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 2012
bost.jpg This outburst from a Illinois state representative has been all over the Web, a kind of rant for the ages. But check out his colleagues. I ask you, where are the Marx brothers when you need them?

Facebook has big day

FB6.jpg While the rest of the stock market was taking it on the chin. Facebook shares gained 5 percent to $29.60. That's still 22 percent off the offering price, and the stock remains quite volatile. But it's a reminder that in due course the naysaying will settle down.

Settlement reached in Activision 'Call of Duty' suit*

The videogame giant and the two co-creators of the "Call of Duty" franchise come to terms the day before a jury trial was scheduled to get under way. Jason West and Vince Zampella sued Activision, claiming they were fired so that the company could avoid paying them millions of dollars in bonuses. Activision countersued. The two sides have been in the throes of a settlement for several days. Terms are not likely to be released.

Disney hires veteran Alan Horn to run studio

horn.jpg Horn was president and COO of Warner Bros. during a period when that studio churned out franchises like Batman and Harry Potter. He's also a known quantity, which will be a contrast to his TV-oriented predecessor.
So much for stereotypes. Greek workers put in, on average, 2,109 hours each year, while German workers put in 1,419 hours. Actually, there is a logical explanation.
Until recently union contributions and education groups made up much of the donations. The governor has been seeking business support for his tax hike measure, which would temporarily increase sales taxes, as well as personal income taxes for the wealthy.

Thursday morning headlines

Flurry of weak economic news, Facebook shares are down again (stock is hovering at $27), only 46 percent of California voters want to see pot legalized, and support is slipping for tobacco tax.

Those stingy, lazy, industrious, cheating so-and-sos

corrupt.jpg Recent survey helps explain why the various sides are sniping at each other over the refinancing of Greek debt.
This is funding for projects that the cities say had been conceived before the state killed off redevelopment agencies. But a Superior Court judge would not grant a request from Glendale, Pasadena and other cities to block the payout of property taxes.

Dodgers on track to make lots of money this year

kemp.jpg The team's operating income is likely to be north of $20 million, up from just $1.2 million last season, according to Forbes. Attendance is way up this season - averaging over 39,000 per game - though it obviously doesn't hurt that the Dodgers have the best record in baseball.

Another lousy day for the markets

It's not just the Dow, which dropped another 160 points. European markets fell big time (more concerns about debt and the economy), and crude oil settled at $87.82 a barrel, the lowest level this year.
mccourt.jpg They're looking at possible tax evasion and other financial misconduct when McCourt owned the Dodgers and associated companies, the Daily Journal is reporting. The inquiry is said to be in the early stages.
socalhomes.JPG Not so, as explained by Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser. Housing prices stayed static for six years after the recession in 1991 - and longer still in Southern California.

Summing up the state of the Internet business

chinadaily.jpg The Web has shaken up the world so profoundly - and so quickly - that it's worth pausing for a moment to take a look (put down those mobiles, please!). Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker has provided just such a recap.

Report: CIM sells Renaissance Hollywood Hotel

renaissance.jpg Part of the Hollywood & Highland complex, the hotel is being purchased by Loews Hotels & Resorts. The deal, which should close in a few weeks, will be Loews's first owned-and-operated hotel in the L.A. area.

Wednesday morning headlines

Brown's tax hike plan is holding up in LAT-USC poll, state's administrative office for Superior Courts is called dysfunctional, ban on medical marijuana dispensaries advances in the L.A. City Council, and Mark Zuckerberg is less of a billionaire than he used to be.
amc2.jpg The nation's second-largest theater chain will receive a financial infusion that allows for debt restructuring and an accelerated remodeling program. "The movie may be great. But if the bathroom isn't clean, trust me, I hear about it," says CEO Gerry Lopez.

How bad a day did Facebook have?

FB$.jpg So bad that a short-sale circuit breaker was tripped because the stock price kept falling. Facebook fell 9.6 percent, to $28.84. Since the company went public earlier this month, shares have dropped more than 24 percent.
spacex9.jpg Actually, it's already a big deal. SpaceX has a workforce of 1,800 people, most of them based at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne. That's a significant number of jobs in an industry that's been shrinking substantially.

Outrage of the day

More than 10,000 households with adjusted gross income of at least $200,000 paid no income tax in 2009, according to an IRS study.

