without Internet access, the people of Egypt may not know that Charlie Sheen is okay....

Egypt putting a scare into markets

Unrest in Egypt is no doubt a factor in the market's big tumble, with the Dow down about135 points at last check

Friday morning headlines

Decent growth in fourth quarter, trader makes $5 billion in 2010, L.A. developer back in action, and Doheny descendant putting estate up for sale.

Insurers agree to delay rate hikes

Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross and PacifiCare will hold off for 60 days after State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones asked for more time.

LinkedIn to go public

The social network that's focused on business and career wants to raise as much as $175 million in the initial public offering.

Jackson says this really is his last year

And the Lakers coach tells ESPN's Hannah Storm that he's not interested in another basketball job either.

Hard times in L.A.

hard times.jpg Asking folks at a Slauson and Vermont shopping center about how they're coping with 13 percent unemployment.

When best to book airline tickets

tickets.jpg Midweek is a lot better, preferably Tuesday. Weekends are the worst.

The Davos mistresses

Not only are they treated shabbily, but there are mistresses in waiting who prowl the streets in hopes of snaring their guys.

Lakers are valued at $643 million

val320250.jpg That's up from $607 million last year, according to the latest estimates by Forbes.

Thursday morning headlines

Poll finds support for Brown plan, mayors moaning in Sacramento, iPhone subject of class-action lawsuit, and flights canceled out of LAX.

Are plastic bag bans gaining steam?

So far much of the action have been centered in small, environmentally sensitive areas. But support is building in larger communities.

Oh so close to Dow 12,000

With just a few minutes to the close of trading, the Dow slipped a few points to finish at 11,985.

Tribune announces improved results

The parent company of the LAT says that operating cash flow was $635 million in 2010, an increase of more than $140 million from the previous year.

Disconnect on Obama speech

An instant poll by CBS found 91 percent approval; CNN 84 percent. Among a focus group of swing voters, the president's approval rating shot up 26 points. But last night's speech generated lots of criticism among the punditocracy. Here's a sample, from NY magazine: Joshua Green, Atlantic: I thought too much of the speech came across as hucksterish and hokey, as though Obama were fresh from some all-day motivational conference by Tom Peters or some...

Demand Media shares taking off

Wall Street insanity seems to be creeping back - as in valuing the Santa Monica-based content company at over $1 billion

Still betting on 'Social Network'

The online trading service Intrade gives the film a 53.6 percent chance of winning Best Picture.

NBC sells KWHY, Channel 22

Buyer of the Spanish-language station is L.A. investor Alex Meruelo, who usually focuses on real estate, construction and financial services.

Wednesday morning headlines

Dow tops 12,000 (for a bit), animal feed mogul donates 100K to UCLA, CA mayors defend redevelopment, and Zsa Zsa's mansion up for sale.

To rent or buy in L.A.

rent.jpg With home prices still comparatively high, rentals are often a better option. Not so in Vegas.

Political ad posing as movie trailer

Nothing like propping yourself on top of the whole country.

Business Update on KPCC

This morning's chat with KPCC's Steve Julian looks at the ways in which Hollywood has been changing and what it means for the local economy.

On giving downtown stadium a free environmental pass

AEG is already lobbying state legislators for an exemption to the lengthy CEQA process of environmental impact reports and public debate.

Drop in California foreclosures

Fourth-quarter notices of default fell 16.2 percent from the previous three months and 17.5 percent from the fourth quarter of 2009.

Motion picture academy rolling in dough

Much of what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reports as revenue is tied to the Academy Awards.

Check out those L.A. redevelopment salaries

I count more than 250 full-time employees of L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency, and only one person - a clerical assistant - making less than $50,000.

Tuesday morning headlines

Another dip in L.A. home prices, jump in consumer confidence, city considers more budget cuts, and "King's Speech" leads nominations.

State controller looks into redevelopment agencies

Auditors are reviewing 18 of them, including L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency, to see how they're spending money.

Dow closing in on 12,000

Lots of encouraging news about the economy, but the rally has been showing signs of fatigue.

Alec Gores may try buying Dodgers

The L.A. billionaire is preparing a bid in the event that the McCourts' divorce forces a sale.

Real estate magnate gets reprieve

Downtown landlord Meruelo Maddux, still in bankruptcy protection, has reached a settlement with one of its creditors.

No wonder you keep catching colds

Nearly three out of four people admit to going to work when they're sick, according to a CareerBuilder survey.

