LA Biz Observed archive

Mark Lacter covered business, the economy and more here from 2006 until his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
The entire LA Biz Observed archive — more than 10,000 blog posts by Mark — remains online and available.
October 2011

*Judge rejects both Tribune reorganization plans

Oh no - this could go on longer than the Dodger bankruptcy.

DirecTV and News Corp. reach deal on Fox channels

Crisis averted.

*Tribune Co. bankruptcy decision about to be announced

Sounds like the long-awaited ruling is due out within the hour.

Free tickets for Nobel Laureate breakfast

Daniel Kahneman is one of the few non-economists to earn a Nobel prize in economics.

Another sign of Cain peaking out

Reports of him sexually harassing women won't help matters.

Possible Kardashian divorce may be good for ratings

It's sick to think in those terms, but that's the way this crowd operates.

Monday morning headlines

Disney cuts streaming deals, mayor's ex chief of staff still on payroll, Qantas back in the air, and Mrs. Madoff talks.

Free tickets: Lawrence Lessig and John Schwada

LA Observed contributor John Schwada will be interviewing Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, the author of "Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It," for the Live Talks Business Forum.

Why is Barnes & Noble shutting its stores? *

It's kind of a stealthy drawdown.

State workers and their crazy-high non-wage payouts

Wonder if those Wall Street protesters are being clued in - they might be surprised.

One more reason tax holiday is a lousy idea: It's not fair

Existing L.A. businesses that have been burdened by the ill-conceived gross receipts tax will continue to be burdened.
Refinancing will be made a bit easier for homeowners who have stayed current on their mortgage payments, but that still leaves millions of others (many of them in California) who haven't. So the president's plan, while offering some relief for the housing market, is certainly not the ultimate answer. Also, a look at why so many lower-income L.A. households are choosing not to have a bank account. This week Susanne Whatley fills in for Steve...

Wednesday morning headlines

Europe still dithering on debt, feds land big fish in insider trading case, car washers unionize, and medical marijuana oversight proposed.

Villaraigosa wants to make tax holiday permanent

Just what we need: Fewer tax revenue opportunities for the city.

Stocks take a tumble

More discouraging news from Europe as governments and banks remain split on how to deal with the debt crisis - specifically, on how to deal with Greek debt. The Dow fell 207 points, to 11,706....

*Pensions putting L.A. officials in a tough spot

Reform does not have a magical and painless solution.
Well, that's what I think he says (precision is not exactly this guy's strong suit). In an interview with CNBC's John Harwood, the Texas governor blames the financial crisis on regulators not doing their jobs. The answer, he says, is to fire those folks and go back to the old rules. JOHN HARWOOD: You want to repeal Dodd-Frank, going back to the old system of regulation of Wall Street. How would you explain that to...

Tuesday morning headlines

Netflix stock plummets, L.A. home prices fall, MLB says McCourt "looted" $189 million, and more passengers at LAX.

James Murdoch doesn't fare well in shareholder vote

More than one-third's of the votes were in opposition to the reelection of Rupert's son to the board.

Netflix loses more customers than expected

A lightening rod of a company that goofed badly by raising prices and trying to spin off its DVD operations.

Dodgers lower ticket prices

The fire sale is on at Chavez Ravine.

Villaraigosa's Twisted Reality songbook (cont'd)

Mayor is stretching the truth a tad with opening of Chinese electric car maker.
The casino mogul is not a fan, to put it mildly.

Another millionaire watch in Silicon Valley

Just another month or so before LinkedIn employees can begin selling the stock that they had acquired as part of the company's IPO earlier this year. That stock is nearly double the $45-a-share IPO price, so we're talking some serious moolah - more than $8 billion. That has Bay Area Lamborghini dealers ready for an onslaught. From the WSJ: The lockup countdown became a Silicon Valley tradition during the late-1990s dot-com boom, but the windfalls...

Technology's impact on slowing job growth

Robotics, computerized inventory control, voice recognition and online commerce are contributing.

Monday morning headlines

Obama presents new housing plan, FedEx expects record holiday, NBC still in the doldrums, and Mattel does deal for Thomas the Tank.

News Corp.'s slate of directors are elected

As expected, CEO Rupert Murdoch survived a shareholder challenge.

John Bryson's nonsensical wait to be Commerce Secretary

Senate Republicans did their utmost to delay the process.

Stocks take off

Big day - the Dow was up 267 points.