Activision hearing delayed at last minute

activision.jpg This is the blockbuster case involving the video game giant and the two guys who created "Call of Duty" - and who were fired by Activision. A hearing was about to get started this morning when the postponement was announced. That immediately raised speculation about settlement talks.

How football stadiums can turn into financial disasters

farmers2.jpg They're getting more expensive to build and operate - and increasingly, local and state governments around the country are being asked to pony up. All of which is another reason why the proposed downtown stadium needs a very close look.

Tuesday morning headlines

Consumer confidence takes big fall in May, Facebook stock is down another 5 percent, to near $30 a share, L.A. City Council considers ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, and possible dangers along the new Expo line.

Celebrating 35 years of 'Star Wars'

starwars.jpg A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a smallish movie called "Star Wars" opened in just 32 theaters, including the Avco on Wilshire Boulevard. No fanfare, no text-messaged reviews - just a bunch of weird characters, a compelling good vs. evil plotline, and a towering soundtrack.

Elon Musk's moment of glory goes back quite a few years

spacex7.jpg He's making history with the Space X Dragon capsule, but let's not forget the other players in the fledgling commercial space business - an industry that's taking shape in California.

Friday morning headlines

Holiday weekend in sight, consumer sentiment is at its highest level since late 2007, Carmageddon 2 gets delayed until August or September, and Apple CEO turns down $75 million in dividends.

Dragon capsule arrives at International Space Station

space-x-captured.jpg Using a robotic arm, astronauts captured the unmanned vehicle. It's considered the big first test of a privately funded space mission.
Actually, this could turn out to be a pretty big deal for the packaging industry. But it's not just ketchup. A bunch of MIT mechanical engineers and nano-technologists have been working on a way of coating different kinds of surfaces.
election.jpg A number of economists are breaking down the president's prospects according to monthly jobs growth between now and November. Anything over 180,000 each month and Obama is in good shape. The latest projection: 184,000.
gasprice3.jpg You might be getting confused - and understandably so. After the sharp run-up in March, area gas prices fell pretty substantially, only to take off a couple of weeks ago. Now, they're falling. What gives?

Pom Wonderful owners go on the offensive

pom.jpg L.A. billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick have a net worth of of $1.9 billion, which is more than enough to push back on an administrative law judge's ruling this week that health claims about their pomegranate juice were deceptive.

Brown's tax initiative still receiving majority support

jerry2.jpg The good news for the governor is that 56 percent of likely voters say they would vote for the ballot measure to temporarily raise both the state sales tax and the personal income tax on the wealthy. But these sorts of campaigns typically tighten up in the weeks leading up to the vote, especially if there is strong opposition.

How plastic bag ban is working in other cities

Generally all right, but don't be surprised if there are legal challenges and griping from shoppers once the city of L.A. finalizes an ordinance to ban plastic bags and charge customers for paper bags.

ICM's top agents formally acquire firm

berg.jpg The buyout plan - more like a revolt - had been in the works since last year when a group of senior agents demanded to have more of a say in how the business was run. The takeover pushes aside longtime Chairman and CEO Jeff Berg.

Stocks pare back big losses this morning

The Dow finished down just 6 points, which is a near miracle considering that earlier in the day the index was off by nearly 200. Why the comeback? Well, Greece, what else?
bags.jpg But between environmental reviews and grace periods, it will be at least a year before the ban takes effect. Paper bags are still allowed, but merchants will be required to charge 10 cents per bag.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus speaks up for plastic bag ban

dreyfuss-koretz.jpg The TV actress, L.A. resident, and Heal the Bay board member was at this morning's City Council hearing to support an ordinance that would prohibit plastic bags at supermarket checkout lines.

In employment, everything is local

jobs6.jpg California's jobless rate in April was 10.9 percent, which doesn't tell you all that much about what's happening within the state. In Orange County, the April rate was 7.4 percent (not seasonally adjusted), and in Imperial County it was 26.8 percent. So what gives?

Downtown L.A. still lagging in one department

DTLA.jpg Despite all the new restaurants and night spots, the office market remains weak, especially when compared with West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills.
euro.jpg A nearly impossible story to follow, especially on this side of the pond. Why should we care? Lots of reasons.

Wednesday morning headlines

Shareholders sue Facebook over IPO, financial markets tumble on fears that Greece will drop the euro, environmental group is not happy with downtown stadium plan, and NBC plans all Olympics all the time this summer.