Who is the richest person of all time?

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett might come to mind, but adjusting for inflation makes a big difference.

NYT shows poor insight about LAT

This morning's piece about the supposed irrelevancy of the LAT sure could have used another pair of eyes.

Monday morning headlines

Upbeat hiring plans, Lockyer warns of more IOUs, office market struggles to stabilize, and maybe there's an Oscar race after all.

Platform jumping

This is really just an ad for Intel's i5 Core processor, but it says a lot about what we've become.

What would an L.A. restaurant sell for in 2010?

The median asking price among the 62 transactions monitored by BizBuySell was $107,000, and the median sale price was $79,500.

L.A. billionaires contributing to Rahm Emanuel

They include Haim Saban, David Geffen, Steven Spielberg, and Eli Broad.

L.A. County unemployment hits 13%

Ouch - December's jobless rate is up from 12.8 percent in the previous month and 12.3 percent in December 2010.

*Kings up for sale?

The Kings are owned by a consortium that includes Philip Anschutz, so if the report is true it's bound to raise questions about efforts to build a downtown football stadium.

Friday morning headlines

Good year for Calpers, doing deals at Sundance, Disney cruise ship arrives at Port of L.A., and NYT setting price for Web access.

Vallejo creditors could get (almost) stiffed

If the Northern California city has its way, general unsecured creditors would collect as little as 5 cents on the dollar.

CRA boosts redevelopment money for Broad museum

Wasn't the whole point of redevelopment funding to focus on areas that otherwise might not get looked at by developers?

M&A deal value down, deal count up

Roundup of merger and acquisition activity in California last year.

More nonsense about reviving the convention center

Remember when the key to improving the city's convention business was getting a convention center hotel?

Free tickets for Deepak Chopra

It's tomorrow morning, part of the Drucker Business Forum series.

Ideas about real pension reform

The dirty little secret is that the crisis in underfunded obligations cannot be resolved without changes in the current benefit structures.

Thursday morning headlines

Big drop in jobless claims, Boeing layoffs in Long Beach, takeoff error at LAX, and Socal ranks worst in congestion.

Following council hearing on downtown stadium

At last check, AEG head Time Leiweke was about to make his presentation.

Why is unemployment still so high?

The economy is growing at a better clip than in Britain, Germany, and Japan, but the jobless rate is higher than any of those countries.

Wednesday morning headlines

Manufacturing makes rebound, more cities look for redevelopment money, Mozilo speaks of high standards, and talk of Freedom-MediaNews merger.

Port of Long Beach reports jump in container traffic

A big year - the 24 percent gain was the largest since record-keeping began in 1971.

*Do Apple shareholders deserve more information about Jobs?

They're rattled by Steve Jobs' unexpected medical leave, but they're not panicking. Of course, what do they know?

Business Update on KPCC

This morning's chat looks at the proposal by Gov. Brown to eliminate enterprise zones and redevelopment agencies.

Council delays action on squirreling away redevelopment money

It looks like war between L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency and Jerry Brown.

L.A. housing market still struggling

Sales might perk up by spring, provided that interest rates remain low and the economy continues to improve.

Tuesday morning headlines

Apple stock falls in early trading, Blockbuster asks for more cash, Citi misses earnings estimates, and Anschutz signs off on stadium plan - sort of.

Ultimate trashing of a foreclosed home

A two-story, 3,00-square-foot house in Huntington Beach was gutted so badly that the repairs alone will cost $250,000.

Comcast-NBC deal close to being approved

Federal regulators were making last-minute revisions over the weekend, and the FCC could sign off on the acquisition as early as Tuesday.

Sound stages for North Hollywood?

Developer J.H. Snyder believes it could be an alternative to earlier retail proposals for the Laurel Plaza/Valley Plaza area.

Keith Olbermann, circa 1989

He was still doing sports on KCBS, but the rat-ta-tat delivery might sound familiar.

Qantas has another engine scare

This time it was a 747 carrying 344 passengers that was preparing to take off for a Sydney-to-L.A. run.

Steve Jobs takes medical leave

A year and a half after coming back from a livery transplant, the CEO of Apple says he's stepping aside.

MySpace's kiss-off letter to employees

Laying off 500 people can't be a pleasant experience, but CEO Mike Jones is getting trashed by some of the now former employees.

