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.
July 2012

L.A. lags in list of best cities to grow old

olderpeople.jpg Even with good weather and great medical facilities, L.A. ranked only 30th out of 100 metro areas in a Milken Institute report.

Carl Icahn gives up on MGM

MGM2.jpg The billionaire investor has sold his stake in the movie studio, a year after he tried to merge Lions Gate with MGM. But he's exiting at a nice price.

Report: Burkle is leading contender to buy Variety

variety2.jpg If the deal goes through, the billionaire investor is expected to pay about $40 million for the Hollywood trade, the LAT is reporting.

Tuesday morning headlines

L.A. home prices gaining ground, consumer confidence picks up more than expected, Duarte considers emergency sales tax, and Warner's $4-billion contribution to the L.A. economy.

LAX's new international look

tbit.jpg Here's a look at the updated curbside area at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Among the new features will be pavilion canopies with skylights and better signage.

Decrying L.A.'s plan for 'elegant density'

hollywood3.jpg Putting up high rises and adding to the already-snarled traffic doesn't seem like the most sensible way of developing Hollywood.
farmers4.jpg That's the apparent compromise between Anschutz Entertainment Group and the Natural Resources Defense Council in a dispute over how to handle the added burdens of the proposed stadium.
cityhall2.jpg That's my discouraging take on the last few years of massive deficits and deep budget cuts. You might not notice much of a change on the surface, but as I note in the August issue of Los Angeles magazine, the city is different and not in a good way.

Chrysler reports big jump in profits

chrysler.jpg Say what you will about weak consumer confidence, but somebody is buying these cars.

Monday morning headlines

E3 returning to L.A., New York triples post-production tax credit, "Dark Knight" falls sharply in its second weekend, and L.A. Fire Department is hiring again.

Stocks have another big day - Dow is over 13,000

Today's 187-point gain follows up Thursday's 210-point jump - and of course big losses on Monday and Tuesday. So now the Dow stands at 13,075, the first time the blue-chip index has been over that level since May 8.

Colorado shootings did cut into weekend box office

Much of the attention has been focused on the opening weekend results for "The Dark Knight Rises," but last week's mass killing was a "likely factor" in a 7.5 percent overall box office drop.

Friday morning headlines

Sluggish economic growth as Americans reduce spending, Facebook stock continues to tank, Spain's jobless rate nears 25 percent, and downtown landlord might put portfolio up for sale.

Mt. Washington home goes for $401,000 over asking

mtwash.jpg That's a pretty hefty premium, especially at a time when the housing market is still trying to regain its balance. Of course, this is a pretty special house.

Stocks gain big - time to be hopeful again about Europe

market26.jpg Wall Street is in a holding pattern as investors try figuring out what's going on, and perhaps make a few bucks in the process. The Dow is pretty much where it was earlier in the week.

Facebook reports better-than-expected $157-million loss*

Yeah, it sounds terrible, but revenue was a little better than analysts had projected. Investors, however, don't seem all that impressed.

OC health inspectors crack down on L.A. food trucks

grilled.jpg Many of them were given temporary permits by the county's Environmental Health Division. Those permits are now expiring and the food truck operators have to come into compliance.
pincus2.jpg So the business has been underwhelming. Happens to the best of them. But what about a company whose insiders dump 43 million shares right before the stock tanks?

Thursday morning headlines

Big drop in jobless claims, NBC books $1 billion in Olympic ads, underwater mortgages flooding downtown L.A., and business and labor support for separating LAX runways.

Roscoe's coming to Anaheim*

roscoes.jpg It's the first Orange County location for the legendary chicken and waffle joint, and the largest of the Roscoe's to date.

Should cities file for bankruptcy? Ask Vallejo

vallejo3.jpg Even today, more than six months after the Northern California city emerged from Chapter 9 protection, it's not that pretty a picture.
calif.jpg California is moving along at a reasonably decent clip - certainly far better than many of the naysayers would have you believe.
marijuana.jpg It's not that the council erred by voting for the ban. But without the state legislature stepping in and establishing rules and regulations, no one city is in a position to force the issue.