How can 13 miles of the 405 cause so much trouble?

getty.jpg Easy, if those 13 miles are between Imperial Highway and Getty Center Drive. A new study on the nation's traffic corridors ranks that stretch of the 405 as the most congested in 2011.

Facebook has another bad day*

What a mess. Shares fell almost 9 percent, dropping to $31.00. Today's pushback comes amid reports that analysts for two of Facebook's underwriters revised downward their forecasts prior to the offering - and the revisions were only passed along to some investors.
The company has filed a document in U.S. Bankruptcy Court that lays out a more streamlined corporate structure. Sometime next month, Tribune is expected to win court approval of its reorganization plan, which could mean an exit from bankruptcy protection by the end of the year.

Cheat sheet on the SpaceX Dragon space capsule

Dragon-In-Space-660x459.jpg If all goes well, the unmanned vehicle will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Thursday. The next day, astronauts plan to grab onto the capsule with the station's robotic arm.

Golden State Warriors returning to SF

warriors.jpg Peter Guber and Joe Lacob are announcing plans to build an arena on Piers 30-32, near the foot of the Bay Bridge (piers, by the way, that are literally crumbling). It will be privately financed and should be ready in time for the 2017-18 season

More billionaires spending time in L.A.

ellison.jpg Really, really rich people don't stay in one place for very long. Billionaires who are based somewhere else and live here at least part of the year include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, computer entrepreneur Michael Dell, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Tuesday morning headlines

Facebook's stock price keeps falling, ads for Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice are ruled deceptive, local car wash workers sue, and Long Beach Airport offers some of the cheapest fares in the nation.

Former L.A. appraiser taken into custody

assessor.jpg Scott Schenter, who is emerging as a pivotal player in the county assessor scandal, is accused of falsifying documents and unlawfully lowering property values by $172 million. He is also alleged to have secured campaign donations for Assessor John Noguez. All told, 60 felony counts.

L.A. City Council approves $7.2-billion budget

city-hall-flags-100.jpg As budget deliberations go, this one flew by. In closing up a $230-billion deficit, the council voted to increase parking fees, delay layoffs through the end of the year, and trim nearly $70 million in city services.

At last, stocks have a good day

FB2.jpg The Dow picked up 135 points, to 12,504, ending a six-day losing streak and brightening what has been a miserable May. The gain came despite Facebook's stunning 11 percent drop in its second day of trading.

Former Yahoo CEO offers advice to graduates

bartz.jpg That would be Carol Bartz (it's getting hard to keep track), who was the keynote speaker at the University of Wisconsin. Her basic message: Take risks, accept failures, ignore doom and gloom forecasts, and have a life away from the job.
fullemploy.JPG Not for another two or three years, according to IHS Global Insight, which is sooner than Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Michigan, but later than New York, Virginia, Colorado, and a bunch of other states.
Lewis Coleman, who is president of Glendale-based DreamWorks Animation, received $5.6 million last year for his work as a director of Northrop - most of that going for "residential and personal security," But the company isn't providing information on what those threats were or whether they're still being made.

Monday morning headlines

Facebook down sharply, AMC is bought by Chinese company, L.A. City Council deliberates on budget, and "The Avengers" is still on top.

SpaceX launch aborted

Possible engine trouble automatically shut down the launch at the last minute early this morning in Florida. They could try again as early as Tuesday.

GM drops out of Super Bowl advertising

silverado.jpg This is a surprise considering that event-type advertising is considered so beneficial - and there's no bigger television event than the Super Bowl. But GM's marketing chief says that the costs are just too high.

How Facebook underwriters propped up stock

facebook2.jpg Great image pulled down by Business Insider that shows how desperate they were to keep the price at or above the offering price of $38 a share. Losing money on the first day of trading would have been a huge embarrassment. The stock closed at $38.23.

Facebook closes barely above offering price*

With about 15 minutes left in the session, the stock was trading at $38.00, which had been the offering price. Buying picked up a bit right before the close (perhaps helped by the underwriters), with Facebook finally staggering across the finish line at $38.23, up 23 cents.

SpaceX nearing its historic blastoff

spacex.jpg The plan is for the Hawthorne company's unmanned Dragon Spacecraft to soar into space on Saturday morning en route to the International Space Station - the first time a private company has tried to rendezvous with the orbiting outpost.

