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.
March 2011

Brown proposes pension reform plan - sort of

The governor listed seven specific ideas for ending abuses or tightening pension funding rules.

Stunning hike in L.A.-area unemployment since 2007

You're looking at the 5th worst metro area out of 99 in terms of increased joblessness.

Re-examining earthquake readiness after Japan, New Zealand

One immediate, and sobering, lesson: Japanese are a lot more prepared than Californians.

On tipping - and breast size

Yes, it does make a difference, at least according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Thursday morning headlines

Another dip in jobless claims, blame everyone for budget impasse, community colleges slash enrollments, and Russian billionaire buys mansion for $100 million.
Living near rich people can be a real pain - as folks north of Beverly and west of La Cienega are discovering.

L.A.'s troubled boutiques

Socal was heavily over-stored with these pricey retailers, and the recession has served to weed out the less successful ones.
Well, lots of reasons, from possible debt implosions around the world to volatility in the Middle East.

Are the Republican candidates for president this bad?

Worse - and that's without Sarah Palin in the race so far. Joe Klein minces no words.

Personal income is up - but so what?

Take away transfer payments like Social Security, Medicare, and health insurance and actual taxable income per capita fell 3.4 percent since 2000.
PDC.jpg Charles Cohen had Hollywood in mind when working with architect Cesar Pelli on the 400,000-square-foot Red Building.

Free tickets to hear Starbucks CEO

The Starbucks CEO will be at the Drucker Business Forum on Tuesday, April 5.

Wednesday morning headlines

Job gains in March, cabs from LAX to cost more, stadium proposal lacks guarantee, and regime change in sight at News Corp.

Brown declares budget talks dead

So you can forget about getting a two-thirds vote for a June ballot measure.

Why is movie attendance down? Because the movies are bad.

That's the conclusion of studio executives and theater operators who are staring at a 20 percent drop in attendance so far this year compared with 2010.
The only critical voice came from Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who wondered why the city couldn't negotiate a piece of the pie from the electronic billboards revenues.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat with Steve Julian looks at the deal cut between L.A. and the city unions on health care contributions.

Billionaire Henry Nicholas battling with the IRS

Dispute centers on tax shelters that are supposed to save the Broadcom co-founder from paying millions of dollars to the government.

Michael Moore spars with Stephen Colbert

Very funny - and Moore manages to make a compelling case for the unions - even if his claim that states aren't really out of money is ludicrous.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. home prices take a dip, Council takes up lighting plan for Wilshire Grand project, lots of jobs for construction work at the ports, and it's women vs. Walmart.

Electricity in Japan may not be back to normal for months

That means factories will operate at reduced levels, and that means limited productivity of cars, electronic components - lots of stuff.

Zev holds off entering mayoral fray

Yaroslavsky sounds an awful lot like Jerry Brown when he was campaigning for governor last year. Except there are key differences in the two races.

L.A. gas prices stay level

gasprice.jpg The flattening out began last week - for how long who knows.

Construction rebounds in California

Guess which state added the largest number of construction jobs last month? Uh-huh.

How to halve the federal deficit by doing nothing

deficits.jpg Simple - just let the Bush tax cuts expire in 2012, which is when they're supposed to.

FX to air Pac-12 football in the fall

A minimum of 13 games will come from the newly expanded conference (Colorado and Utah are being added to the lineup.)
A movie executive's job is to produce hits, right? And in the last 12 years, Horn has certainly delivered.
The Lakers and Clippers have appealed to owners around the league to block the Kings' move but aren't hopeful that they will be successful.

Monday morning headlines

Checking for radiation at the ports, state Republican ranks keep dwindling, budget talks about over, and Harry & David files Chapter 11.
liz.jpg Actually, hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen decided to auction off the famous "Liz #5" two weeks ago.
Clearly those guys aren't interested in dealing, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he's "prepared to pull the plug"

Those wacky budget numbers from L.A. City Hall

So is next year's budget deficit $350 million or $500 million?

Borders asks that its executives get bonuses

That's right, these are the same folks who led the bookstore chain into bankruptcy protection.

L.A. employment picture improves a bit

February saw a drop of 0.3 percent, to 12.6 percent, which is hardly terrific, although another indication that the worst may be over.

Friday morning headlines

Consumer confidence falls, Japan tourism likely to slow, another big payday for Oxy CEO, and Montecito home sells for $27 million.

