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 2012

*Keith Olbermann is fired

What a surprise, right?

SAG, AFTRA members approve merger

Despite bellyaching by a few prominent SAG members, it wasn't a contest.

Whatever happened to Miramax?

Surprisingly little, despite the purchase by an investment group led by Ron Tutor.

To the winner(s) of the Mega Millions lottery...

Forbes contributor Ken Kamen has a great piece of advice: Don't do anything right away.

Friday morning headlines

Consumer sentiment improves, gas prices keep inching lower, Apple supplier promises chnages, and a jump in Dodger ticket sales.

Report: Downtown stadium deal may be in jeopardy

Billionaire Phil Anschutz refuses to budge on financial terms with the NFL.

Dolby considers buying naming rights for Kodak Theatre

The SF-based sound and video company has a long Hollywood history.

Villaraigosa says big layoffs are in store

He'll also propose a higher retirement age for city workers.
Here's a cogent - and quite disconcerting - assessment from NY magazine's Jonathan Chait: The debate seems to have centered around a "limiting principle." If you haven't closely followed the arguments, here is what it means. The challengers have managed to wall off the health-care law from overwhelming precedent that would uphold it by defining the individual as something wholly different from other regulations -- a regulation of "inactivity," as opposed to "activity." The distinction...
But is the two or three cent drop in the past week a hint of things to come?

Getting out of L.A.

What the Census Bureau describes as "outflows."

Boris and Natasha should be watching this...

Jon Stewart on President Obama's loose-lip moment the other day in Seoul.

Thursday morning headlines

Best Buy closes stores, anger over Dodger deal, News Corp. mulls all-sports channel, and LAX traffic is way up.

Magic facing a new kind of pressure to perform

Big difference between ribbon cutting and dealing with complaints about stadium security or Dodger dogs.

Early word from new Dodger owners

Mark Walter, who controls the purse strings, says he will remain in the background.
Everything from eggs to shampoo to produce will be reduced, another reflection of the struggles that traditional grocery chains are having in a market increasingly dominated by lower-price competitors like Costco and Walmart. (Why do you think the grocery workers union made such an effort to keep Walmart out of Chinatown?) Price reduction takes effect today. From the OC Register: Compared to 2008, the new low-price program represents thousands of more items with "deeper cuts"...
And no - he's not Magic Johnson.

Hollywood's Peter Guber part of the new Dodger ownership

Here's one of the nifty sidebars to the big sale.
Just offer a fantastic amount of money: $2.15 million, in cash.

Little immediate relief in California jobless rate

Expect the state rate to hover around 10.8 percent through the end of the year, according to the latest UCLA forecast (it was 10.9 percent in February). In 2013, it will average 9.8 percent, and in 2014 the unemployment rate will be around 7.7 percent - still a half percent higher than what's projected for the nation as a whole. So why is California still lagging behind? UCLA economist Jerry Nickelsburg says that the employment...

Celebrating Murray Lender and his schlocky bagel

He made a fortune by pushing convenience over quality - and don't knock convenience.

Early pictures from the JetBlue flight

Among the first of what no doubt will be a bunch of videos from passengers on board the NY-Vegas flight.
Skeptical questioning isn't always a predictor of where the vote will go, but often times it is.

If Supremes overturn health care law...

It would bring the nation back to square one on reform.

How much will Frank McCourt make on Dodger sale?

If you're having breakfast you might want to skip over this item.

Tuesday morning headlines

Small dip in confidence, airlines raising fares, L.A. home prices creep lower, and the most rented movie in 2011.

Tribune Co. warns DirecTV customers about being cut off

The two companies are squabbling over retransmission fees.

Welcome to Obamaville

When attacking the president, nothing is too low.

Stocks up sharply

One of those Rashomon days.

Another off day for KB Home

Investors are still jittery because of a drop in new orders.

L.A. is nation's most densely populated urban area

Glendale 1900.jpg We're talking 7,000 people per square mile, according to the Census Bureau.

Dov Charney's girls washing solar panels

American Apparel's naughty CEO provides an up-close look.