More papers being sold off by OC Register parent

The media conglomerate that has its roots in the Libertarian philosophy of founder R.C. Hoiles really seems to be breaking apart. Freedom Communications has announced the sale of four Texas newspapers. On Thursday the company said it was selling four of its Midwest papers
This could reflect what's going on nationally: More people leaving the job market out of frustration. Still, job growth has been quite good statewide over the last 12 months.

Facebook opens at $42.99 a share*

A solid but not spectacular pop from the $38-a-share offering price. Very hard to wrap your arms around this one, given the size and hype (keep in mind that they're moving $18 billion worth of stock). The general consensus is that Facebook is overvalued, but many were saying the same thing about Google some years back. So who knows? *Update: A little before 9, Facebook shares were sliding back to near the offering price. It's...

Friday morning headlines

California's jobless rate inches lower, L.A. gas prices stabilize after big run-up, more troubles for state court system, and JPMorgan CEO blessed trading methods.

Stocks keep sliding... sliding... sliding

The Dow falls 155 points, to 12,442. That's 11 out of 12 days. Meanwhile, the Facebook IPO is being priced at $38 a share. That values the company at $104 billion.
The last polls I checked show a continuing disconnect between reality and presumed entitlement. Voters don't want to pay more taxes, but they also don't want to see cuts in education or other core services.

H-P prepares to eliminate up to 30,000 jobs

whitman.jpg That's 10 percent to 15 percent of the workforce and is part of a company-wide restructuring being implemented by CEO Meg Whitman.

OC Register parent unloads 4 Midwest newspapers

Irvine-based Freedom Communications, which came out of bankruptcy protection two years ago, has been in the process of selling off some of its properties. There's been considerable speculation that Freedom is shopping its biggest asset, the OC Register.

Best and worst airlines for frequent-flier miles

frequent.jpg Southwest, United, and JetBlue top the domestic carriers. At the bottom are Delta and US Air, which had no seats available on at least two out of every three inquires. International carriers have some of the best programs.

Thursday morning headlines

Mortgage rates fall to record lows, Facebook insiders are cashing out, new Dodger owners might not have to share their revenue with other clubs, and council members split over medical marijuana.

J.Lo lands top spot on Forbes celebrity list

jennifer_lopez_2.jpg Wasn't she on the skids only a few years back? All it took was a judging gig on "American Idol" to fire up the comeback that had Lopez earning $52 million over the past 12 months.
The L.A. billionaire, like other big-wigs, are usually masters of time control, but what if you're not really, really rich and find yourself stuck in an endless, hopeless meeting?

Tale of two Socal ports

The Port of Los Angeles had a strong April, as we posted on Tuesday, but the Port of Long Beach continues to see declines.

Haven't we had enough of Andrew Bynum?

bynum.jpg I pretty much gave up on the Laker center - and on the Lakers in general - after he was caught on camera parking in handicap spaces. The latest infraction is much tamer, but it's telling.
kim.jpg The ads connect Skechers Shape-ups with great sex, and federal and state regulators say that's false advertising (ya think?). Manhattan Beach-based Skechers has agreed to a $40-million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Is groundbreaking in sight for Newhall Ranch development?

newhall.jpg All fierce development battles have to end sometime. This one, which has pitted real estate interests and environmental groups for decades, appears to be drawing to a close.

Somewhat improved housing picture

for sale sign.jpg Still no sign of a definitive turnaround, but there's enough going on to get our attention. For all of Southern California, the April median price was up 3.6 percent from 2011, the first time prices rose year-over year in 16 months.

Wednesday morning headlines

Facebook ups its IPO, L.A. City Council looks to avoid layoffs, cellphones in flight (oy), and Aaron Sorkin to adapt Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography to the screen.

Worries about the stock market

dow4.jpg The Dow falls another 63 points, dropping to a four-month low. There are the usual concerns about Europe and banks and housing, but the broader question is whether these down days are more than a temporary blip.

Report: GM to stop advertising on Facebook

Three days before the big IPO, this can't be great news - and yet, it's not that surprising. From the start, institutional investors have been hesitant about the offering because ad revenue, while substantial, does not match the company's likely valuation.

The (revised) Facebook effect on California

mark-zuckerberg.jpg The Legislative Analyst's Office is projecting $2.1 billion in revenue collections over the next 13 months as a result of the Facebook IPO - a good portion of that coming from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But the money, while significant, won't come close to paring the state's $16 billion deficit. It's a reminder that the very rich can't do it all.
You might recall a recent PolitiFact post that debunked the often-cited 85 percent figure. Well, Pew Research found that among 25-34 college grads, just 21 percent were living with their parents or at least had moved in temporarily.