Wednesday morning headlines

Behind Apple's rare miss, California is world's 9th largest economy (ahead of Russia and behind Italy), weak job growth expected in L.A. this year and next, and San Bernardino approves emergency budget.

Most employers expect to keep health care coverage

ER.jpg But don't be surprised if they start looking for cheaper alternatives, especially if the Affordable Care Act results in higher premiums.

Council votes to ban medical marijuana dispensaries

The 13-1 vote prohibits the sale of medical marijuana in the city of L.A. though it does allow small groups of patients and caregivers to grow limited quantities of pot.

Stocks suffer third straight big loss*

wallstreet8.jpg The Dow dropped 104 points, to 12,617, following up on two previous triple-digit losses and causing new jitters on Wall Street.
farmacy.jpg After perfunctory council speeches and passionate public comment, the council is meeting privately to discuss a proposal to shut down the city's pot dispensaries.

'Modern Family' impasse over salaries

modern.jpg They cancelled this morning's table read, according to various reports, because a number of cast members indicated that they weren't showing up.
GOP.jpg And when I say "Congress," I'm really talking about Congressional Republicans. Sure, the Democrats are no bargains, but it's the GOP that is largely to blame for a fiscal mess that has only made the overall economy worse.

Tuesday morning headlines

Real estate prices perking up, City Council to consider pot ban, Harman family stops funding Newsweek/Daily Beast, and El Monte in financial trouble.
pennstate.jpg If the college football honchos are so intent on teaching the school a lesson, why allow games to be nationally or regionally televised?

Rocketdyne has yet another new owner

rocketdyne.jpg You can trace much of the U.S. aerospace business by the companies that have owned the Canoga Park-based rocket maker over the years.

B of A cuts back on ATMs at malls, gas stations

ATM.jpg The bank's automated teller network has been reduced by almost 9 percent, and many of the cuts were made in non-bank locations that don't operate 24 hours a day. B of A has been in major cost-cutting mode, with more than 100 branches being closed this year and plans to eliminate at least 30,000 jobs.

Judge finally confirms Tribune Co. bankruptcy plan

tribune.jpg The long-awaited order sets the stage for the media giant (and parent company of the LAT) to emerge from Chapter 11 protection later this year.

Another drop in foreclosures*

foreclosure2.jpg Statewide, the number of homes entering the foreclosure process has dropped to its lowest level since early 2007. How these numbers factor into the fledgling housing recovery is the big question.

Monday morning headlines

New concerns about Europe rattle markets, strong weekend for "Dark Knight," L.A. office market is slowly improving, and weak sales for all-electric cars.

Theater chains get smacked in wake of shootings

cineplex3.jpg Stocks of companies that go through one of these events will often take a beating for the first few days. But it's not likely to have a big effect on earnings.

Report: Warner Bros. may cancel 'Dark Knight' screenings*

Studio executives are meeting to consider options, reports The Wrap. Also, ads for the film are being pulled from broadcast and cable channels, reports the LAT.

L.A. joins California in solid jobs report

jobs6.jpg These numbers should be tempered by the still-sluggish national growth rate, but still it's a good sign that the economy is slowly improving.

Friday morning headlines

DirecTV and Viacom settle dispute over fees, June was a good month for California tax coffers, San Bernardino readies for layoffs, and L.A. venture capital activity picks up.

California adds jobs; unemployment rate drops

June was another encouraging month for state employment, with a gain of 38,300 payroll jobs (most of any state in the nation), and a drop in the unemployment rate to 10.7 percent

Lots of construction activity at the ports

portLB.jpg More than $6 billion is being spent on upgrades in an effort to keep shippers from moving to other facilities.
rona.jpg The former gossip columnist has proposed development of a low-income senior housing project in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Marissa Mayer's pay day at Yahoo could reach $100 million

marissa.jpg That's over five years, but still. The compensation package includes stock, bonus and retention awards.
SBcity hall.jpg Rather than operate under general guidelines established by the state, these cities can set their own rules. Sometimes, that can turn out to be too much of a good thing.

Thursday morning headlines

San Bernardino declares fiscal emergency, prepares for bankruptcy, jobless claims back up but economists are skeptical, California car sales up sharply in second quarter, and Viacom says its battle with DirecTV is moving backwards.