Califonia gets more jobs, lower unemployment rate

February's jobless rate was 12.2 percent from 12.4 percent the previous month, but the more encouraging news was the addition of 96,500 payroll jobs.

IRS tries to get tough on gifting real estate

Californians who didn't file federal gift tax returns could face audits, penalties or even back taxes.

L.A. announces major health care deal with union

The three-year deal with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions would save the city nearly $400 million over the next four years.

California sees big boost in minority population

Nearly 60 percent of the state's population is minority, according to 2010 Census data.

Broadcom co-founders settle shareholder backdating suit

As part of the agreement, Henry Nicholas, the company's former CEO, will pay Broadcom $26.6 million.

Snoozing air traffic controller raises alarm

The controller was all alone at Reagan National in Washington, D.C. as the pilots of two jetliners were trying to land.

Thursday morning headlines

Public support for Brown's plan may be slipping, California ranks 12th in per capita income, jobless claims keep falling, and new sexual harassment suit against Charney.

L.A. City Council approves police hiring freeze

It's a three-month freeze that is supposed to help ease the city's $47-million deficit.

Elizabeth Taylor walking into a room

"When Taylor arrived, everyone in the place dropped the pretense of being too sophisticated to stare."

Toyota plans U.S. production cutbacks

The Japanese automaker says that because of parts shortages due to the earthquake, some production at its factories in North America will be shut down.

Jerry Brown's interesting use of language

The governor says - I think - that all budget options are on the table.
One of the more misguided decisions by the L.A. City Council - and friends, it's a long list - was placing restrictions on new fast food restaurants in South Los Angeles.

Albertsons parent is chintzy with bags

Forget about double-bagging, and no bags at all for items that have a handle (milk containers, for example).

Wednesday morning headlines

Big cuts to Cal State system, new home sales plunge, Delta losing business on Japan, and Barnes & Noble can't find a buyer.

Brown considers November ballot initiative on taxes

Waiting until fall presents some logistical problems, not the least of which is a still huge budget deficit.

Santa Monica's Viceroy Hotel sells for $80.1 million

Final price amounts to about $494,000 per room, which is on the upper range for an upscale property.

Fewer Californians leaving state than in past recessions

One explanation is that the most recent downturn was felt all over the nation.

3-D on your smart phone? L.A. company gets funding

Here's another local tech company you probably have never heard of.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat with Steve Julian looks at higher food prices and L.A.'s economic recovery.

Scams for every season

scams.jpg Never mind Bernie Madoff - the most popular cons a lot less convoluted.

Battle over mega-mansion in Benedict Canyon

Well, we've just discovered what too much is in the uber-wealthy 90210 community.

Tuesday morning headlines

Field Poll finds support for Brown, wealth gap for California schools, Anthem reduces rate hikes, and there's a Geiger counter shortage.

Democrats still pushing for June vote on extending taxes

That, of course, assumes there are enough votes in the legislature to place the tax extension measure on a ballot.
Huh? Tax revenue of $35,000 a year and the city might be stuck paying $34,000 a month in rent?

L.A. gas prices barely move

But oil prices were up today, which suggests that there is still lots of concern about supply disruptions.

Dow back over 12,000

The AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile helped a lot, but things still seem kind of tentative.

Stephen Colbert on AT&T's expansionist plans

This 2007 bit about how Cingular became AT&T Wireless is a pretty funny - and accurate - backgrounder on the changing faces of what was once Ma Bell.

Jerry Brown's YouTube appeal

The governor is asking voters to demand that his tax-and-cuts budget be placed on the ballot.

Monday morning headlines

Writers Guild cuts deal with producers, oil prices back up, AT&T purchase of T-Mobile is mixed bag for consumers, and Expo Line gets moving to Santa Monica.

L.A. budget officials desperately scrounge for every penny

The suggested cuts and transfers are only for the current budget year. Next year the city will start off with a deficit of $350 million.

Here's why you can't totally write off Ron Paul

The Texas congressman tells it like it is on NPR funding and getting out of Afghanistan.

Report: THR investors looking for a way out

The Reporter is said to be losing a bunch of money - not a huge surprise given the tens of millions of dollars that investors have been spending.
The cost and complications of big public works projects make such a line way more trouble than it's worth.

How to beat the salad bar

The biggest bargains are the toppings - stuff like walnuts, almonds, gorgonzola crumbles and croutons.

