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.
February 2011

Strong support for public workers unions in survey

A NYT/CBS News survey finds Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one.

Another big bump in L.A. gas prices

lagasprices.jpg The good news is that oil prices fell a bit today; the bad news is that we're approaching the summer driving season, when gas prices typically take off.

Do L.A. furloughs work? Yes, but...

City Controller Wendy Greuel, says that while furloughs are an effective short-term tool, they do not address long-term structural problems.
shortfall.jpg It's huge, all right. But as a percentage of the overall budget, the deficit is smaller than that of four other states:

Thoughts of Bernie Madoff

"You have a collect call from Bernard Madoff, an inmate at a federal prison," a recorded message announced. Madoff apologized for calling collect.

Monday morning headlines

Oil markets stabilizing, Oscar ratings dip, Madoff wonders where it all went wrong, and Charlie Sheen threatens to sue CBS.

Google's big change in its search engine formula

The goal is to filter out data from poor-quality "content farms" that manage to get at or near the top of search engine results.

Stocks finally stabilize

After three straight down days, the Dow finished up 61 points, helped along by Boeing winning that big air tanker contract.

Public ignores union deals in good times; fumes in bad times

Good point about the debate over Wisconsin and public employee unions.

Rick Caruso reaches deal with hotel owner

The L.A. developer will buy the Golden Key Hotel as part of his expansion of the Americana at Brand shopping complex.

Oh Colonel, you look mahvelous!

Sit back and enjoy the Qaddafi fashion show.

Big investors turn down Countrywide settlement

The group of 33 plaintiffs decided that $600 million was not enough and they'll seek their own terms.

L.A.'s new luxury condos having a tough time

Developers were expecting their projects to sell out before completion, but the reality has been quite different.

What L.A. Chamber's endorsement of Brown plan might do

Without a wholesale restructuring - that's pension reform, campaign reform, everything - an extra few years of tax revenue won't do that much good.

Friday morning headlines

Growth revised downward, L.A. gas prices keep climbing, baseball commissioner vetoes Dodger loan from Fox, and MySpace attracts some interest.

Little Hoover Commission calls for California pension rollbacks

Report: State and local governments cannot control mounting pension obligations without freezing benefits for current workers and then lowering them for future years worked.

Final round of Oscar predictions

director.png NYT's Nate Silver joins many others in making "The King's Speech" the overwhelming favorite for Best Picture.

Boeing wins air tanker contract

California's aerospace industry could be in for a nice payday: 4,500 jobs and $233 million.

ABC, Academy sign contract extension

ABC has broadcast the Oscar show every year since 1976. This is shaping up to be a strong year, revenue-wise.

*How would Brown pitch tax extension proposal to voters?

His best shot at winning a special election in June is emphasizing the fact that these are not new taxes, but rather extensions of existing taxes.

*Oil prices falling

U.S. officials say that current oil stockpiles were adequate to meet supply disruptions.
The Republicans are drumming up their "We're broke" mantra, and the Democrats are going along. But it's just not true,

Thursday morning headlines

Look for higher air fares, GM reports annual profit, more Toyota recalls, and American Apparel goes topless in latest ads.

Regency Club to close

It's kind of a big deal for L.A. business folks, especially those working on the Westside.

Inside the new home of Candy Spelling

spelling2.jpg Century City's super-luxury condo tower, appropriately called The Century, is quite a place.

Stocks tumble again

Oil prices were trading at close to $100 a barrel in NY, which got everybody's attention, and H-P reported disappointing sales.

Oxy evacuates foreign workers and their families from Libya

Occidental Petroleum's oil production will continue to be operated by Libyan employees and contractors.

Motion Picture Fund's long-term care facility will stay open

The place had been slated for closure, but there was such a huge outcry that a deal was worked out with Providence Health & Services.

Villaraigosa doesn't want to talk about current transit problems

Politically, this man is desperate.

How rising oil prices hurt the economy

The most obvious consequence is less spending by consumers, who represent a huge part of the overall economy.

Madoff even tried scamming Qaddafi

Mohamed Layas, head of the Libyan Investment Authority, apparently was approached about an investment opportunity.

Free tickets for health care breakfast

How about building a health care system on the successful model of Social Security?