Monday morning headlines

Public still confused about health care law, gas prices edge lower, support for Brown's tax hike plan, and some cable ratings sink.

Can we please stop talking about 'soaring gas prices'?

Here's a news flash: They're not soaring anymore.

Variety up for sale

Reed introduced a paywall in early 2010, which no doubt resulted in losing readers

*Walmart receives approvals to open in Chinatown

Retailer got all the needed approvals in advance of council vote.

'Mad Men' recap in 7 minutes

First four seasons get the once over.

Obama's comment about Trayvon Martin rings true

heat.jpg Who knows where the this horrible story will lead, but there's no denying its resonance.

Expo Line opening date set

The long-awaited 7.6-mile connection will be up and running on April 28.
February's 11.8 percent rate is still very high - nearly a full percentage higher than California's jobless rate of 10.9 percent (also unchanged from January). The U.S. unemployment rate in February was 8.3 percent. Somewhat better news: the separate payroll survey shows that L.A. gained 28,900 jobs in February; in all of California, the increase was 4,000. Here's the EDD release....

Look who's really cleaning up on 'Hungry Games' frenzy

He happens to be the biggest shareholder of Lions Gate Entertainment.

Friday morning headlines

Investor confidence is up, B of A tests foreclosure alternative, council to consider Chinatown Walmart, and how L.A. could save $350 million.
There's not much to understand: Local unions don't like it and some councilmembers are taking note.
Financing remains the top problem faced by many business owners.

Most expensive and least expensive rentals in L.A.

This tells you a lot about income divisions in Los Angeles.

Three former Coliseum officials arrested

They include Pat Lynch, the former general manager.

Obama's biggest hater

Harold Simmons believes the president is "the most dangerous American alive."

Brown not shooting straight on tax plan

Governor's proposal to raise taxes would not go to K-12 school and community colleges.

Thursday morning headlines

Jobless claims hit 4-year low, mortgage rates top 4 percent, huge advance sales for "Hunger Games," and efforts to block Walmart in Chinatown.

Not all food prices are going up

Lettuce, cabbage, and tomatoes are practically steals.

*Wal-Mart gets another black eye in California

The issue is inaccurate pricing at checkout stands.

Umami Burger to open in NY

It's part of a national expansion of the high-end burger chain, which is half-owned by nightclub/hotel impresario Sam Nazarian. The plan is to reach more than 20 locations by the end of the year. From Bloomberg: Nazarian sees his premium restaurants and burgers as apart from the pack. Umami serves up hand-chopped ahi tuna with wasabi flake, and offers wine and martinis in some locations. These are the latest evolutionary twist on the Southern Californian...

Broad Museum construction gets started

Crews are on site at the Grand Avenue location.
Another step in the evolution of the gaming business.

L.A. area still tops in entrepreneurial activity

Recession pushed many people into business ownership.

Wednesday morning headlines

Drilling doesn't mean lower prices, iPad is too fast for your own good, pushing more exports from L.A., and TV connected to the Internet.

Slashing payroll is not always the answer

Why do Costco and Trader Joe's have plenty of employees and still make money?

Business Update on KPCC: Low graduation rates stall hiring

Students in California tend to drop out a lot more frequently than in other parts of the country - and that means lower skill sets, which almost guarantees that these kids won't find a decent job. All of which puts pressure on business owners to find qualified people. And unless voters approve a ballot initiative to raise taxes, educators could be faced with still more budget cuts. Available at and podcast (Business Update with...

Controller: L.A. doesn't spend wisely on everyday items

If this were a business, they would have somebody's head.

How lives can derail in a matter of moments

How the career of a high-ranking Morgan Stanley executive came tumbling down.

Tuesday morning headlines

Oil prices dropping, small pickup in L.A.'s Latino population, Cal State plans enrollment freeze, and fading interest in law school.
"This American Life's" retraction program hits upon a larger question.

FAA to reconsider rules on electronic devices

It's actually a complicated problem.

Numbers keep climbing for 'Hunger Games'

Meanwhile, Disney is tallying the losses for its megaflop, "John Carter."

