Stories for December 2001
Monday, December 31
A growing number of distressed tenants want landlords to share their pain. As vacancy rates rise and layoffs mount, tenants increasingly are attempting to renegotiate long-term lease deals. A few are even dusting off a potentially explosive ploy, threate
Recession, terrorism threats, budget deficits it's a difficult time for elected officials at all levels of government. The coming year promises to be more challenging. The Business Journal talked to leaders in city, county and state government to get th
Index of L.A.-based securities, after declining for two successive years, may rise a bit in 2002, but substantial gains are unlikely.
COMMENTARY: Best Thing About 2001 is Coming of 2002
There comes a time in many relationships when it's no longer personal it's business. Such was the case with French banking giant BNP Paribas SA's sweep into California, which included the purchase of Los Angeles-based United California Bank.
L.A.'s sprawling manufacturing sector is likely to be among the first places where local economic growth will reassert itself.
No companies were more vulnerable in 2001 than L.A.'s small businesses, the heart and soul of the area's economy. Many of these firms don't have the capital to weather a downturn and planning for a lengthy slump can be a big challenge. The Business Jour
Like most movie producers, Ben Liu spent a lot of time considering how he might save money before beginning work on his low-budget science fiction feature, "Deuces."
2001 was a year of changes, but some trends came and went more quickly than others. Here are a few to follow.
Month by Month business news review of the past year.
While there are some bright spots, the broader prospects for the L.A. economy in 2002 are decidedly unremarkable. Economic Outlook and Predictions.
Recessions have eroded L.A.'s core industry over the years that may be a good thing.
In a bid to reduce the congestion in local natural gas pipelines that contributed to skyrocketing prices last winter, state regulators have approved a plan to allow Southern California Gas Co. to sell long-term contracts for capacity on its pipelines to m
Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has been an outspoken critic of the Federal Aviation Administration for its failure to adequately address security concerns at the nation's airports.
KFWB-AM (980) will be adjusting a format more than 35 years old when it breaks from 24-hour news programming and begins adding regular season Dodger games in 2003.
No Banner Year. The Los Angeles Sports Council has issued its annual list of the top 10 sports moments of the year, and even one of those who helped put the list together conceded it was "pretty lame." PLUS MORE...
The Newport Beach office of venture capital firm Versant Ventures has closed a $400 million fund for investing in early-stage health care firms, a reflection of the stepped-up interest in that industry among private investors.
What Recession?: L.A. homebuyers are a resilient lot. They've put aside worries about job losses and Afghanistan to keep buying houses, and while November's tally for L.A. County was 6 percent below that of a year ago,...
While the stunning events of 2001 have led to plenty of soul-searching about the important things in life, there's still opportunity to consider any and all priorities for the coming year. The Business Journal asks: What are your resolutions for 2002?
Three local communities striving to create or retain a distinctive flavor in metropolis.
PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. is offering a new California HMO plan that cuts employer premiums up to 20 percent but only by socking enrollees with co-payments of up to $400 a day for visits to certain "pricey" hospitals.
Responding to concerns that its Westside studio campus presents an inviting terror target, Fox Entertainment Group Inc. plans to spend more than $1 million to upgrade security.
These are especially dangerous times to be projecting the future economic, political, whatever but what's an end-of-the-year paper without our annual list of prognostications that, with any luck, no one will remember 12 months from now. Here goes:
Coming off the scariest, most unpredictable year in memory, pity anyone charged with figuring out what 2002 will bring whether it involves the economy or more terrorist attacks.
Monday, December 17
An unprecedented level of police and private security has been put in place near the newly opened Hollywood & Highland project, complete with rooftop surveillance, as officials try to keep the showcase development from being overrun by criminal elements.
Despite stringent security at commercial airports, little has been done to tighten up the area's general aviation airports.
The demonstration staged recently by ACORN, an economic justice activist group, on the steps of City Hall drew attention to the issue of predatory lending. This is the ugly practice in which greedy and unscrupulous lenders rip-off mostly poor, minority ho
There are plenty of shakily run companies that get raves from Wall Street analysts. Arden Group Inc. is the opposite, a well-run company that couldn't beg Wall Street's attention.
As promised, the California Labor Federation and the California Applicants Attorneys Association filed papers on Dec. 7 with state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, declaring their intention to place a workers' comp initiative package on the November 2002 ba
As a Woodland Hills high school student, Matthew Joseph got a piece of body jewelry as a souvenir for each transitional period in his life. By the time he graduated, he had pierced his ears, tongue, nose, nipple, eyebrow and navel.
Infinity Broadcasting's main L.A. radio man drives his company's stations through coveted car-culture market amid formidable competition.
Just a few months ago stock analysts were under fire. Then came Sept. 11. The issue of analyst duplicity in handing out "buy" recommendations was blasted off the radar screen before any significant reforms were considered.