*California's employment report: Hurry up and wait

The good news is that September's jobless rate fell a touch.

Fox, Telemundo pay $1 billion for World Cup rights

Fox's $425 million bid for the 2018 and 2022 competitions beat out ESPN's $400 million.

Live blogging of News Corp. annual meeting

most recent updates below I'll be monitoring the tweets and postings from several news organizations that are covering the company's annual meeting this morning at the Fox studios. From DealBook: News media and security outside 20th Century Fox's main gate on Pico Boulevard outnumbered protesters by two to one. About 20 people -- at least one wearing an oversize Rupert Murdoch Halloween mask -- carried pickets beneath studio billboards for Fox television shows like "Glee"...

Friday morning headlines

California will cap emissions, fireworks likely at News Corp. meeting, Wal-Mart cuts back on health coverage, and Bryson confirmed as Commerce Secretary.

California jobless rate takes dip

September's unemployment rate was 11.9 percent, down from 12.1 percent a month earlier.

NBA talks break down

Players and owners remain far apart.

Friday's News Corp. annual meeting could get very interesting

It's only a matter of time before Murdoch steps down and is replaced by a non-family member.

Low-income families still leery of bank accounts

Reasons come down to minimum balance requirements or bank fees.

*Why did Steve Jobs postpone cancer surgery?

He chose other approaches at first, hoping that an operation would be needed.

City of Long Beach still trying to recoup Lehman investment

City had the misfortune of plunking down $20 million just days before the bank's collapse.

Nearly 6 million Californians living in poverty

Fresno has the nation's second-highest poverty rate, at 26.8 percent.

Romney still leads California fundraising

He's raised $3.9 million, while Rick Perry has picked up $1.2 million.

Thursday morning headlines

Rioting in Greece, California subpoenas B of A, NBA talks continue, and local firms get preference in bidding.

Here's why people loathe CEOs

Car executive let go over allegations that he used company funds to pay for personal expenditures.

Judge in Tribune bankruptcy 'within days' of decision

Nearly three years and counting.

Drop in container traffic at Port of Long Beach

Inbound shipments were down 8.9 percent in September compared with a year earlier - and a bit worse than at the Port of L.A. Outbound shipments were off 4.7 percent. The sluggish numbers raise obvious questions about holiday sales - even though analysts expect a decent - though not robust - season. From the WSJ: To be sure, some retailers are running heavy on inventory this fall, and others say they are planning for higher...

All you need to know about Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan

999.jpg This is what happens when you create a flat tax, strip out the deductions for working families, and leave investment income untouched.

Council members having second thoughts about bank penalties

Let's hope so. The notion of severing agreements with major lenders, being pushed by Councilman Richard Alarcon, is misguided and irresponsible, to be sure, but it's also an example of shameless pandering to the city unions and the Occupy L.A. protesters that are both peddling this truly idiotic idea. Thankfully, the city has budget chief Miguel Santana, who warns that breaking agreements with banks is no small matter and could cost at least $58 million...

What percent of the 99% are you?

A $40,000 income is in the 47th percentile; and $60,000 is in the 61st percentile.

Wednesday morning headlines

Higher prices for L.A., Social Security recipients get boost, NBA talks keep going, and unkind words for Jamie McCourt.

Apple earnings and the expectations game

A 54 percent jump in earnings - what's the problem?

Business Update on KPCC: What happens with pot dispensaries?

Regulation has become pretty much a free-for-all.

Kobe not playing in Italy after all

Well, at least he won't be playing exhibition games for the basketball team Virtus Bologna. Owner Claudio Sabatini, who kept insisting that a deal was almost done, appears to be backing off, according to an Italian newspaper. But there may be more to the story. From the LAT: Those reading the tea leaves might see this as a sign that the NBA owners and players union might broker a deal as they meet Tuesday with...
Councilman Ed Reyes changed his mind after talking to colleagues.

Why defaults might be masking an even worse economy

Not paying off your mortgage frees up money to spend on other stuff. But it can't last forever.

More newspaper paywalls going up

The success of the NYT this past year is clearly motivating papers to make the move.

Trying to make sense of Socal's foreclosure scene

The process can be so unwieldy that it's almost impossible to get a solid read on what's going on.

Why did banks ignore warning signs about Groupon?

Could it have been the hundreds of millions of dollars in fees?