High-end movie complex coming to Playa Vista

cinemark.jpg There are a number of standard-issue theaters in the area, but not premium complexes like the Landmark in West L.A. or the Arclight in Sherman Oaks and Hollywood.

Compton latest city to consider bankruptcy filing

compton.jpg Well that's unfortunate. As the cities of Stockton and San Bernardino will soon find out, the courts are really not the best place to resolve deficit problems.

Disney stock still hovering around Tuesday's all-time high

disney4.jpg Wall Street likes the Mouse House because of its theme parks, cable networks (especially ESPN), and an improving film studio.
paula.jpg These folks are not so much chefs as they are corporations, with revenue streams that include books, cookware, and (with the exception of Ray) restaurants.

Sam Nazarian taking his show to NYC

sam.jpg The L.A. hotel and restaurant operator will buy an office property at 444 Park Ave. South and convert it into a 190-room boutique hotel under his SLS brand.

Wednesday morning headlines

Cost-cutting helps B of A post profit, more San Bernardino employees are leaving, housing starts reach their highest level in nearly four years, and Cal State trustees approve pay raises.
activision5.jpg So far French conglomerate Vivendi, which holds a a 61 percent stake in the Santa Monica-based videogame company, isn't finding much interest among the most likely suitors, among them Microsoft and Disney.

Be careful about drought hype

drought.jpg Much of the recent coverage about crop damage is being handled by newspeople who - how shall I put this - don't know what they're talking about.

What's in Romney's 2009 tax returns?*

romney2.jpg That's the year everyone is focusing on because that's the only year in which the Republican candidate hasn't released anything. Perhaps there's a good reason.
medical.jpg Rising health care costs, underfunded pensions, eroding revenues and expected federal budget cuts - that's the rather bleak assessment of a task force studying six states, including California.

June housing market moves upward

homes5.jpg The improving picture is the result of fewer sales of foreclosed properties in the inland areas and increased sales of mid- to high-end homes closer to the coast.

Tuesday morning headlines

No sign of intervention by the Federal Reserve, San Bernardino declares fiscal emergency, L.A. sues US Bank over handling of foreclosed homes, and grand jury hears testimony in assessor scandal.

Calpers shows why cities and states are in such trouble

calpers2.jpg California's giant public pension fund returned just 1 percent for the year ended June 30, which compares with a projected return of 7.5 percent. That's a huge difference.

Google's Marissa Mayer to become Yahoo CEO

marissa.jpg This will be considered a coup for the search giant, which has been struggling to stay relevant amid cost-cutting and advertising struggles.
kemp.jpg Well, that's according to the new Forbes list of the world's 50 most valuable sports franchises. In the top spot - again - is Manchester United.

Zuckerberg refinances home at 1.05% interest

zuck.jpg The Facebook CEO, who took out a $5.95-million mortgage, is borrowing at a rate well below inflation, which means that he's essentially borrowing for free.

Port activity points to moderate expectations*

la-port-mammoth.jpg Solid if not spectacular results in June conform to cautious ordering by U.S. retailers (and cautious buying by consumers).

Monday morning headlines

Economists less bullish in second half of 2012, other California cities may be approaching bankruptcy, Broad affirms his interest in the LAT, and Geffen snaps up NY pad.

Gone fishin'

I'm off for a few days....
subway3.jpg Sure they are - but so is the opening of a Trader Joe's. When Congress passed a transportation bill last week, Mayor Villaraigosa called it a "game changer." But drill down a bit and the story gets murkier.
latraffic.jpg Travel times during peak hours take, on average, 33 percent longer than when traffic is flowing freely - you know, like Sundays at 6:30 a.m.

Tuesday morning headlines

Mixed views on public pensions, China's growth is slowing, MTV and other Viacom channels might be pulled in dispute with DirecTV, and more doubts about the high-speed rail project.
This is a very dumb idea, of course, perhaps the dumbest thing you can do with your money. Yet for folks of a certain age who have little savings - and who are getting next to no return - it might seem tempting.
telethon.jpg This goes back to when Peter O'Malley's father Walter was negotiating with the city of L.A. to build Dodger Stadium. The deal was opposed by John Smith, who with his brother owned the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League.