Big April at Port of L.A.

port.jpg Overall container traffic was up almost 15 percent - the busiest April in the port's history. Inbound traffic had been slowing down in the first three months of the year, but activity is expected to be brisk through the back-to-school season.

Tuesday morning headlines

JPMorgan executives ignored red flags, gas price increases slowing down, reasons why state deficit projections were so wrong, and half of Americans say Facebook is a passing fad.

Facebook raising IPO share price

facebook.jpg The social network site plans to go public on Friday at $34 to $38 a share, which would raise the company's valuation to up to $104 billion - the highest IPO for an American company. Much of the interest seems to be coming from individual investors.
Villaraigosa.jpg Finally, a little outrage from an elected official over the monster shortfall that the state faces next year. The mayor was also not happy with suggestions from local labor unions that the city is engaged in some sort of war on women.
Brian Dunn says that his relationship with a 29-year-old female subordinate, while close, was not romantic or otherwise improper. Well, maybe. But I sure wouldn't want to be explaining to my spouse the details of that close friendship.

Eli Broad's big goof

broad2.jpg CEOs do makes mistakes and some of them are whoppers, as JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon demonstrated by not aggressively pursuing the suspicious trading activity that wound up costing the company $2 billion. Well, Eli Broad blundered badly in the early 1970s when he got out of the cable business.
jerry-brown-may-revise-abc.jpg It's pretty bad - furloughs for state workers, four-day work weeks, another reduction in funding for the UC system, and sharp trims in health and welfare spending are among the big cuts proposed by the governor in his May revision.

Monday morning headlines

JP Morgan executives set to leave, big jump in L.A. gas prices, networks announcing what shows are in and out, and locally based Legal Zoom files IPO.
state-capitol.jpg Instead of $9.2 billion, it's $16 billion. Gov. Brown blamed a shortfall in state tax receipts and the federal government blocking certain cuts. On Monday, he'll release a revised budget that's expected to include additional reductions. Watch the video

How drones zoom in on their subjects*

drones.jpg No wonder so many bad guys have been taken out - pilotless aircraft can be quite efficient. Two California companies, in particular, are being singled out for their work on drones.
Frankly, nobody knows. The prospect of lost business was raised by opponents of the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions - and it obviously got nowhere. But tolerant communities tend to be creative communities, and sooner or later, people might get the message.
cash-loans-poverty.jpg These are the 20 extra weeks that had been provided under a federal program and which raised the maximum amount of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks. These and other changes have reduced the number of people eligible for state or federal unemployment insurance to below 50 percent.

Occupy L.A. costs close to $5 million

occupy-mural-oberstein.jpg The final tally runs $4.7 million, roughly $2 million higher than an earlier estimate. Most of that, $4.2 million, is on the city's tab. Councilman Mitch Englander thinks it should be a warning to his colleagues who were so quick to approve of the encampment.

A primer on private equity

Video prepared by the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, a lobbying group, is not exactly a disinterested assessment, but at least you get the basic idea.

Not all Americans would choose to be rich

skyline-wealth-lao.jpg But most would - 63 percent of those sampled by Gallup. That's up three points from when the survey was taken in 1996. The numbers are virtually identical for Democrats and Republicans, but a 65 year-old is less likely to be interested in wealth than a 30 year old.

Friday morning headlines

Investors are pooh-poohing JPMorgan news, regulators looking into bank's trades, consumer sentiment edges higher, and prepping for more state budget cuts.

Keep a close eye on Friday's market

The session could get pretty ugly. JPMorgan Chase is a major market player and at last check its stock was down more than six percent in after-hours trading - the result of the bank's stunning announcement of a $2 billion trading loss. The bank can cover the losses, but what does this say about the post-meltdown financial world?

Groceries are popping up all over downtown

smart3.jpg Smart & Final is the latest to announce plans for a new store. There's also a Target and a Walmart in the works. It's partly the result of large retailers running out of desirable space in the suburban areas - as well as the recognition that downtown is a viable place to do business.

Look out for higher gas prices

gas-prices-mobil-lao.jpg West Coast spot markets, where wholesale gasoline is sold, has seen big price increases in recent days - despite a general drop in oil prices. It's a reminder that regional factors can hold sway, at least in the short term.