Tuesday morning headlines

Banks making more loans, NBA talks resume, lead concerns at Disneyland, and airlines grab Long Beach spots.
This is what happens with a really dumb idea - given time it looks even dumber.

Two-thirds of U.S. workers are either overweight or obese

The number might be even higher

Record-high favor legalizing pot

That's not in California; it's nationwide.

Steve Jobs' last big project

It's said to be the next iPhone - presumably the iPhone 5.

Thousands lining up for free health care

Only 5,000 wristbands are being given out for admission.

Monday morning headlines

New iPhone off to a fast start, McCourts reach divorce settlement, L.A. office rents keep falling, and California frittering away $9.1 billion.

Some insight into who the protesters are and what they want

The inability to pay off student loans seems to be a primary gripe.

Murdoch getting hammered

None of this is likely to threaten Murdoch's position as CEO.

'John and Ken' losing some advertisers

Verizon, AT&T Wireless, Ralphs and Vons apparently have pulled their advertising from KFI's hate-mongering (and quite popular) morning show.
Boy, talk about dumbing down - all it takes is an idiotic slogan and you're in business.

Friday morning headlines

Consumers still shopping, NY park cleanup postponed, Princess cruising back to Mexico, and McCourt's debt dilemma.

Still waiting for Brown's pension reforms

The governor has been promising them since.. well, practically since he took office.

Cops ready to make their move on NY protesters

Sounds like Mayor Bloomberg has had about enough.

Economists see continued job slog

That even assumes there is no recession.
Gap Inc. issued a press release this morning trumpeting all sorts of exciting news - an increase in sales outside North America, the opening of many more stores in China, and a new marketing campaign for its Banana Republic chain. Then, at the bottom of page 2 was one of those "by the way..." mentions. (Bold face is mine): Improving productivity of North American real estate: The company is making progress on its goal of...
Or science or technology or mathematics.

September home sales decent - all things considered

Meanwhile, state and local foreclosures kept dropping.

Thursday morning headlines

Bank profit falls, BlackBerry service restored, NBA labor talks get federal mediator, and Blue Shield gives back money.

3 out of 4 Americans say country is going in wrong direction

Slightly better than the 78 percent registered during the height of the financial crisis in 2008, but it's still pretty bad.

Want a job at Google? Lots of luck

Did you know that the company receives over one million resumes a year?

Universal dumps plan for early video release of 'Tower Heist'

All that screaming and shouting by the theater chains apparently had an effect.

Sluggish traffic coming into Port of L.A.

It's possible that retailers are just being careful with their orders.

How do we get out of this economic mess?

You're asking a society that's dominated by short-term thinking to look beyond the next election cycle.

Wednesday morning headlines

Republicans kill jobs bill, L.A. faces more layoffs, NFL owners cool to L.A. team, and accusations flying in Dodger bankruptcy.

Ah, those crazy kids from Slovakia

It's been a while since Bratislava has seen so much action.

Glimpse at Occupy L.A.

Still wondering how the fledgling movement will be played out.
By maintaining lean inventories and selectively promoting items that offer the best margins.

Assessing economic impact of shortened NBA season

Laker and Clipper games represent nearly a third of Staples Center's annual bookings.

*Ezri Namvar sentenced to 7 years

"I think he lost his moral compass," said a federal judge.

Not your imagination - fewer big (great) WSJ stories

WSJ.jpg The focus is on shorter pieces that often have nothing to do with business.

Tuesday morning headlines

NBA season being cut, Roski adjusts stadium plan, 99 Cents Only Stores sold to investor group, and movie chains not happy with Universal.

A few more details about Jobs' death

Apple notified the Palo Alto police a few days before his death.
Not that it's likely to happen when News Corp. holds its annual meeting.

Big day for stocks - Dow up 330

Investors have been trading on up-and-down headlines out of Europe.

State finances slip in September; could signal new cuts

Those cuts would be brutal, directed at K-12 schools, higher education, public safety and social services.

Do people really live like this?

Check out this unintentionally hilarious commercial that introduces a new service from Times Warner Cable.

Economic narrative all bad; reality quite different

When all you hear is terrible news, a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy kicks in.

Monday morning headlines

Good news from Europe, Netflix abandons spinoff plan, Brown signs a slew of bills, and Hotel Bel-Air reopens Friday.

Steve Jobs moves onward

newyorker.jpg Next week's cover - a touching send-off.
The top 1 percent do a lot better than the other 99 percent. But there's more to it.
Another weird turn in the already baffling enforcement of marijuana laws.