Friday morning headlines

CA legislators finish budget slashing for now, CEO bonuses are taking off, THR is reportedly up for sale (again), and more Borders stores to close.

L.A. gas prices still going up, but more slowly

An average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is $3.971, up about three pennies from last week.

Labor deal approved by L.A. Harbor Commission

Contractors will be required to use union labor on $1.5 billion in port construction projects over the next five years.

Stocks recover; Dow up 161

Wall Street has been headline-driven this week, and today's headlines have been generally reassuring.

Singapore Airlines postpones A380 service from LAX to Tokyo

The airline was all set to begin flights in two weeks, but traffic to Tokyo has taken a dip.

J.D. Power: Lincoln tops in dependability

It's the first time that Ford's luxury brand made it to the top spot of the Westlake Village research firm's widely followed list.

Power back on at Japan nuclear plant

That's according to the Japanese government, and if true, it could help inject water into the facility's cripple reactors.

Thursday morning headlines

Positive news about nuclear plant, L.A. inflation shoots up, Californians support public pension rollback, and NYT announces pay wall plan.

Getting ready for the Anaheim Royals?

The mayor of Sacramento has said that a move to Socal is likely.

TV's biggest moneymakers

"American Idol" is in the top spot of the Forbes survey, bringing in $7.1 million every half hour.

L.A. economy bouncing back. Well, sort of.

Housing and unemployment remain trouble spots, but the area's overall economic activity is improving.

Markets bouncing around on every headline from Japan

The Dow wound up losing 242 points - and much of the session was influenced by information that may or may not be reflecting the full picture.

Blue Shield of California cancels latest rate hike

It would have come on top of two other hefty rate hikes in October and January.

*Markets tumble on nuclear plant comment

Since the information from Japan is so muddled or contradictory, the financial markets are jumping on most anything bad.

Wednesday morning headlines

Spike in wholesale prices, Field Poll shows support for Brown's plan, GOP lawmakers want to trash state environmental laws, and narcs raid marijuana businesses.

Legislature schedules Wednesday vote on budget plan

Still no sign that Gov. Jerry Brown has made any headway in convincing a few Republican lawmakers to support his plan.

Weaker export traffic at the ports in February

Since L.A. area ports handle about 40 percent of the nation's container activity, the sluggish numbers would suggest a slowdown in export activity.
Perhaps it's not that surprising to see confusing and often contradictory comments from Japanese officials.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat with Steve Julian looks at the effects of the Japanese earthquake on U.S. business and the economy.

Another sluggish month for Socal housing market

Nothing much happened in February, as buyers and sellers keep biding their time.

Time Warner Cable's cool iPad app

The company we all love to hate has come up with a free download that allows customers to watch live TV on their iPad.
Quick video showing earthquakes in Japan between March 9 and March 14.

Foreigners leaving Japan

Today's radiation scare is likely the last draw for countless numbers of expats.

Tuesday morning headlines

Stocks getting hammered, supply shortages due to quake, Calpers corruption is alleged, and bleak picture for Brown.
But, er, didn't Japan just experience an 8.9 quake?

Latest spike in L.A. gas prices

How much further will prices increase if refineries in California decide it's more lucrative to increase their shipments to Japan.

*Worsening picture at Japanese power plant

Emergency efforts to pump seawater into one of the reactors has failed, increasing the risk of an uncontrolled release of radioactive material.

Eli Broad sells NY co-op after big price cut

The L.A. billionaire unloaded his full-floor Fifth Avenue apartment for $8 million after originally asking $15 million more than two years ago.

Separating myth from reality in public pension crisis

Key point: That state and local pension funds are underestimating their liabilities, and that some funds could run out money within the next few years.

CA budget talks are 'done and over'

That's what Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway said this morning on radio station KMJ.

Monday morning headlines

Stocks remain shaky, no break in CA budget talks, Borders plans to exit bankruptcy by fall, and KCET ratings are plummeting.

U.S. stocks edge lower

In the first hour of trading the Dow is down about 50 points, which is not too bad considering that the Tokyo market plunged 6 percent today.

Japan air travel update

Five flights are scheduled to leave LAX little after midnight tonight, according to the airport's flight information service.

Nov. 15 is target date for opening of Expo Line

Various snags will hold up service for the full run from downtown L.A. to Culver City.

Forget resumes and job interviews - they're a waste of time

Blogger Susannah Breslin says it's just dumb luck - and I must say she has a point.