Huge losses at JPMorgan Chase trading unit*

CEO Jamie Dimon estimated the losses in the company's portfolio of investments at $2 billion. "These were egregious mistakes," Dimon said in an unscheduled conference call. "They were self-inflicted and this is not how we want to run a business."

Yaaay! The U.S. government made a few bucks in April

In a manner of speaking. For the first time since September 2008, more money came in than went out. Maybe the debt ceiling timetable will be extended.

So much for the Vikings coming to L.A.

The Minnesota state Senate all but sealed the construction of a $975 million football stadium that will rely heavily on public financing. Some months back there had been speculation that the Vikings would consider relocating to L.A. if the stadium deal wasn't cut.

Thursday morning headlines

Why Clooney's event is expected to raise so much money, Socal economy will expand slowly, local hotels are looking good, and Magic can veto any effort by McCourt to develop land.
Just look at the schedule. Thursday night's event at the home of George Clooney is expected to raise $12 million for the president's campaign, much of it from Hollywood people active in the gay-rights cause.

New lawsuit against 1-800-GET-THIN operators

Michael and Julian Omidi are accused of stealing the identities of four L.A. area doctors as part of a medical-billing scheme, according to the suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court. The names of the doctors, as well as their medical license numbers, were allegedly used to create dummy corporations.
The paper's CEO told a luncheon audience on Tuesday that the U-T (formerly Union-Tribune) was in "final talks" to purchase the Register. Today, he pushed back on those reported comments, but the U-T's owner confirmed that negotiations were taking place.

Dow is down for sixth straight day

dow3.jpg With no major economic reports being released, it's the the European debt crisis that gets most of the attention. Whether investors are really worried that Spanish stocks fell to an 8 1/2-year low is not clear, but it's moving the market and that's what counts.

Pros and cons of huge stock option awards

CEOs only make lots of money if the stock price goes way up - and a higher stock price is good for shareholders. The problem is that CEOs sometimes make decisions that pump up the stock, but not the company.

Boston a more powerful global city than L.A.? Really?

No offense, but L.A.'s shipping activity alone would seem to trump any other American city, except NY. It's another reminder that city rankings are only as good - or as bad - as the methodology on which they're based.

How Mitt Romney is taking credit for the auto bailout

Jon Stewart ventures into the Republican world of cognitive dissonance. You'll laugh, you'll cry.

Wednesday morning headlines

Volatility on Wall Street amid new concerns about Europe, big delays in refinancing loans, Bed Bath & Beyond buys Cost Plus, and KCET program supplier could be running into financial problems.
disneyland-vacation-packages.jpg Theme parks and ESPN saved the day. Also, the movie division should revive quite nicely with "The Avengers," which opened over the weekend with a box office take of more than $200 million. A sequel is already in the works.

Examining what money can't buy

Is there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? Harvard Prof. Michael Sandel examines that proposition at the next Live Talks Business Forum breakfast. He'll be in conversation with Richard Waters, West Coast Editor of the Financial Times, at the City Club on Thursday morning. Breakfast is at 7:45 and the session starts at 8:15. I have a few free tickets. Click here if you're interested....
Anyone wanting to get all goose-pimply for NFL football might want to pass on this latest pitch from AEG. It's Columbus, Ohio with a few more skyscrapers.

MySpace settles with feds over privacy breaches

The Federal Trade Commission says the struggling site, now owned by an OC company, shared users' personal information. Without admitting or denying the charge, MySpace promised not to do that again.

Austin Beutner drops out of mayor's race

The businessman turned deputy mayor turned mayoral candidate said he couldn't "devote the time to this and balance it with my family." Beutner, very much an outsider in a race that's dominated by City Hall veterans, had been considered an unlikely pick from the start.

State coffers were short $2.4 billion in April

That's 20 percent below projections. Much of the shortfall came from personal income tax receipts, which were almost $2 billion below forecasts. The upshot is that California must deal with a significantly larger deficit than had been expected.

Cheaper to rent than to own*

rent1.jpg No worries about a mortgage or about the plumbing going kablooey. No taxes either. And if you want out, you don't have to worry about finding a buyer. A Moody's report finds that renting is a better bet than buying in 71 percent of metro areas, up from 54 percent a decade ago.
govcuts.JPG Quite a bit lower than it was in April - and a reminder that the loss of 586,000 positions does have an effect on the overall economy.