Wednesday morning headlines

Oil prices keep rising, Barnes & Noble may take over some Borders stores, transit hearings in L.A., and Long Beach could cut 500 jobs.

Apple introduces updated iPad on March 2

The updated tablet is expected to be thinner than its predecessor and feature an improved display.

*Gas prices shoot up

Hard to know how much of the increase is due to the jump in oil prices or refineries not operating at capacity or a bunch of other factors.
aniston.jpg She bought the home in late 2006 for $13.5 million, and has since gussied it up quite a bit.

The ever-expansive ego of Jeffrey Gundlach

Turns out that his track record is pretty amazing - so much so that you can't help but pay attention.

*Stocks are sinking

There's just a lot of troubling news out there, especially the situation in Libya and a less-than-wonderful earnings report from Wal-Mart.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat looks at the still-soft housing market and the potential danger of another big foreclosure year.
Pension packages were reduced last year with implementation of a two-tier system, but the savings are not nearly enough.

Tuesday morning headlines

Oil prices taking off on Libya news, L.A. home prices edge lower, local union members heading to Wisconsin, and Oscar ballots due today.

More rumbles about the Sacramento Kings moving to Anaheim

No final decision has been made, but the Maloof brothers apparently have met with representatives of the Honda Center.

Oil markets reacting to Libyan protests

Another one of those fast-moving stories, with the price of crude shooting up in overseas markets.

Feds close criminal case against Angelo Mozilo

Prosecutors concluded that the actions of the former Countrywide CEO did not amount to criminal wrongdoing.

Financial markets closed

No trading because of President's Day. Banks, schools, and government offices are also closed....

*Brown says he's encouraged about a budget deal

The governor hopes to reach a budget deal with the legislature by March 10, most likely enough time to arrange a special election in June that would ask voters to approve a tax extension. "I think we're within striking distance of getting something out of the Legislature that will give the people a chance to vote," Brown said this afternoon. "The mood is reasonably positive." He also noted that, "This is not what we're seeing...

Did you know the word 'hello' only goes back to 1827?

And it wasn't even a greeting in the early years. That didn't come until decades later, with the arrival of the telephone.

Downtown developer Sonny Astani hands over Concerto

A crazy, convoluted case seems to be over.

Where are the state and local jobless numbers?

This time of year the state's number crunchers go through a revision process that delays the usual schedule.
That's quite a bunch running things back there - and they're about to cause some real problems in the next couple of weeks.

Warren Buffett's words of wisdom

On receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Always a class act.

Friday morning headlines

Average gas prices hit $3.50 a gallon, local small biz owners a bit more hopeful, CA cities use redevelopment money as ATMs, and Disney tests premium VOD.

E-commerce sites are soaring. But what about the sales tax?

states cannot require that retailers without a physical presence in a state to charge sales taxes,. And as we all know, many of them don't.

Countrywide's ex-CEO Angelo Mozilo is defiant to the end

"Countrywide was one of the greatest companies in the history of this country," the former CEO told Congressional investigators.

Obama's nerd dinner guest list

The president will break bread with a small group of Silicon Valley hot shots that include (via NYT): •John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers •Carol Bartz, President and CEO, Yahoo •John Chambers, CEO and Chairman, Cisco Systems •Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter •Larry Ellison, Co-Founder and CEO, Oracle •Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix •John Hennessy, President, Stanford University •Steve Jobs, Chairman and CEO, Apple •Art Levinson, Chairman and former CEO, Genentech •Eric Schmidt, Chairman and...

'King's Speech' most profitable best picture nominee

The film cost about $15 million to make and so far has earned $201 million, a stunning return on investment for The Weinstein Co.

Abu Dhabi loses $100 million in movie business

The losses comes after Abu Dhabi Media shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars on film projects.

Thursday morning headlines

L.A. inflation moving on up, feds looking for illegal workers, stadium developer may offer to pay rent, and cruise ship back in action.

Strong numbers at Port of Long Beach

January traffic at the port was up almost 11 percent from a year earlier, despite the departure of a major operator.

More signs of bifurcated economy

Get used to it - chances are we'll keep reading those "yeah, but..." stories about decent economic growth and high unemployment.