Why do women still get brushed aside at work?

Why do you think? They're not men.

What happens if you drop the new iPad?

Not a pretty picture if you drop it face down.

Musical terminals at LAX

Alaska Airlines will operate out of Terminal 6 instead of Terminal 3.

Monday morning headlines

Apple to pay dividend, gas prices nudge lower, L.A. billionaire to enter Dodgers fray, and non-legacy carriers get high marks.

Oprah network cancels Rosie

Just never went anywhere ratings-wise.

Why it's hard to get worked up over Goldman confessional

Because Goldman clients don't really care.

Wealthy L.A.'s underground housing movement

Rich homeowners are choosing to build massive basements.

Trading in a bookstore for a drug store

The old Borders store on Sunset and Vine is being replaced by a Walgreens superstore, and I can't help feeling something is amiss.

Is it all right for a writer not to tell the truth?

The endless debate about the use of facts, exaggerations or outright lies in pursuit of the greater truth.

'This American Life' retracts piece on Apple

Pretty embarrassing moment for the acclaimed radio magazine.

Weatherman alleges sexism at KCAL/KCBS

Kyle Hunter says he was passed over for jobs because he wasn't a hot chick

Friday morning headlines

Gas prices start to fall, consumer mood dips, warning on American Airlines bankruptcy, and Wozniak waits in line for an iPad.
They're talking about the middle of next month, at the earliest.

Trip to Mars might run $500,000 - give or take

Merely orbiting around the Earth might not attract much interest.

Already lining up for the new iPad

Apple stores in 10 countries, including the U.S., will be opening at 8 a.m. on Friday to accommodate the crowds. Several major retails, such as Best Buy, RadioShack, and Wal-Mart will be selling the tablet as well. From the WSJ: The Cupertino, Calif., company said in recent days it had sold out of its allotment of iPad preorders, saying that interest among its customers was "off the charts." The company has since said new preorders...

*Derek Fisher traded to Rockets

Talk about the end of an era:

How on earth did anyone believe Josh Macciello?

The real business media was ignoring this guy.

Walt Mossberg on the new iPad

The WSJ's tech columnist really likes the latest version, especially the display.

Thursday morning headlines

More good news on jobs, Freedom may be up for sale, Korean Air's downtown development could be pared, and Brown's revised tax plan.

Port traffic mostly down

Inbound traffic was down in L.A. and Long Beach.
This isn't the way to restore fiscal sanity in Sacramento.

How to explain Obama's up-and-down approval ratings?

NYT columnist David Brooks has a good take.

Business Update on KPCC: What the Hollywood job market like?

Has the entertainment industry lost as many jobs as reported by the state?

Distressing news about Latinos and higher education

Simply put, not many of them are making it.

L.A. gas prices may be heading down very soon

The price for unblended gasoline has been falling sharply.

*Villaraigosa gets his transportation bill through Senate

This is a big deal in the mayor's effort to mass transit projects completed in 10 years instead of 30.

Jump in L.A. home sales; prices remain depressed

The Socal housing market had its best February in five years.

Fun factoids about the Internet

No real way of verifying much of the information, but it's still pretty cool.

Wednesday morning headlines

Stinging exit from Goldman, gas prices level off, Brown to rewrite tax initiative, and California construction employment is up.

Fed signs off on financial conditions of most big banks

The latest round of so-called stress tests worked out well for 15 of 19 banks.

Big day for stocks; Nasdaq at highest level since 2000

You still hear concern about a pullback, but for now there's just a lot of encouraging news. Today's rally was buttressed by good economic numbers (retail sales), a generally positive Fed statement, JP Morgan announcing a big boost in its dividend, and several large banks disclosing that they had passed the Federal Reserve's so-called stress tests (the Fed is about to report the results of those tests). Add to all that is Friday's strong employment...

What is the true price of a gallon of gas?

A lot more than what we pay at the pump.

Calpers lowers investment rate of return, but not by much

In theory, the government is liable for less money, but only if the 7.5 percent return is met.
Once again, Nevada is tops, at 12.7 percent.

