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.
May 2011

How did McCourt meet Dodgers payroll?

He drew cash advances on the team's corporate sponsorship deals.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat looks at the efforts by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to attract California businesses to his state.

Perception vs. reality on gas prices

So consumers are in a huff over having to pay so much at the pump - and yet, prices are coming down substantially.

'Too Big To Fail' - Cliffs Notes version

For those who don't get HBO - as well as those who do.

Here's the skinny on L.A. opening of Papaya King

Business seems pretty good for the NY mainstay, which opened last week in Hollywood.

Millionaires control almost 40% of the world's wealth

That amounts to a cool $47.4 trillion, up from $41.8 trillion in 2009, according to a new report.

John Bryson to be nominated for Commerce Secretary

The former chairman and CEO of Edison International would replace outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Lamebrain comments about L.A.

Attention Angelenos: We can't read and all we ever talk about is Hollywood.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. home prices fall modestly, national economy is in a funk, FBI widens Building and Safety probe, and huge opening for "The Hangover."

Happy Anniversary Golden Gate

The bridge opened 74 years ago today - May 27, 1937.

Hiring at the extremes but not the middle

Don't expect much of a recovery unless more middle income jobs open up.
Only the pensions of elected officials convicted of public corruption can have their pension be reduced or revoked.
Pilot error is looking to be the cause of the 2009 crash into the Atlantic that killed all 228 people on board.

Friday morning headlines

Lower gas prices, more passengers at LAX, proposed sale of Crystal Cathedral, and clerical workers avoid furloughs.

Final network rankings for 2010-2011

CBS was tops in total viewers, followed by Fox, ABC, and NBC.

Why does the federal deficit get so much attention?

Perhaps it's because you can shape it to match whatever other positions you're taking.

Best and worst airlines for frequent-flier programs

frequent.jpg Among U.S. carriers, Southwest has the most seats available, at 99.3 percent. JetBlue was next.

Web ad revenues taking off

web.jpg If the percentage gains keep up, it's bound to raise doubts about whether a full-blown pay system is worth pursuing.

Thursday morning headlines

Supremes back immigration law, McCourt says he'll meet Dodger payroll, Compton could be close to insolvency, and Disney gives back Seal 6 brand.

How do the very rich use the Web?

Porn, money and food are the favored destinations.

Oprah's signoff

Finally, the schmaltz-fest is over. No offense, but it seemed like she would never leave.

*Mike Brown is new Lakers coach

Team will make the announcement later today.

What happens to Huguette Clark's Santa Barbara property?

clark.jpg The reclusive heiress, who died this week at the age of 104, leaves behind a mysterious Santa Barbara mansion built on a 23-acre bluff overlooking the Pacific - and valued at more than $100 million, according to's Bill Dedman. She hadn't been to the place since the 1950s (caretakers worked at the estate for generations without ever meeting Clark). All told, the fortune is estimated to be worth $500 million, and it'll be tough...

End of the line for CPK founders?

California Pizza Kitchen is one of L.A.'s great entrepreneurial stories.
Wall Street is taking the anchor's unexpected death really hard.

Wednesday morning headlines

CPK is sold, Lakers close to hiring Mike Brown, L.A. air traffic controller caught napping, and CNBC's Mark Haines dies.

Does Bryan Stow's family have a case against Dodgers?

Seems open and shut in the court of public opinion, but the Dodgers may have some case law on their side.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat with Steve Julian looks at how busy the summer vacation season is likely to be.
Good question - and it's hard to get a straight answer.

So-so notices for HBO's 'Too Big To Fail'

The star-studded drama illustrates the challenges of making the financial world come alive.

Tuesday morning headlines

California losing people to Texas, Amazon overloaded on Lady Gaga, Barnes & Noble announces new e-reader, and volcanic ash halts flights.

How Dean Martin got his variety show on NBC

He made all kinds of crazy demands that NBC executives agreed to.

Pilot error suspected in Air France crash

Authorities now believe that the pilots became distracted with faulty airspeed indicators and couldn't deal with the cascading system failures.

Big drop in L.A. gas prices

Finally, we're seeing significant declines - an average gallon of regular in the L.A. area fell nearly 10 cents in just the last week.

Thanks to tax credits, 'Body of Proof' to be shot in L.A.

ABC's high-rated drama was filmed in Rhode Island last season, but that state's tax giveaway program was looking a little shaky.

Could you come up with $2,000 in 30 days?

Nearly half of Americans say they definitely or probably couldn't.