L.A. Council kills parking lot plan

The council voted unanimously to consider other alternatives at using the parking lots to generate revenues.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat looks at the city's parking lot fiasco and whether this is the right time for L.A. to pursue a downtown stadium.

Americans want it all - just don't charge them

People say that deficits are a big problem, but how do you bring down the numbers when all the big spending is off the table?

Socal stores hit hard in Borders bankruptcy filing

It's a stunning list, with many of the stores located in urban centers where you would think a bookstore could survive.

Wednesday morning headlines

L.A. expected to add jobs, Borders to close stores as part of Chapter 11, Madoff says banks must have known what he was up to, and higher air fares for premium seats.

Long, tough climb for California home prices

Looking at the big picture - that is, going back the last decade or so - the rise and fall of the state housing market is nothing short of dizzying.

Brown orders hiring freeze

The freeze applies to vacant, seasonal and full and part-time positions.

Proposal to consolidate L.A. money offices

Always struck me as kind of weird that the city of L.A. had both an Office of Finance and a City Treasurer.

Please, don't let Charlie Sheen outlive me!

sheen.jpg "Two and a Half Men" producer Chuck Lorre sums up his concerns in a vanity card at the end of last night's final fresh episode of the sitcom.

L.A. homes sales, prices take dip

Just not much enthusiasm out there to buy or sell - and it's reflected in the January numbers.

Understanding the hopelessness of the federal budget plans

So far, lawmakers at all levels are responding in the same cowardly way - that is, doing nothing.

Cargo activity increases at Port of L.A.

January numbers are higher than what's generally expected for 2011.

Tuesday morning headlines

Big cuts considered for LAUSD, 11th straight week of higher gas prices, CA foreclosures taking off, and UCLA gets Kerkorian foundation.

Villaraigosa still pushing for parking lot deal

This is what happens when local government tries to jerry-rig short-term revenue gains that do nothing to address the longer-term financial problems.

Lakers to launch TV networks

No more Fox Sports or KCAL - the Lakers and Time Warner Cable will form two regional networks that will carry all locally available Lakers games,

Tweet of the day

From Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal: "So of course I say on @MktplaceRadio this afternoon that I haven't bought a Valentines Day present yet...and my wife was listening."...

Does Valentine's Day stimulate the economy?

All those flowers, candies, gift cards, and restaurant meals add up to almost $16 billion. Would you have spent that money if there were no such thing as Valentine's Day?

What would have to be cut if voters don't approve tax extension?

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office provides a grim picture.

Battle brewing over SEC funding

President Obama's budget includes a 28 percent funding increase, exempting the agency from a five-year spending freeze.

If you thought ex-congressman's CL ad was something...

Frankly, it's hard to top Chris Lee's shirtless come-on, but Craigslist has no shortage of weird personal ads.

Monday morning headlines

More upbeat about recovery, China tops Japan as No. 2 economy, home prices dip in unexpected places, and Tom Gores closing in on Pistons.

California's new governor: What, me worry?

brownpix.JPG Jerry Brown should have been in that old deodorant commercial - you know, the one with the tagline, "Never let 'm see you sweat."

SEC charges three IndyMac executives with fraud

They're accused of misleading investors about the Pasadena-based lender's poor financial condition.

*L.A.'s parking lot deal is proving to be a dud

The plan to lease out nine parking garages is on the brink of collapse because there's no interest.

Stocks reach 2½-year high

Wall Street has been mostly detached from the Egyptian protests and that continued to be the case today.

Borders preps for bankruptcy

This is likely to be ugly: Initial plans are to close about 200 of the chain's 674 stores, with an option to shut down another 50.

California banks giving out the most small-biz loans

Generally, lending to small businesses continued to decline during the period, but there were signs of improvement.

Swiss freeze possible Mubarak assets

No word on the amount of money involved, but ABC has been reporting that the former Egyptian president has as much as $70 billion.

Sales of $1-million homes on upswing

The recovery has been led, in large part, at the higher-end, so these numbers aren't that surprising.

Friday morning headlines

Brown seeks support from business, Mattel wants mistrial in Bratz case, ad prices rebound for Oscars, and Blockbuster on the block.