Blue Shield refuses to hold back on rate hikes

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones had asked for a 60-day delay on the latest increase, which takes effect March 1 and averages 15 percent.

Hollywood Foreign Press head at center of fraud allegations

Nothing captures the insanity of Hollywood quite like the annual Golden Globes show, and this lawsuit alleges a lot of what many folks had suspected.

More talk about the Kings being offered Anaheim deal

A Sacramento radio station reported that Ducks owner Henry Samueli met recently with the Maloof brothers about relocating the NBA Kings.

Friday morning headlines

Consumer sentiment takes unexpected dip, Baca helps pal away from his jurisdiction, Brown getting hit on budget, and corruption claims involving Golden Globes.

Celebrities pitching products are a waste of money

Many of them get paid absurd amounts and yet celebrity endorsers often do little to enhance a product.

Economists upbeat about economy

They expect growth of better than 3.2 percent in each quarter this year, according to a WSJ survey.

More folks coming to California

The three big van lines - United, Atlas and Allied - say that California had more inbound moves in 2010 than departures.

Big year for Port of L.A.

December finished off 2010 with an 8.8 percent increase in container traffic from a year earlier.

Thursday morning headlines

Rise in CA foreclosures, council signs off on garage leasing plan, state tax credits not being used, and Jack Kyser tribute.

Back-and-forth on leasing city parking garages

Pretty lively council session today on whether to proceed with the scheme to raise $53 million by privatizing the garages.

Brown's budget plan gets good marks from from key analyst

For all the bluster about too much cutting and too many taxes, Brown's budget is getting generally favorable reviews among the clear-thinkers.

California's hopeful/discouraging signs

Despite growth in nine of the last 10 months, the state's unemployment rate, now at 12.4 percent, won't fall below 10 percent until the end of 2012.

Stand by for Part II of Bratz vs. Mattel

Federal judge says, "This will be a remarkable trial." But why does Mattel keep it going?

Wednesday morning headlines

Big opposition to debt-ceiling hike, Brown orders 48,000 cell phones turned in, Demand Media prices IPO, and Colony Capital bets on Nazarian.

Council votes to take jurisdiction over port project

They'll be reviewing the decision by officials at the Port of L.A. to nix a proposal to reopen the old Southwest Marine shipyard.

Air travelers beware

A few thousand flights have already been canceled due to the snow, and the storm hasn't even hit the Northeast yet.

Single unemployment rate does not tell all

jobchart.JPG Telemarketers had a 34.8 percent jobless rate in 2010, while the rate for locomotive engineers was a mere 0.4 percent.

*Big jump in on-location shooting

Fourth-quarter feature production was up 28.1 percent from a year earlier and TV was up 49.9 percent.

Westwood's Mystery Bookstore to close

Owners Kirk Pasich and Pamela Woods say they can no longer compete with Amazon - and a sour economy hasn't helped.

Business Update on KPCC

Biz chat looks at whether higher gas prices will put the brakes on the recovery, and the struggles L.A. is having with the electric car business

L.A.'s $19-billion hedge fund no one knows about

With little fanfare, Canyon Partners has become the 9th-most profitable hedge fund in the world.

*Time for enterprise zones to get the heave-ho

They do not create jobs that wouldn't otherwise be created. Oh, and they cost quite a bit.

Tuesday morning headlines

Verizon connects with iPhone, borrowing woes continue, council committee deadlocked on budget, and more reaction to Brown's budget.

More warnings about fire service cuts

If the city can't proceed with a plan to lease city-owned parking garages, it means scrounging around for an extra $53.2 million in a budget that's already tight.

Small bump in gas prices

For the fifth week in a row, L.A. gas prices have risen, though this week's increase was only a couple of pennies or so.

Reactions to Brown's budget

Capitol Alert has a nice roundup.

Can Brown even get tax extension measure on ballot?

Brown's budget plan pretty much falls apart without voter approval of tax extensions. But first he has to get the measure on the ballot.

Brown gambling on budget plan

Forget about an early deal - Gov. Brown told reporters this morning that a budget would be predicated on voters approving a 5-year tax extension.

Palin's presidential chances in freefall

Intrade has her chances at about 11 percent, down from 20 percent a couple of days ago.

Brown proposes $12.5 billion in spending cuts

That, plus $12 billion in tax extensions due to expire this year, should plug up most of the state's $25.4 billion deficit.

Monday morning headlines

Brown announces budget, Zine pooh-poohs conflicts, Hefner to take Playboy private, and MySpace layoffs are set.