Report: NFL not happy with AEG's proposal for football

Financial terms are not satisfactory to team owners or the league.

Disney's Bob Iger making retirement plans

He'll step down as CEO in 2015 and leave the Mouse House entirely in 2016 at the age of 65. As part of the transition, reports the WSJ, Iger will add the position of chairman in March 2012 (current chairman John Pepper will be leaving at that time). From the Journal: The company said a successor had not been chosen. But Mr. Iger for several years has been grooming a group of potential heirs, moving...

Friday morning headlines

CA still open to mortgage deal, confusion over fed's crackdown on pot dispensaries, and gas prices keep dropping - slowly.

Jobs spent last weeks saying goodbye

His resignation as Apple CEO back in August gave the world an ominous clue.

Job numbers point to an economic slog

Not a recession, just super-slow growth that's likely to be around well into next year and probably beyond. Daniel Gross has a good take: We've been banging this drum about the "conservative recovery" for several months, and this report shows it in very plain and stark relief. In this expansion, companies are increasing their payrolls while state, local and federal governments are trimming theirs. This trend would be much more pronounced if not for the...

Protesters make some noise downtown

check.jpg Still trying to figure out where this goes, if anywhere.

Feds to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries

This could be a killer for a fledgling business that already faces lots of headaches.
You actually can get things done without resorting to massive, mega-billion dollar developments.

B of A closing 40 former Countrywide loan offices

In the process, hundreds of loan officers are being let go.

With Steve Jobs gone, is American innovation past its peak?

Employment in start-up companies is falling. That could be a sign.

Oprah is really ready to start her cable network

Now, she really means business.

Thursday morning headlines

Jobs biography moved up, retailers have decent month, Costco raising membership fees, and more about movie museum.

*Steve Jobs dies

Transformed the way we look at technology.

Dodgers fail to persuade bankruptcy judge to expand case

Lawyers wanted to show that owner Frank McCourt was being singled out

Palin decides not to run for president

Good news for Perry, who now gets the wacko vote almost all to himself.
Some striking similarities on the hold that a single person can have on Congress.

B of A website still not working properly

After six days of intermittent service, still no word on what's causing the problem.
A few well-intentioned ideas - and very little that's realistic.

Business Update on KPCC: Why are folks still spending?

You can't go down when you're already down.

Wednesday morning headlines

Greece shut down, NBA preseason canceled, protesters disrupt OC bank meeting, and Disney adds to 3D lineup.

Owner of Acapulco, Chevys files for bankruptcy

The chain restaurant business has yet to recover from the recession.

Pickup in L.A. location shooting

Third-quarter filming rose 15.4 percent from a year earlier.

Crazy day on Wall Street

Stocks made a big comeback in the last hour or so of trading.

Big jump in Romney chances

With Chris Christie out of the way and Rick Perry continuing to struggle, it's looking good.

'Playboy Club' gets the ax

Boy, that was fast.

*Money dispute at 'The Simpsons'

The six principal actors who voice the show, now in its 23rd season, face huge pay cut.

Crystal Cathedral creditors taking aim at Schuller family

They're claiming in a lawsuit that vendors were kept on the short end.

Christie decides against presidential run - really

Well, that's according to several media outlets. The NJ governor will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. to make it official - one more time. From CBS: There were serious obstacles to a Christie run. The first was the fact that his position issues like climate change (he called it "real"), immigration and the notion of "creeping Sharia law" (Christie deemed such concerns "crazy" "crap") put him at odds with much of the GOP...

Tuesday morning headlines

Bernanke sounding glum, Apple to introduce latest iPhone, MySpace tries out its new act, and LAX is getting quieter.

Ricky Gervais meets Hollywood for the first time

He received a Golden Globes nomination and was sure he would lose. And then...
That buys you a three-acre property that includes a 9,200 square-foot main house, plus two guest houses

Shaky prospects for future California retirees

Here's a story that keeps getting ignored because its effects won't be seen for another few years.

Dodgers challenge bankruptcy judge's ruling

At issue is whether the team should be allowed to introduce evidence on the financial status of other teams.

WSJ magazine goofs badly on California finances

At last check, there was no correction on the website.

Do positive Yelp reviews result in higher revenue?

Apparently so, according to a new study.

Monday morning headlines

Good month for automakers, factory activity picks up, protesters camped out at City Hall, and Jamie McCourt unloads home.