Mubarak resigns

Egyptian VP just delivered the news. Crowds in Cairo going crazy. They're chanting "Egypt is free! Egypt is free!" As part of the announcement, VP says that Mubarak has handed power over to the military....

Arnold back in action

Schwarzenegger tweets: "My friends at CAA have been asking me for 7 years when they can take offers seriously. Gave them the green light today."...

Brown meets resistance on state budget plan

For there to be a special election on the budget plan, the legislature has to clear the measure by a two-thirds majority, and so far the numbers aren't even close.

No more giving out Zip codes when making purchases

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a merchant shouldn't be allowed to ask.

*Did Mubarak transfer power to VP?

That's what the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States is telling CNN.

Is the stalled Grand Avenue project showing some life?

Plans are being considered for a residential tower that had been tied to a later phase of the project.

The decline of L.A.

Might be worth reading at the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce's annual gala tonight.

Why don't Americans save?

The perennial question gets a new airing in light of last week's Harris Poll showing that 27 percent of Americans have no personal savings.

Thursday morning headlines

Jobless claims way down, Twitter's crazy-high valuations, Verizon iPhones go on sale, and state furloughs taking a toll.

*Reports that Mubarak will step down

Several new organizations say that the Egyptian president has agreed to transfer power, either to the vice president or the military.

Judge tosses Stan Lee lawsuit

stan_lee_1238474c.jpg Over the years, several lawsuits were filed against Lee and Marvel - and dismissed. This might finally be the end of the line -- then again, maybe not.

Activision to drop 'Guitar Hero'

Music-themed videogames aren't selling like they used to. The move could mean several hundred layoffs.

Steve Jobs on TV for the first time

He wanted to know where the restroom was - something about throwing up.

Oprah's network keeps sliding

So much for all that pre-launch publicity. Viewing habits are very hard to change.

*Brown drops plan to sell office buildings

State officials had been relying on the sale of 24 state government buildings as a way of helping close the giant budget deficit.

More condescension from Tim Leiweke

The head of AEG doesn't understand why anyone would be suspicious of the finances behind his plans for a downtown football stadium.

Wednesday morning headlines

New iPad in production, downtown stadium plans due this week, AOL's market value takes hit, and Harry and David nears bankruptcy.

Arianna did not make $100 million on AOL deal

It's more like $20 million to $30 million, according to analyst Laura Martin, who now says that the higher figure attributed to her was a misquote.

Business Update on KPCC

This morning's chat looks at the AOL-Huffington Post deal and whether News Corp.'s purchase of MySpace provides a cautionary tale.

Lakers consider trading Bynum for Carmelo Anthony?

ESPN says talks with the Denver Nuggets are in the preliminary stage, but a Lakers source tells the LAT that trading the center is not an option.

Government finds no electronic flaws in Toyotas

Investigators say that mechanical defects addressed in previous recalls are behind the unintended acceleration and other safety issues.

Huffpo readers up in arms

The Daily Beast found that 81 percent of the 500 comments it reviewed on the Huffington Post were opposed to the acquisition by AOL.

Five unemployed workers for every job opening

Companies are no longer instituting mass layoffs, but they're not ready for mass hirings either.

Tuesday morning headlines

Stadium panel has ties to AEG, report says enterprise zones don't work, gas prices up for 10th straight week, and California's "miserable" cities.

Which parts of stimulus worked best?

Programs focused on low-income households and infrastructure helped employment picture; money for education and law enforcement didn't.

Potential candidates for Harman's seat

Secretary of State Debra Bowen is considering a run, as is City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

Why L.A.'s red tape is still a problem for businesses

In a nutshell, too many departments making too many separate - and often contradictory - decisions on the way a business must operate.

Sizing up the AOL-Huff-Post deal

Everyone will be waiting for Huffington to fall on her face because that's the way it works these days.

Monday morning headlines

Jane Harman leaves Congress, not-so-hot financials for Huff-Post, huge ratings for Super Bowl, and Roski remains committed to stadium.

Skepticism grows about downtown stadium

The pushback is notable - and perhaps reflective of the trouble that AEG and the downtown cheerleaders might have in getting this thing through.