L.A's cruise business is sinking

All of which is likely to have a noticeable effect on the local tourism economy, especially in the South Bay.

Talking European debt at Rikers Island

As imagined by the writers at "Saturday Night Live."

Monday morning headlines

State forms mortgage task force, Toyota's culture gets bad marks, strong weekend for latest "Pirates" installment, and networks push dramas and comedies.

Preview of weekend events, Rapture style

Eclectic Method - The Apocamix from Eclectic Method on Vimeo. Just getting a head-start on the festivities. Wonder if it'll interfere with the picnic......
The mayor also wants an independent consultant brought in to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the L.A. Department of Transportation.

*Rick Caruso pulls out of Santa Anita project

The billionaire developer had been pushing for a retail center next to the track since 2004, so his withdrawal is a surprise.

End of the world is tomorrow - can I have your house?

It's one of those good news/bad news things.

What you need to know about California jobs report

The state and local unemployment picture is certainly improving - but that's not saying much.

Statistics say Dodger season about done

Any team under 500 on June 1 stands a very small chance of getting into the playoffs.

Friday morning headlines

Gas prices keep dropping, Barnes & Noble gets offer, Couric close to ABC deal, and Elizabeth Taylor's estate is selling Bel-Air property.

California jobless rate falls below 12%

Just barely - 11.9 percent in April, down from 12 percent the previous month.

*Brentwood investor Ezri Namvar convicted of wire fraud

This has been a huge - and barely covered - story within the local Persian Jewish community.
He set a June 22 court date, which means that if McCourt can't meet payroll in another 10 days or so, he'll be on his own.

LinkedIn shares skyrocket

The professional-networking site was priced at $45 a shares, opened at $83, reached as high as $122.70, and finished the day at $92.

Dick Ebersol quits NBC Sports

The long-time network executive says he couldn't come up with an agreement on a new contract.

*VIP treatment on parking tickets?

Program allows the mayor and City Council members to have fines reduced or eliminated for constituents.

Thursday morning headlines

Jamie McCourt may force the issue on Dodgers, Hollywood cheats minority and women writers, LinkedIn shares soar, and e-books blow past print.

City Council approves budget

The cops were hit with $41 million in cuts that have not yet been accounted for, and parks and rec got a $19-million haircut,

Media choosing deficit over unemployment

Republican jawboning is no doubt having an effect.
Clueless, bumbling, parochial, grand-standing - those are just a few of the words that come to mind after catching bits of this morning's session.

Drilling down into California's have and have-not worlds

An index of well-being has the state doing a little better than the nation as a whole, but that's not the whole story.
Once you pull out Oprah and Lady Gaga, the difference is even greater.

Arnold story almost too easy for late night jokes

They were all pretty predictable - and curiously unfunny.

Wednesday morning headlines

Geithner warns of default, gas prices changing behavior, budget day at City Hall, and Disney considers Olympic sponsorship.

Netflix is eating up bandwidth in huge chunks

netflix.jpg Company is the largest source of peak downstream Internet traffic in the U.S.
LinkedIn's larger-than-expected offering is already feeding the narrative that California's tech business is back in a big way.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's chat looks at the huge L.A. budget deficit and why short-term cuts won't do the trick.
Not all that different, I'm afraid. State government had been on a dysfunctional course well before the recall.

'L.A. Noire' too thoughtful for its own good?

The videogame, officially out today, allows users to skip action sequences in order to appeal to customers more interested in the noirish aspects of the story.

Tuesday morning headlines

Election Day for Jane Harman's seat, Kim Kardashian scores venture funding, The Counter and Yogurtland coming to LAX, and KIIS-FM still tops.
capitol.jpg The two high-rises next to iconic structure would drastically change the Vine and Yucca neighborhood in Hollywood.

Sitcoms are back

All told, 15 comedies are planned, up from 13 a year ago and only eight in 2008.

Only a small dip in gas prices

Told you that they go up a lot faster than they go down.

Lakers? What Lakers?

Last night's Miami-Chicago contest on TNT was the most viewed NBA game in cable history.

*California gets huge revenue boost

The $6.6-billion windfall is way higher than had been projected, but next year's deficit is still running at a little under $10 billion.

About those most livable city surveys...

Not to state the obvious, but nice is not the same thing as interesting.

Trump decides not to run for president

But he says that if he had chosen to run, he would have won the GOP nomination and then the general election.

Monday morning headlines

U.S. hits debt ceiling, Brown to release budget revision, DirecTV plans HBO-type channel, and proposed development in Hollywood.

