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 2013

How does the Dodgers' poor start affect business?

dodgers4.jpg It really doesn't, certainly not over the short-term, given the goodwill generated because none of the new owners are named McCourt.
brown3.jpg The governor hasn't done everything right in his first couple of years in office, but he's smart, purposeful, and honest - qualities not that easy to find in today's political swirl.

California flipping is back in a big way

flippers.jpg More homes in the state are being flipped than at any time since late 2005. A few housing experts are concerned about the buying and selling, but others say it just reflects a market that's bouncing back.
chinala2.jpg I knew there had to be a logical reason for the outgoing mayor of Los Angeles to be leading a trade mission to China with 30-some-odd days left in his term.

IRS had reason to go after political groups

IRS.jpg What's been labeled as a scandal but really isn't. Turns out that those IRS folks in Cincinnati had their reasons for honing in on conservative groups.

In defense of Lois Lerner

lerner.jpg Congressional lawmakers who are clearly incapable of carrying out their own jobs morphed into schoolyard bullies during the testimony of the IRS official.

Villaraigosa's non-denial denial that he has no money

Put on those tap shoes! The outgoing mayor (38 days but hey, whose counting?) pooh-poohed the LA Weekly's not-so-flattering examination of his finances and what he might do when he leaves office.

Delay in opening Westwood luxury movie theater

ipic.jpg Turns out that the old Avco multiplex on Wilshire Boulevard has all sorts of asbestos issues that need to be dealt with, which means that the six-screen iPic Entertainment theater is in a holding pattern.

Obamacare premiums may be lower than expected, but...

healthcare3.jpg Can anybody make heads of tails of the insurance rates for California's new health care marketplace? I'm still a supporter, but I've got to wonder how many folks in need of health coverage can sift through the whys and wherefores.
villaraigosa4.jpg Mind-boggling (and kind of sad) on several fronts, not the least of which is that according to the Weekly he did it publicly during an Oscar party. (Someone should tell him not to job hunt in a crowd.)

Good luck policing L.A.'s new marijuana restrictions

medicalpot.jpg If city officials still don't know how many dispensaries are operating in the city, how on earth will they enforce a ballot measure that restricts the number to 135?
galperin.jpg That would be attorney Ron Galperin, who easily defeated City Hall insider Dennis Zine for a job that reminds me a little of a newspaper ombudsman: Broad discretion in critiquing how the place is run, but little or no authority to force the real honchos to make changes.

First order of business for Mayor-elect Garcetti

garcetti.jpg Well, it's the budget, of course, which is still $100 million or so in the red because the city has to keep paying out those out-sized pension and health care benefits.

Words can speak volumes in describing social change

Google's database of 5.2 million books published between 1500 and 2008 provides some interesting clues about word usage - and perhaps about attitudes.

How did L.A.'s mayor's race get to be a punchline?

election3.jpg Several out-of-town budinskis have called the campaign an embarrassment, which was certainly not the case. Let's just say that the race, like so many others these days, was a missed opportunity

L.A. assessed valuations projected to jump in 2013

homesales3.jpg Here's another explanation for the improving fiscal outlook: Property is gaining in value. This is good news for local governments, as well as for homeowners who are seeing the value of their properties creep back up after several down years

Whatever happened to those dastardly budget deficits?

deficit3.jpg Government is needed a lot more in bad times than in good times. With the economy getting better, albeit slowly, that reliance is not only starting to recede, but it's being replaced by more money coming in.

Average retirement age is creeping up... to 61

retire3.jpg That's still up from 1991 when it was just 57, according to a Gallup survey, and much of the increase came after the recession. Those still in the workforce expect to retire well past 61.

Big drop in California jobless rate*

April's unemployment rate was 9 percent, down from 9.4 percent the previous month and the lowest level since late 2008.

Probably time to tamp the Obama scandal narratives

obama7.jpg The problem is that adding two and two gives you four, not 18, as the attack dogs in Congress and the media would want you to believe. Government wrongdoing is not the same as presidential wrongdoing.
jetblue2.jpg Perhaps because the flying experience, while not always wonderful, is a bit more tolerable these days, thanks to greater efficiency and reliability.

L.A.'s low-wage world is made up of haves and have-nots

minwage.jpg Those workers lucky enough to earn the "living wage" of nearly $12 an hour are pulling in several thousand dollars a year more than those getting only $8.
subway4.jpg Delays, cost overruns, inconvenience - it's all on tap, thanks to the boneheaded notion that a subway extension to Westwood (not the beach) is the answer to our transit woes. Look at what's happening in SF.
IRS.jpg Forget about what you've been reading the last few days. The prevailing narrative about Democratic-leaning tax investigators going after the Tea Party and other right-wing groups is not quite what's going on.
brown3.jpg In laying out his latest budget plan. Gov. Brown is sticking to his old penny-pinching self. Matter of fact, he's proposing $1.3 billion less in general fund spending than what was first laid out in January.

April another strong month for housing market

aprilhomes.jpg But i's still a case of too many buyers going after too few homes. Properties that are priced right routinely receive multiple offers that are often well beyond asking.