California hotel market is heating up

Sales in the state totaled a record $5.3 billion last year, up almost 200 percent from 2010.

Free business breakfast tickets

Author David Rothkopf will be looking at big government vs. big business during the next Live Talks Business Forum this Thursday morning at the downtown City Club. Rothkopf, author of "Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making," will be in conversation with LAT columnist David Lazarus. Breakfast is at 7:45 and the program begins at 8:15. Click here for tickets....

More fallout from Marilyn Hagerty's Olive Garden review

As could be expected, there's been a backlash against the initial snarky comments.

Tuesday morning headlines

Pickup in retail sales, banks ignored foreclosure errors, LAFD provided inaccurate data, and Casden appears out of Dodger bidding.

About Obama's drop in polls

Why is there barely a drop in the way people view the economy?

Villaraigosa takes another swipe at Prop 13

The mayor says commercial property owners are benefiting at the expense of homeowners.

Gene Simmons' new restaurant adventure

The Kiss rocker will be backing something called Rock & Brews in El Segundo.

Why not fake chicken?

NYT columnist Mark Bittman says it's not half bad.

California revenues miss the mark - again

February tax receipts came in 3.2 percent below the governor's budget projections.
Here's a case where reality is all but irrelevant in the context of an election year.

Monday morning headlines

More details on mortgage deal, gas prices keep inching higher, Hollywood in a funk, and pot legalization efforts face hurdles.

Q&A on jobs: Tepid recovery picking up steam - sort of

A different way of doing business is taking shape.

Rick Caruso's tax break

The L.A. developer has been trying for years to overhaul the old Miramar Beach Resort.

Hard-hitting journalism at the Sprinkles ATM


State, L.A. jobless rates show small declines

First time in nearly three years state unemployment rate was under 11 percent.
L.A. company says it's a different type of research.

Friday morning headlines

Broad job gains, mortgage deal provides added dividend, Americans resume borrowing, and Taylor Swift is tops.

Jobs recovery gaining speed

jobchart.jpg It's not just the 227,000 payroll jobs that were added in February - it's the upward revisions from earlier months that economists are spotting. The January jobs figure was increased by 41,000 and the December figure by 20,000. Overall, the economy has added an average 245,000 jobs over the past three months - that's significant. (NYT)...
A Vancouver developer is finalizing plans to build a 32-story apartment tower at Ninth and Olive streets.
That might seem surprising given the area's enormous levels of wealth.

Read it and weep: Newspaper biz shows biggest job loss

newspapers2.jpg That's based on industry growth rates between 2007 and 2011.
Rule #1: No one knows what the numbers will look like.

Vegas is back baby!

Well, not completely, but Nevada gaming revenues are on the upswing.

Locals on Forbes latest list of billionaires

The world is filled with lots of extremely rich people.

Thursday morning headlines

Jobless claims increase, shaky support for tax measure, California tops in suspicious mortgage loans, and Hollywood union talks begin.
Turns out that Alec Baldwin isn't the only jerk who refuses to turn off his phone or tablet. Numbers are sketchy, but flight attendants say that electronic devices have become the leading cause of unruly behavior by passengers. They just don't believe the machines can cause any problems, and, truth be told, there's only limited research on the subject, none of it conclusive. From the WSJ's Scott McCartney: Travelers who "think 'it's no big deal'...
wealth2.jpg California has the largest number of residents with a net worth of $2 million or more.

Stocks recover a bit

The Dow picks up some of its losses from Tuesday, gaining 78 points.

*How low has the Daily News sunk?

You'll be astounded.

Apple's new iPad

A faster machine and sharper graphics are the selling points.
L.A. will have a hard time giving out raises because its deficit is so large.
NY crude is trading at about $105 a barrel, which is well below the $144 level in 2008.

Wednesday morning headlines

Pickup in private employment, gas prices stop climbing, Apple announces new iPad, and new budget woes for L.A.

L.A. Superior Court faces huge cuts

The measures include 300 job cuts and the closing of 50 courtrooms.

Where in the world would you go to disappear?