99 Cents Only Stores offer might not hold up

The higher stock price this morning means that investors are betting on a better bid than $19.09.

*Not a great time to be rebuilding Japan

Japan's debt burden is so severe - 200 percent of annual economic output.- that it's unclear how much the nation will be able to do.

Normal operations at Port of Los Angeles

Just as a precaution, they were temporarily suspending the transfer of hazardous materials.

Friday morning headlines

Airlines cancel flights to Japan, oil prices fall below $100 a barrel, 99 Cents Only Stores gets buyout offer, and Dov Charney lawsuit is stayed.

*Austin Beutner sounding more like a mayoral candidate

He expects to make a decision within a month. Let's hope he takes a good, hard look at his prospects.

Here's why public pension recipients generate such anger

It's people like Bruce Malkenhorst, the infamous retired city administrator of Vernon who pulls down $520,000 a year in benefits.

Stocks get crushed

The Dow tumbled 228 points to fall below 12,000. It was the biggest drop since last October.

Budget vote early next week?

Talks with a splinter group of Republican senators appear to be continuing.

How Bruce Karatz avoided jail time

In a nutshell, by being rich and well-connected.

The ups and downs of L.A. manufacturing

L.A. County remains the top manufacturing center in the country. But...

Thursday morning headlines

State budget vote put off, Californians more gloomy, pot dispensaries ordered closed, and AOL announces layoffs.

Brown asks for more time on budget

The governor says he's making some progress in negotiations with Republicans and would like the legislature to delay its Thursday vote.

Banging the drums with Remo Belli

remo.jpg Who would thought that an indescript manufacturing plant in Valencia would be home to one of the more important music companies in the world?

California start-ups top every other state by wide margin

WSJ survey finds that of the 50 venture-backed companies that have the best chance of succeeding, 35 are in California.

State revenues are picking up

California's $25-billion budget deficit is not going away, but at least the state coffers are looking a bit better. Controller John Chiang reports that tax revenues are $1.3-billion ahead of projections through the first eight months of the fiscal year (even though receipts in February were actually lower than forecast). Much of the eight-month gain comes from income taxes, which suggests that lots of folks are doing well in the stock market. Payroll withholdings are...

Chevy Volts flying off the lots

The reviews aren't great, but demand is vastly outstripping supply for GM's electric car.

Library vote just the latest example of city's dysfunction

It's emblematic of a city that's unwilling to make tough decisions for the benefit of everyone, not just the ones shouting the loudest.

TV's aging audience - and talent

Turns out that the networks are recognizing that the 55+ crowd make up a large part of their viewers.

Wednesday morning headlines

Gloomy job picture for California, Freedom Communications bids coming due, NPR CEO forced out, and USC gets largest gift ever.

Council squirrels away $1 billion in redevelopment $$$

Lawmakers in Sacramento preparing are to eliminate redevelopment agencies as early as Thursday.
The five GOP senators who declared an impasse in the budget talks don't sound optimistic, but the governor reports some progress.

Rick Caruso cuts deal with Glendale hotel owner

The L.A. developer finally reached an agreement to buy the Golden Key Hotel, which is where he wants to expand his shopping complex.

New California population numbers from Census Bureau

Counties and cities grew sharply since the 2000 Census.
The alleged victim is seeking $260 million in damages from the CEO of L.A.-based American Apparel - and her former boss.

'The Dark Knight' will be available on Facebook

Netflix is especially vulnerable to such an incursion.

Council considers sleight-of-hand on redevelopment

Redevelopment supporters (many of whom have their jobs on the line) are threatening to sue if they don't have their way.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat looks at the efforts at requiring a sales tax to be placed on online purchases and whether gas taxes should be raised.

Tuesday morning headlines

Brown's budget plan in jeopardy, new smoking restrictions in L.A., paperwork filed for downtown stadium, and Oprah's new network ready to reboot.

Carnival cancels stops in Mazatlan

That's a big economic loss for the Mexican resort city, but drug violence is getting a little too close for comfort.

L.A. gas prices nearing $4 in new report

Meanwhile, oil futures were trading in NY at over $105 a barrel, with little sign that prices were peaking out.

Subway tops McDonald's as world's largest restaurant chain

Keep in mind that McDonald's is still tops when it comes to sales (the chain reported $24 billion in revenue last year).

*Brown says he has no Republican votes

The governor needs two Republicans in each house to support his budget package.