A Romney donor's 'let them eat cake' moment

romney.jpg It's one thing to be rich - it's another to be a rich jerk.
zell5.jpg The deal from hell will never go away - not only because journalists keep wanting to talk about it, but because it captures the cockiness and conceit of a rich guy who thought he knew it all.

Monday morning headlines

Long wait for California's bullet train, L.A. firm cuts big deal with Boeing, O'Malley family close to purchasing San Diego Padres, and Dodger attendance is up from last year.

Boondoggle alert: State Senate passes high-speed rail

highspeed.jpg Democrats managed to secure the needed 21 votes to fund initial construction of the high-speed train, a project that has generated heaps of criticism given its cost and questionable need - not to mention the state's precarious fiscal condition.
jobtracker.jpg Average monthly job growth is considered a significant metric on which to assess the race for president. Anything over 175,000 favors Obama; under 100,000 favors Romney. It's now at 131,000.

Bidding heats up for Variety?

variety.jpg Billionaire Ron Burkle, Hollywood showbiz site The Wrap, and the parent company of Nikki Finke's Deadline are all having a look at the trade paper, according to the NY Post.

Friday morning headlines

Stocks open sharply lower, drop in gas prices could be nearing an end, state Senate prepares big vote on high-speed rail, and small banks struggle to repay TARP money.

No surprise - another weak jobs report

PayrollJune2012.jpg The economy is barely on simmer. Only 80,000 jobs were added to U.S. payrolls in June, while the unemployment rate held steady at 8.2 percent.
foie.jpg The suit, filed in federal court, claims that a new law banning sales of foie gras is vague because it does not define the extent to which a goose can be force-fed.

Using eminent domain to keep people in their homes

homes4.jpg The idea, as being proposed in Ontario and Fontana, is to restructure mortgages for homeowners who are underwater - that is, those who owe more than their homes are worth.

Thursday morning headlines

Big drop in weekly jobless claims, mortgage rates hit another record low, and Field Poll finds 54 percent of likely voters support Brown's plan to raise taxes.
toyota2.jpg A curious push-pull at today's session in which members voted to raise revenues - as well as eliminate revenues.

Pension reform falls apart for now

Any prospects for a ballot measure this fall appear dead. Gov. Brown and Democratic lawmakers couldn't come to terms on changes to the state pension system.

On-location activity: Good for movies, bad for TV

film3.jpg Second-quarter numbers varied significantly, with location days for features up 9.1 percent from a year earlier and television down 15.4 percent.

Why do stocks keep going up?

The Dow gained another 72 points in today's holiday-shortened session and is within 57 points of getting back over 13,000. Don't try figuring this one out.

Mayberry was fine, but 'A Face in the Crowd' was special

face.jpg The death of Andy Griffith brings to mind his searing performance in Elia Kazan's 1957 drama, a remarkably prescient examination of media and political manipulation.

Tuesday morning headlines

Good month for car sales, real estate firm Douglas Emmett received tax breaks after CEO contributed to assessor's campaign, L.A. still lags in online job openings, and new CEO for the parent of the Hollywood Reporter.

Foreclosure protections approved by state legislature

foreclosure2.jpg If the bills are signed into law by Gov. Brown, California will become the first state to prohibit lenders from pursuing a foreclosure and a mortgage modification at the same time.
While it's true that low-skilled factory workers don't know the first thing about software engineering, many businesses simply lack the urgency to hire anyone - even folks who are qualified for the job. But why?

Discouraging news for show biz writers

WGA.jpg Would-be scribes take note: There's only one Aaron Sorkin. Only 4,338 writers reported earnings in 2011, according to the Writers Guild. That's the lowest level in at least six years.
healthpoll.jpg Doesn't exactly instill confidence in public attitudes about the new law.

Monday morning headlines

Manufacturing index tumbles in June, several thousand people protest against Walmart, British retailer weighs the future of Fresh & Easy, and Facebook executives decide to stay on Nasdaq exchange.