A former Sherman Oaks investment manager named Bruce Friedman tried France. The feds had been after him in connection with a Ponzi scheme that allegedly bilked investors of more than $200 million. Last year French police arrested Friedman in front of his hotel in Cannes, and in the months since he had been awaiting extradition to the U.S. Then, Friedman died. No word on how or when, according to the LAT. Frankly, the idea of...

Stocks get hammered

It all came apart today in what was by far the worst trading session of the year. The Dow, which was down sharply all day, finished down 203 points, to 12,759. Analysts will point to more rumblings out of Greece, but the market had been long overdue for a pullback as traders look to cash in on what has been a surprisingly bullish year so far....

Questioning Herbalife's research & development

Why won't the L.A.-based marketeer of supplement disclose R&D information?

The economics of good looks

Yes, it does make a difference.

Looks like a big night for Romney

He has a strong chance of winning Ohio, North Dakota, and Alaska, and is a virtual lock in Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Idaho.

Jon Stewart piles onto Rush Limbaugh

Metaphorically, that is.

Tuesday morning headlines

Gas prices stabilizing, concerns about college loans, scamster Bruce Friedman dies, and record year of lobbying.

L.A. gas hikes slow down, up a nickel in the last week

Keep in mind that they were up 23 cents the previous week.

Big tuition hike protest in Sacramento

Thousands of students rallied outside the state Capitol this morning.

*All the advertisers that are sticking with Rush Limbaugh

Don't get too excited by the seven or eight sponsors that have pulled out - it's still a long list.

Boomers facing retirement blues

Too many retirees wanting to sell their investment portfolios will deflate prices.

Post-recession income inequality

This explains why retail's luxury sector turned around so fast after the downturn.

United-Continental merger means more routes out of LAX

LAX.jpg Seven new destinations out of LAX, including Shanghai, Hilo, and Austin.

Monday morning headlines

Yahoo preps big restructuring, newspapers struggle on print side, big weekend for "The Lorax," and labor abuses alleged in Inland Empire.

GM temporarily halts Volt production

Electric car sales aren't going to pick up until batteries can be made more cheaply.
Not very, but when airlines combine computer systems, nasty stuff can happen.
Those online job sites might not be the best way to break through.

Top tax delinquents in California

Board of Equalization is out with a list of the 500 biggest offenders. All told, they owe the state $555.7 million. Tops on the list is Downey-based California Target Enterprises, a gas station company delinquent to the tune of $18.3 million. You'll also notice former Kings owner Bruce McNall, who owes $7.7 million. Beginning in July state licenses or permits cannot be issued to anyone on the list. (Date indicates the first lien notice.) CALIF....

Here's the one national crisis no one is talking about

Baby boomers are entering their retirement years without anywhere close to adequate savings.

Flying robots play 007

From this week's TED conference in Long Beach - and way cool.

Friday morning headlines

Investors still hesitant about stocks, credit unions picking up business, gas price surge appears to be easing, and turmoil at MOCA.

Strong demand for California bonds

This is to refinance existing debt and should save the state around $250 million in debt-service payments.

February was a huge month for car sales

Way higher than expected, especially with the rising price of gas. February sales jumped to an annual rate of 15.1 million, the highest level in four years (during the height of the recession the annual rate was 9.1 million). As for the individual automakers, Chrysler was up 40 percent from a year earlier, Ford 14 percent, GM just 1 percent (2011 was unusually strong because of a discount program). All these sales should help the...

On Breitbart: How does one not speak ill of the dead?

Sorry, you won't find much grieving around these parts.

L.A. real estate listings of the rich and famous

judy.jpg Quite a bit of activity at the higher end.

L.A.'s grim employment picture

Still-high jobless rate understates the depths of the local employment problem.

Keeping an eye on the financial mess in Stockton

The city is technically in default, but it cannot file for bankruptcy - not yet.

No February jobs report on Friday

Another reminder of how tentative these numbers can be.

Thursday morning headlines

Good month for car sales, retail sales picking up, B of A considers new fees, and a new Costco for Westfield Topanga.