Disney trademarks 'Seal Team 6'

The applications were filed on May 3, two days after Osama bin Laden was killed by the elite special forces team.

Fire Department's mysterious redeployment plan

L.A.'s fire chief says that $54 million can be saved without having to close any station or lay off any firefighter or increase initial response times.

Budget cuts force closure of 70 state parks

The closures, which will begin in September, were based on attendance rates and historical significance.

Chinese selling t-shirts, L.A. style

Nothing like a little Western influence to interest Chinese teenagers.

Linking religion, education and income

Here's a dicey subject, but one that's worth examining.

Friday morning headlines

Big jump in inflation, state Republicans release budget plan, McCourt alone in battle to keep Dodgers, and Ashton Kutcher replaces Charlie Sheen.

More traffic gains at L.A. ports

April was a strong month at the Port of Long Beach and a decent one at the Port of Los Angeles.

*Is Rick Caruso getting ready to enter mayoral race?

The L.A. developer declined to say whether he'll be running in 2013, but he apparently sounds like a candidate.
Believe it or not, the metro area ranks second nationally in coverage and second in service frequency.

Socal housing market going nowhere fast

Still too much skittishness among potential buyers and too little motivation among potential sellers.

Californians at a glance: Young, ethnic and renting

The U.S. Census Bureau continues to slice and dice the state, based on its 2010 data.

Thursday morning headlines

Delay in California foreclosures, local economic picture brightens, tough times for sports bars near Staples, and Saab future in doubt.

In-N-Out opens to long lines in Texas

Something imported from California that Texans actually like? Guess all it took was a Double Double.
They're still stuck with the fixed cost of running the place except with a lower gross. Why would anyone do that?

Newport Beach lifeguards making over $200,000?

Obviously, not all city workers do nearly this well, but this is the sort of exception that people remember.

City Controller's fixation with cell phone use

Frankly, it's disappointing to see so much attention being paid to such a lower-tier matter.

Oil prices resume fall, leaving motorists in the dark

This is why it's so hard to figure out where the price of gasoline is headed.

Guilty verdicts in big insider trading case

So now we know that a bunch of rich guys have been gaming the system - what a surprise!

Wednesday morning headlines

Bad news for Toyota, Cal State considers tuition hikes, baseball owners meet, and Eli Broad to get reimbursed.
The baseball commissioner didn't get into the team's precarious payroll situation, other than to say, "We are monitoring the situation very, very very closely."

Tracking westward movement of U.S. population

census.png As of 2010, the center of the population is near Plato, Mo.

Newspaper websites are topped by cable networks is far and away the leader, with nearly 8.5 million unique U.S. visitors each day.

Storifying America's financial meltdown

Almost time for the HBO film "Too Big to Fail," based on the best-selling book of the same name by NYT columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Business Update on KPCC

How up-and-down gas prices complicate energy policy, and why solar energy remains a work in progress.

Northrop introduces spy plane

Capabilities include listening in on phone calls, using high-powered radar and shooting live video footage at 30,000 feet.

Tuesday morning headlines

Tech hiring helps state economy, Californians not paying their fair share, Microsoft to buy Skype, and can McCourt keep Dodgers by filing for bankruptcy?

L.A. gas prices tumble a whole 0.005 cents per gallon

Don't spend it all in one place - an average gallon of regular in the L.A. area fell ever so slightly in the last week.

What will Sumner Redstone say at USC commencement?

This is one graduation ceremony that might be sort of fun.

Best investment advice: Don't lose your principal

Sounds simple, right? And yet I'm often running into folks who proudly tout their 10 percent returns on investments they clearly don't understand.

Allow individual UC schools to set their own fees?

It's an interesting idea that's getting batted around the 10-campus University of California system.

Monday morning headlines

L.A. home prices keep falling, LAPD inundated with lawsuits, AT&T is investing in L.A. network, and LinkedIn goes public.

California ahead on cash projections

The state has taken in $2.5 billion more in tax revenues so far this year than expected.

More calculations on the cost of Osama bin Laden

binladen2.jpg One price tag is $3 trillion over 15 years - and very little to show for it.

CEO of Oprah's cable channel is out

Christina Norman lasted less than six months after launching OWN, the cable channel co-owned by Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications.

The ever-confusing jobs picture: Happy or sad?

economixapril.jpg Happy, just not delirious.

*LAT publisher named CEO of Tribune

Eddy Hartenstein will remain publisher of Los Angeles Times Media Group.