Setting the record straight on Reagan and taxes

This business about the president not raising taxes is a crock.

Goodell tempered about football in L.A. Again.

The NFL commissioner once again responded to a question about football in L.A. without really answering it.

Is Egypt ready to break?

This clips was uploaded to YouTube by an Egyptian blogger named Kamal Nabil.

Jobs report too messy to make much sense of

Since the recovery has been so halting, these government reports take on an inflated importance - flaws and all.
Could this be true? Is NBC - and now Comcast - so thin-skinned?
This time it's his snide remarks about NYT reporters being detained in Cairo.

Friday morning headlines

Weather blamed for weak job numbers, unexpected business for Northrop, big architecture firm moves downtown, and Mattel sued over Bratz.

*More mixed signals in jobs report

The report is so weird, so bifurcated, that you'll probably hear lots of explanations, starting with the weather.

Snapshot of the 'Farmers' in Farmers Field It's not surprising that so little has been written about the L.A.-based company. Let's face it, this is insurance we're talking about.

Gustavo Dudamel extends contract

dude2.jpg The popular conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic will be staying on through the 2018-2019 season.

Dumb and dumber (cont'd)

cole.jpg Did Kenneth Cole really use the uprising in Egypt help trumpet his new Spring line?

Michael Lewis: Be wary of brokers

They're not out to totally screw their clients, says the bestselling business writer, but...

*Brighter job prospects in CA?

Chapman University's employment index rose in the fourth quarter to its highest level since the second quarter of 2008.

More than 1 in 3 Americans have no retirement money

How on earth are these folks going to live once they're unable to work? Hint: Social Security won't be enough.

Thursday morning headlines

Oil prices edging higher, AEG taking on Ticketmaster, feds target Inland Empire bankers, and Long Beach women's conference dropped.

More bad news for MySpace

Parent News Corp reported that the social networking site had a loss of $156 million in the second quarter.

Don't bet on Sacto lawmakers giving in to Anschutz

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Pérez dismissed the idea of an environmental exemption on the downtown stadium plan.

Internet back up in Egypt

egypt_chart_508.jpg They just reversed the kill switch. That's really all you need to know.

Planners hired to handle stadium deal

Keep an eye out for the peripheral expenses that will be shouldered on the city - stuff that AEG head Tim Leiweke would never bring up during a press conference

Final call for free tickets

As part of the Drucker Business Forum series, Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor will be in conversation with Financial Times West Coast Editor Richard Waters on Thursday morning at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum (474 South Raymond Avenue, Pasadena). They'll be talking about privacy issues, the digital living room, and fostering innovation, among other topics. Breakfast is at 7:45 and the forum at 8:30. If you're interested, just let me know at

*At last, a little sanity at City Hall

Councilman Paul Krekorian wonders what the rush is about in approving a downtown stadium plan.

Wednesday morning headlines

Big job gain in January, more flights canceled out of L.A., AEG wants exemptions for stadium, and City Council whittles budget.

Business Update on KPCC

This morning's chat looks at the retrial between Mattel and Bratz maker MGA Entertainment and the public offering by Demand Media.

Borders may file for bankruptcy next week

As part of any restructuring, one source said, at least 150 stores would likely close (the retailer has around 650 locations).

Dow closes above 12,000

Pretty good earnings and economics news made for a strong day.

*Mubarak to address nation

Al Arabiya reports that he will not run in the upcoming election, but will remain in office until his term ends in September.

*Ed Roski doesn't stand a chance

The L.A. billionaire has proposed a nifty stadium plan in the City of Industry, but I'm afraid it's no match for the well-orchestrated push for a downtown stadium.

Free tickets to see Broadcom's CEO

As part of the Drucker Business Forum series, Scott McGregor will be in conversation with Financial Times West Coast Editor Richard Waters on Thursday morning at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum (474 South Raymond Avenue, Pasadena). They'll be talking about privacy issues, the digital living room, and fostering innovation, among other topics. Breakfast is at 7:45 and the forum at 8:30. If you're interested, just let me know at

Tuesday morning headlines

Egyptian economy on life support, Brown facing big hurdles, Farmers Insurance cuts NFL stadium deal, and Web running out of addresses.