Tuesday morning headlines

Parking fines could go up again, state job outlook is decent but not great, Chinese company might be buying AMC, and Fredericks of Hollywood explores sale.

Ron Burkle buys into Barneys New York

barneysexterior-bh.jpg The billionaire's investment arm will hold a 20 percent stake in the high-end fashion retailer as part of a debt restructuring. Current owner, Istithmar World, the investment arm of state-owned Dubai World, paid $942 million for Barneys at the top of the market in 2007.
It's another one of those phantom statistics that gets repeated over and over again - and which is almost certainly not true. Countless reporters grabbed onto because they saw it in other stories and no doubt assumed that those reporters had checked it out. Somebody must have checked it out, right?
He guesses that if Carson went up against Jay Leno in 1965, Johnny would win. In 2000, Jay would win. "I would not want to see Johnny Carson try to survive in this age, competing with YouTube and videogames and tapped-out attention spans; that's not who he was," Maher writes. "His era breathed a little, and I miss it. I miss him, and always will."

Another reminder that L.A. is a very un-corporate city

bunker-hill-skyline.lao.jpg Just 19 Socal companies are on the Fortune 500 - and only five of the 19 are headquartered in the city of L.A. Exxon Mobil tops the full list, followed by Walmart and Chevron.
magic-mccourt-jsh.jpg I did point out several weeks ago that despite his investment success, Johnson, who has a small stake in the team, lacks much experience in actually running a business. And it's already starting to show.
Brothers Michael and Julian Omidi are a couple of sweetie pies. The Medical Board of California stripped Julian Omidi of his license and placed Michael Omidi on three years' probation for various infractions. But that's nickel-and-dime stuff compared with the investigations and lawsuits connected with their weight loss surgery business.

Monday morning headlines

California's Facebook windfall, figuring out Dodger Stadium parking lot deal, "Avengers" has monster box office weekend, and ABC and Univision team up on news channel.

Employment situation at a glance: Slow but steady

neda.jpg The latest overview from Calculated Risk - and in particular that bottom red line - offers the best snapshot of what's going on: An extended period of slow growth.
Mitt Romney said that the U.S. should be generating 500,000 jobs a month instead of the 115,000 created in April. Really?

What's the deal with Obama and medical marijuana?

The deal is that marijuana remains illegal under federal law (even for medicinal purposes) and that state enforcement has been too inconsistent - in California and elsewhere - for prosecutors to sit idly by while recreational users get their supplies from neighborhood dispensaries.

Bad day for stocks

The not-so-wonderful employment report really did in the markets from the opening bell. But a lot of the selling may have been due to profit-taking opportunities rather than any deep-seated concern.
Edward Conard is more than a supporter. He is one of the campaign's largest donors and worked with Romney at Bain Capital. He retired a few years ago at 51, has a net worth that's probably in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and believes that the so-called 99 percent should consider themselves damn lucky to have the 1 percent.
Yes, the same Stockton that's on the verge of filing for bankruptcy protection. In fact, it's leading all California metro areas in job growth. Of course, all this take time to move through the system - possibly too much time to avoid the courts.
A government employee who was able to approve claims and make payments is charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery. He is accused of taking more than $40,000 in kickbacks in exchange for issuing more than $500,000 in unemployment insurance checks.

Big weekend shaping up for 'The Avengers'

avengers.jpg Disney's blockbuster took in $18.7 million for its midnight showings (a bit shy of "The Hunger Games" at $19.4 million), and total weekend box office will likely exceed $150 million.

Friday morning headlines

Muted reaction to jobs report, more questions for county assessor's office, Huffington role at AOL gets downsized, and gas prices inching back up.

Jobless rate falls to 8.1%, but payroll report is weak

Only 115,000 jobs were added to the rolls in April, which is well below the tepid forecasts. The unemployment rate ticked down to 8.1 percent from 8.2 percent in March, but the drop could have been due to more people dropping out of the workforce.
The California State Teachers' Retirement System accuses the company of breaching its fiduciary duty by not pursuing evidence of massive bribery at a Mexican subsidiary. Don't be surprised to see other institutional investors join the suit.

Bracing for Friday's jobs report

The monthly employment report is an opportunity to affirm or negate existing narratives - in this case, the notion that job growth in the U.S. slowed in April and could mean trouble for the overall economy.