ESPN bowl games a ratings bust

The Rose Bowl audience was off 14 percent, the Fiesta Bowl down 22 percent, the Capital One Bowl 50 percent.

California receipts for December reveal good and bad

December receipts were almost 6 percent below the estimates found in the state budget, but they were 14.6 percent higher than a year earlier.

Will Metro, high speed rail group buy Union Station?

Owning the facility would allow the transit authority to better deal with increased bus and rail traffic.

Hollywood is big winner in 2010 job creation

This won't come as much of a surprise to readers of LA Biz Observed - we've been chronicling the pickup in entertainment employment all year.

Are we still paying attention to Alan Greenspan?

He says he doesn't owe anyone an apology for the actions he took as Fed chairman.

Jobs that are deader than print journalism

Most of them are the victims of technology marching on.

Friday morning headlines

Bernanke hopeful, feds investigate bribery allegations in Maywood, SEC looking into Calpers, and Fox to air Pac-12 championship.

Why job numbers are disappointing

jobsdecember.png Smaller-than-expected gain on payroll jobs does little to chip away at unemployment levels.

Insurance Commissioner asks Blue Shield to delay rate hike

Dave Jones wants to take a closer look at the stunning hikes for individual policyholders - in some cases as much as much as 59 percent.

Disney stock is hot

Okay, it was down a bit today, but consider that today's closing price of $39.65 compares with $15.83 in March, 2009.

Stats of the day

From the Census Bureau: Fewer than half of the parents owed child support received the full amount.
Guess it's time to see just how committed the Republicans are in cutting the budget.

California's budget gap is a little healthier than Arizona's

Both states spend more money than they take in, but for different reasons.

Thursday morning headlines

Geithner warns about debt ceiling, Blue Shield proposes big rate jump, new budget woes for city of L.A., and Chinese firm buys Sheraton Universal.

Another step for subway extension

Metro has been given formal approval from the feds to begin engineering work.

Sobering stats of the day

Does it surprise you that 15-19-year-olds are spending a lot less time reading and a lot more time playing games?

Tablet mania in Vegas as CES conclave begins

Close to 100 models will be on display at the Consumer Electronics Show. But only a small number are likely to make the grade.

More victims in gas station fraud

It's up to 230 and like to keep growing - not the sort of stuff that normally happens in sleepy Sierra Madre.

Wall Street bear gets testy

When a widely watched economist says things are really bad and they turn out to be reasonably good, it's time to take out those tap shoes.

Wednesday morning headlines

Jump in December hiring, Brown takes aim at Prop 13, Borders asking for time, and Aussies love L.A.

Prepping for first big economic report of 2011

It's the December employment report, and judging by the hopeful indicators of the past few weeks, you would expect a large number of new jobs.

Council awards routine LAX contract that became a big deal

A lobbyist representing one of the losing bidders made a stink about airport officials choosing another firm - a lobbyist who dates Councilman Dennis Zine.

Business Update on KPCC

This morning's chat looks at the troubled bookstore business, and whether developer Rick Caruso should be allowed to expand his Glendale shopping center.

Solid gains for automakers

Industrywide, it's looking like around 11.5 million vehicles were sold in 2010, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

News Corp. gets serious about selling MySpace

Conversations are underway with a bunch of potential buyers, CNBC is reporting, and a deal could be done by around mid-year.

Average household spending in Bev Hills: $100,450

Just a few shades higher than the national average of... er, $38,780 a year.

Tuesday morning headlines

Foreclosure deal may be in the works, big jump in personal bankruptcies, Warners is tops at the box office, and ad spending is up.

Energy prices keep heading up

An average gallon in the L.A. area rose only a couple of pennies from last week, to $3.326.

California remains nation's most mobile state

Another reminder that almost as many folks are coming as are going.

Stocks finish strongly in first session of 2011

The Dow fell a bit from its high earlier in the day, but still finished up 93 points, to 11,670.

Another Borders is closing

The Thousand Oaks location will be gone by the end of the week.

Brown offers sobering message in short inaugural address

brown.jpg The new governor says the budget he'll present next week will be painful but honest.

Consumer show helps revive Vegas

They're expecting well more than 120,000 at this week's Consumer Electronics Show.

Monday morning headlines

Stocks taking off, big companies appear ready to spend, Brown looking at big cuts, and Vizio moving into smartphones, tablets.