True Religion sold in $835 million deal

truereligion.jpg The Vernon-based company has lost some of its shine from earlier years, what with operating margins narrowing to 16.7 percent last year from 33.2 percent in 2005. Still, the brand remains well known.
penthouse.jpg Even by L.A. standards, this one is a jaw-dropper. With four bedrooms, eight bathrooms, and stunning views of pretty much everything, the 15th floor property is part of the 143-unit W Hollywood residences complex.

New poll has Greuel leading by 1 point

Maybe it's an outlier, maybe it just reflects a race that always seemed closer than what several of the polls indicated.

Playa Vista's remarkable turnaround

playa2.jpg Formerly home to the Howard Hughes aerospace factory, the massive land parcel had been nearly given up for dead. But timing and opportunity can work wonders in real estate.
murdoch4.jpg He must be getting a good chuckle over how his interest in the Tribune papers - especially the LAT - is being all but ignored.

Early word on Google Glass: Promising... and clunky

googleglass.jpg Is it useful technology or more of a gimmick? Can it take the place of a smart phone or will it prove too distracting when I need to avoid that pile of dog poop that's in front of me?

Why fears about federal debt are so much hokum

walmart4.jpg House Speaker John Boehner inadvertently said it best: "We have spent more than what we have brought into this government for 55 of the last 60 years." Talk about sustainability.

Mayor's race isn't over, but...

greuel.jpg Cancelling TV ad buys with two weeks left until the election is certainly not a great sign for Controller Wendy Greuel. Neither is ponying up $100,000 or your own money or having to rely on ads from the Police Protective League and the DWP's powerful union.

Wide variation in L.A.'s jobless rate

jobfair.jpg The disparity is striking between, say, the beach cities and portions of South L.A. County.

LAX loses departures while SFO sees big gain

LAX2.jpg Airlines are generally cutting back on departures - and filling up planes - as they try to re-calibrate their business model in the face of skyrocketing jet fuel costs.
hollywoodsign.jpg We have two winners!

California home to 2.6 million undocumented immigrants

That's about one-quarter of the nation's undocumented population, according to a USC study that's being released as Congress considers immigration reform amid all sorts of political cross-currents.

Dow closes over 15,000 for the first time

Another big milestone that's remarkable considering the economy's steady but lumbering growth (especially on the jobs front).

Why doesn't McDonald's have breakfast all the time?

mcmuffin.jpg Cooking eggs and pancakes takes up valuable grill space, and they're best prepared at a lower temperature than burgers. They're also more labor intense. Still, the company's CEO hopes it can happen.
marijuana.jpg Turns out that voters were sold a bill of goods in 1996 when they passed Proposition 215, which was all about decriminalization, not legalization. Big difference.

Elon Musk looking at Google's driverless cars

driverless4.jpg Musk is interested in an autopilot type system for his Tesla electric cars, and he's had early discussions with the folks at Google.
london4.jpg Bryan Shaw agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and he will disgorge about $1.3 million in illicit trading profits.
ironman3.jpg "Iron Man 3" is on track for a huge opening this weekend, but too many films are opening within just a few weeks of each other this summer.

Ray Irani is forced out of Occidental Petroleum*

irani.jpg This is a huge development in the effort by shareholder groups to empower investors. For years Irani had been a lightening rod for his exorbitant pay (over a 10-year period his pay package totaled $857 million),
The unmanned X-51A WaveRider, which is more of a missile than a plane, was launched off the coast near Port Magu and reached hypersonic speed (that's more than five times the speed of sound) before plunging into the ocean.

April jobs report more relief than celebration

This is the same lukewarm recovery we've grown accustomed to: Closer to wonderful than horrible, but not nearly close enough to generate any momentum.

Estate near Chateau Marmont priced at $24.5 million

chateau.jpg Businessman Bill Tilley purchased four acres in the Hollywood Hills for $1.2 million and went on to make many improvements. Tilley died earlier this year, and now the estate has been put on the market.
netflix.jpg Anyone using the Netflix or Amazon streaming services knows that movies will come and go - it's largely a function of intricate licensing deals.

J.C. Penney apologizes for screwing up (Video)

The struggling chain tries to put its best foot forward in a spot that acknowledges all the mistakes it made under CEO Ron Johnson, who stepped down last month.
awesome.jpg C'mon, admit it: Before DreamWorks Animation snapped up the YouTube channel this week in a $33-million deal, most of you hadn't a clue. It's time to catch up.
kochs.jpg Talk about weird: Rupert Murdoch has emerged as a white knight in possibly bidding for the Tribune Co. papers and avoiding a takeover by the libertarian boys.
universal2.jpg Well, that depends on your point of you, but Universal City's $1.6-billion makeover, which includes a Harry Potter attraction, will undoubtedly provide an economic boost for the eastern portion of the San Fernando Valley.
newspaper2.jpg The numbers should be looked at with even greater suspicion than usual because several categories are lumped into a single count.

Electric car casualty: Coda files for bankruptcy

coda.jpg Boy, that was a disaster. The L.A.-based electric automaker, which sold just 100 vehicles, is getting out of the car business and focusing on energy storage for utilities and building operators.