Friday morning headlines

Strong employment report, oil keeps falling, IRS investigating Kabbalah Centre, and Mel Gibson reduces asking price on his Malibu house.

Amex cuts off charges for medical marijuana

No explanation for the new policy, other than a decision to adhere to federal laws.

McCourt should really stop doing these interviews

Without a detailed accounting, his defense doesn't amount to much.

Google offers one more reminder that it gets better

Some marketers have questioned the spots, though it's not unusual for companies to promote sentiment rather than specifics.

Steep plunge in oil prices

Crude futures fell more than $9 to settle at $99.72 a barrel. Should that level hold, gas prices are almost certain to drop.

The casual governorship of Jerry Brown

The lack of any entourage, the Southwest commuter flights - this is not for show, it's just the way Brown operates.

L.A. to Vegas: $9?

Well, sort of. But the Spirit Airlines fare contains quite a few catches.
Well, let's put it this way: Sizzler and Jack in the Box are getting into the game.

MTV's Judy McGrath resigns

She was routinely included on lists of the most powerful women in the entertainment industry.

Thursday morning headlines

Big jump in jobless claims, McCourt supposedly not cooperating, state deficit is shrinking, and feds consider relaxing airport security.
All decisions about Medicare and taxes would be deferred until after the 2012 elections.

Dodger Stadium is getting to be a very lonely place

Meanwhile, owner Frank McCourt keeps hitting the airwaves in the hopes that he'll be able to convince fans that the team is not in a financial hole.

*Deutsche Bank accused of being L.A. slumlord

The City Attorney's office is asking a judge to force the company to clean up the 2,000 foreclosed properties it owns in L.A.

*This house is worth $1 million?

osama-bin-laden-hideout-007.jpg Here's another bit of so-called information that's been filtering out since Sunday's killing of Osama bin Laden: That the compound in Abbottabad is somehow valued at a million bucks. Now, I don't know much about Pakistan real estate, but doesn't that seem a little hard to believe? A reader writes into Dealbreaker: "I think I have a solution for the housing problem. All we need to do is hire the people who appraised Bin...

Vallejo will soon emerge from bankruptcy

Talk about a cautionary tale for those who believe that a municipal bankruptcy filing is the best-and-only hope for cities.

Wednesday morning headlines

Disappointing jobs report, hotel tax breaks questioned, killing redevelopment might be illegal, and improvements planned for IHOP.

Dodgers may run out of cash by end of May

This could get dicey considering that Bud Selig apparently won't sign off on a $3-billion TV deal with Fox until an investigation into the Dodgers financial situation is complete.

Pac-10 cuts rich deal with Fox, ESPN

It's a huge package - worth about $3 billion over 12 years.

Californians still lagging in food stamp use

The state's low usage rate is generally attributed to skittishness by undocumented immigrants.

Bring on those bin Laden conspiracy theories!

Well you knew this was coming.

Business Update on KPCC

This week's biz chat with Steve Julian looks at whether Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has an exit strategy in the Dodgers mess.

Another strong month for car sales

Much of the strength has come from sales of smaller, fuel efficient vehicles.

What kind of economy will L.A. have in 2025?

Quite a strong one, according to the consulting firm McKinsey, which places L.A. in sixth position worldwide in gross domestic product.

Tuesday morning headlines

More job seekers than jobs, TV ownership falls, mixed bag on LAT circulation, and Boingo about to go public.
PPR, which has some of the world's biggest labels, is buying the Costa Mesa-based company for $607.5 million.

*Save this one for the history books

sitroom.jpg Here are Obama, Biden, Clinton, Gates and others looking on in the Situation Room.

After slowing down, local gas prices pick up speed

The weekly increase was about a nickel a gallon, with the prices of regular in the L.A. area at $4.293.
You're talking about trillions of dollars - only Hitler would would come close in terms of monetary cost (human cost is something else altogether).
Is there really a role for old-fashioned broadcast stations in a digital universe?

Milken Conference opens in Bev Hills

The annual gathering of world thinkers opens with the discouraging view of Pimco CEO Mohamed A. El-Erian.

Does Bin Laden death mean anything for economy?

Well, the Dow has given up most of its gains this morning - if that's any indication.

Kings will stay in Sacramento

The league's relocation committee apparently had serious reservations about the move to Anaheim.

Monday morning headlines

Bin Laden bounce on Wall Street, Chrysler posts profit, mediator called into grocery talks, and Anthem rate hike called unreasonable.