Facebook goes public May 18 at $28-$35 a share

With roughly 338 million shares being sold, that would value the company at between $77 billion and $96 billion. Some people will buy Facebook stock no matter what, but is it a good idea? Some dos and don'ts.
herbalife.jpg No big mystery - Michael Johnson's total 2011 compensation of $89.4 million included $77 million from the exercise of stock options late last year. Johnson's haul, however, would have been a good deal smaller had he exercised those options today.
Kind of a big deal because 75,000 restaurant workers in L.A. don't have access to insurance, which means that many of them go to work when they're sick. The program offers preventive and primary care to low-wage uninsured workers,

Fewer households have TVs

One of those head-scratching surveys that is sure to fuel questions about the increasing role of the Internet in television viewing. TV watching is also down.

Thursday morning headlines

Soft month for retailers, economists expect U.S. jobless rate to drop by November, GM earnings beat forecasts, and L.A. CEO makes almost $90 million in 2011.

'The Scream' goes for $119.9 million

scream.jpg Edvard Munch's iconic work is the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. No word yet on the buyer, who was bidding tonight by phone, but the LAT reports that there had been interest from the royal family of Qatar.
Yes, it might seem strange, but there is an explanation and it has to do with home prices. Simply put, not enough people are putting their homes on the market because they can't accept the fact that they won't be getting anywhere close to what they could have gotten for their property five or six years ago.

Two guys you wouldn't want to run into in a dark alley

sumner.jpg Or even a light one. Robert Evans and Sumner Redstone captured by Jonathan Alcorn at the Milken conference in Beverly Hills. Evans will turn 82 in June and Redstone will be 89 at the end of the month.

Most dealmaking turns out badly

We're familiar with the real disasters, like AOL-Time Warner and Sam Zell's takeover of Tribune Co. But a new study says that buying other companies often turns out to be more trouble than it's worth.

Target announces another new L.A. store

CityTarget-Logo.jpg All the major big-box retailers are looking for ways of getting into city locations. Walmart is focusing on groceries (Chinatown will be one of the locations), while the CityTarget concept is really just a scaled-down version of a conventional suburban location.

All smiles and promises at Dodger news conference

About the only significant news was that the new management would reduce general parking to $10 from $15. Also, the new owners confirmed earlier reports that former owner Frank McCourt will receive no revenue from any team operations, including parking.

Retirement age keeps creeping up

retire.jpg It's now 67, according to a new Gallup poll, up from 60 in 1996. And considering how little savings many older Americans have on hand (at least according to the studies), don't be surprised to see that number inch closer to 70.

Wednesday morning headlines

New signs of a hiring slowdown, S&P worried about California, more rich Americans turning in their passports, and Lasorda pitches for Ontario Airport.
chris-wallace-grab.jpg Some touching remarks by the Fox News anchor at today's memorial service for Mike Wallace. Chris said that beyond all the bluster and competitiveness was a "sweet and gentle man."

Arrests in May Day protest near airport*

OWS.jpg So far the police have taken 10 people into custody, reports KPCC's Shirley Jahad, who is at the scene. Century Boulevard has been closed between Airport Boulevard and the LAX Central Terminal Area, leading to lots of tie-ups.

Dow hits a 4-year high

Economic indicators continue to improve, more or less, and quarterly earnings continue to look good, more or less. But there's concern that the employment picture is getting murky and that the housing market is going nowhere fast. What's an investor to do?

Oscars to remain in Hollywood

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has signed a new 20-year deal with CIM Group, owner of the Hollywood & Highland Center, and Dolby Laboratories will take over the naming rights from Eastman Kodak.

Dodger sale closes; McCourt era is over

Finally. The new owners are expected to hold their first news conference on Wednesday.
The co-partner of the Kogi Korean BBQ phenomenon raised that possibility in a profanity-laced posting that sounded a little like the great Peggy Lee standard "Is That All There is?" He also might connect with Jamie Oliver.

LAT posts small circulation increase

The paper's daily numbers for the six months ended March 31 were up 1.9 percent, to 616,575. That's fourth-highest, after the WSJ, NYT and USA Today. But the results are confusing because of how the counting is done.

Tuesday morning headlines

May Day protests downtown and at LAX, British panel blasts Murdoch, more new bank branches in wealthier areas, and Nazarian gets construction loan for Sahara revamp.