State controller takes aim at redevelopment agencies

A five-week review found no reliable means to measure the impact of redevelopment activity on job growth.

Monday morning headlines

Oil and gas keep climbing, investors still skeptical about stocks, California has high start-up rate for businesses, and Mattel closes Barbie store in Shanghai.

Brown convinces another business group

This time it's the Bay Area Council, which voted this afternoon to endorse Brown's budget proposal.

Still a long way to go on jobs

jobs5.jpg From Calculated Risk. The line hovering at the bottom is where we're at. It's moving up, but ever so slowly....

Charlie Sheen to buy Mike Medavoy house

sheen1.jpg Poor neighbors.

How cool is a car driving itself?

Why exactly Google is involved in such far-afield technology remains a curiosity in Silicon Valley, but it's sure fun to watch.

David Murdock's die-later diet

murdock.jpg Already 87, he is exceptional health - and he's not afraid to proselytize on the importance of a healthy diet.

*State and local jobless rates barely budge

Compare January's 0.1 percent drop in unemployment for L.A. and California with a 0.4 percent drop for the U.S.

Friday morning headlines

Oil prices back up, grocery workers contract expires on Sunday, more questions about downtown stadium, and Sacto mayor says Kings' move to Anaheim is likely.

Could today's job numbers be understating growth?

The outlook might even be better than is reflected in the numbers.

Another huge jump in gas prices

If prices keep going up - and more importantly, if they stay up - the recovery becomes jeopardized.

CA Chamber is cagey about Brown budget package

CEO Allan Zaremberg told reporters that a comprehensive budget solution "is good for the economy,"

Good day for stocks

The big drop in jobless claims apparently got the ball rolling - as did a slight drop in the price of oil (though gasoline prices keep going up locally).

Times series offers insight into L.A. corruption

We would all be shocked and appalled - except that when it comes to government, we have come to expect the worst.

Will stores get smaller?

Best Buy, Sears, and the Gap are among the chains looking to save space however they can.

Thursday morning headlines

Jobless filings fall sharply, Brown talks to Republicans about deal, DirecTV's plan freaks out theater owners, and Council dabbles at cell phone cut.

Little support for cutting entitlements

Less than a quarter of Americans want to cut Social Security or Medicare, according to a new WSJ/NBC News survey.

Villaraigosa calls for pension reform

The changes would only seem to apply only to new hires, which wouldn't do much to stem the underfunding of pension benefits for current employees

Hollywood humping is all the rage

Jimmy Kimmel shows you the way, with Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Eva Longoria, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Alba, and Lindsay Lohan.

Bleak prospects for L.A. finances

The elephant in the room is the deficit of $350 million (that's on top of the current $54 million.)

Steve Jobs introduces iPad 2

The Apple CEO gets a standing ovation as he walks onstage in SF.

Bill Gross warns that stocks and bonds are in for trouble

The top dog at investment giant Pimco says that once the Fed's quantitative easing program is completed, bond yields are likely to go higher.

Kaiser nurses walk off job for 24 hours

A few hundred employees from Kaiser Permanente's Los Angeles Medical Center are on picket lines this morning for a 24-hour strike.

Wednesday morning headlines

Big job gain in February, Republicans talking to Brown (sort of), Apple updates the iPad, and Jaime McCourt wants to see her husband's books.

Make way for the family Ferrari

ferrariFF.jpg The four-seat FF is the first Ferrari with four-wheel drive. It'll set you back $359,000.

'King's Speech' sequel?

Still lining up the financing. (h/t Daily Dish)...

Bad day for stocks

This was a classic case of the markets ignoring the encouraging past and focusing on the worrisome future.

City hands out 11,812 cell phones

Controller Wendy Greuel, who plans to run for mayor, proposes a 60 percent reduction in the number of phones issued to city workers.

Chris Dodd gets the MPAA job

The former Connecticut senator becomes chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood's trade group.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat looks at efforts to get a tax extension measure on the ballot, and next week's vote on Measure G, which would cut back on L.A. pension benefits.

Hateful talk - even in death

From the next to last line of an obit in the Houston Chronicle.

Consumer Reports is lukewarm on Chevy Volt

GM's much-anticipated electric car gets good marks for being quiet and well-equipped, but it's not much of a money-saver.

Tuesday morning headlines

Bernanke concerned about oil, California is third-toughest place to find work, Blue Shield says rates are reasonable, and Dior sacks designer over Hitler comment.