COMMENT: Humble is Cool
The fight to stamp out satellite television piracy, which has been directed at manufacturers and distributors of illegal devices, is moving to a new frontier: the living rooms of rogue remote control jockeys.
The days of gym memberships, free lunches and massages are gone at eHobbies as new ownership attempts to rebuild on a solid business. model
An analysis of 200 of the county's publicly held companies finds many showing signs of strain and vulnerability.
I'm not sure it matters anymore what anyone outside of a handful of regulators and prosecutors thinks about Enron Corp. The energy trader's fantastic collapse has the dimensions of a natural disaster, and may wind up being viewed by investors as an unlike
The economic slowdown is delaying the expected impact of the Alameda Corridor on the industrial real estate market.
Insurers are bracing for a final flurry of claims as an extension to file for the Northridge earthquake nears its deadline.
Auditors those people responsible for verifying the accuracy of public company financial statements have become among the primary scapegoats for what's wrong with the U.S. financial disclosure system.
In "The Lost Tapes Circa 1989" album, Tupac Shakur rapped, "As real as it seems the American dream. Ain't nuthin' but anotha calculated scheme." While their faith in the system is far more steadfast, the lyrics likely struck a chord with the folks at Ima
Dynamic Digital Depth Inc. has a new vision of 3-D that could evolve into a standard television format and it comes without those goofy glasses.
As the nightlife in a revitalized Hollywood continues to gel, the Hollywood & Vine Diner will open for business the first week of January.
Who can you trust? The Enron debacle is bringing this question into the limelight. Analysts and accountants long have had the potential for conflicts of interest and, at least in the case of Enron, the SEC wasn't much help either. So the Business Journal
Crustacean, the exclusive Beverly Hills restaurant, has tried to preempt a discrimination suit by starting a public relations campaign.
The California Court of Appeal has handed down a major loss to California's doctors and an equally significant win to large insurers, including several based locally.
A glut of steakhouses in downtown L.A. is causing concern that some may not survive.
Buy George. When it comes to rock and roll memorabilia, there's the Beatles and there's everything else.
A campaign to block the proposed development of a 2.2 million square foot mixed-use project in El Segundo has its developers crying foul.
Many people ask: "What's new in marketing? What can I do that's different?" They want to find some breakthrough tactic that will lead to spectacular marketing results.
Bucking the toughest market in a decade, apparel retailer Wet Seal Inc. plans to open 90 to 100 stores across its three divisions next year, as well as revamp some older stores and weed out unprofitable ones.
While many movie theater chains have reduced the number of screens they run, Krikorian Premiere Theatres wants to double its size.
With complaints from burned investors growing ever louder, securities regulators are feeling the heat and they appear to be responding.
The first projects in the city's empowerment zone are set to get underway.
Local Internet service providers are lobbying hard to defeat a bill pending in Congress that would deregulate the high-speed Internet business.
Filings for an initial public offering of American Pharmaceutical Partners Inc. only tell part of the company's story.
Union officials must tread carefully in negotiating new contracts with local radio and TV stations.
It's been a transitional year for the L.A. Chamber, which again tops the list of the largest local chambers as ranked by budgets.
Insurance rates for lawyers will climb next year, putting pressure on smaller firms and those less financially secure.
Jacqueline Canter remembers as a child when Yiddish was spoken along Fairfax Avenue almost as often as English. Times have changed.
The co-founders of Tenet Healthcare Corp. have sued the Santa Barbara hospital operator for more than $30 million, claiming breach of an employment contract and fraud.
Paxson Communications Corp. isn't the only opponent of the NBC-Telemundo merger. The National Latino Media Council, a coalition of civil rights and media groups, also has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to deny approval of the $2.7-billio
After a long career with the County of Los Angeles, Randall Foster has decided to take on a new one.
Law firm Paul Hastings has inked the biggest lease deal of the year, signing at Arco Plaza and getting rooftop signage.
Admittedly, it was a short interview. And there was a lot to discuss, including how the company's stock had jumped to $33 a share from its initial public offering price of $11 in only a week.
My Favorite Sites
Monday, December 10
You could almost hear the collective groans in offices (including ours) when reports last week surfaced of yet another big computer virus this one dubbed "Goner" and spread, like the others, through e-mail.
Janice Hahn grew up living and breathing L.A. politics. Her father Kenneth was a county supervisor for 40 years and her brother, James, was city controller and four-term city attorney before being elected mayor in June. But now that she's been elected an
Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital could well be on its way to becoming the poster child for California hospitals seeking relief from SB 1953, the state law requiring hospitals to seismically retrofit their facilities by 2008.
Registered nurses are set to rally across California on Dec. 11, in anticipation of the release of state regulations to set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios at hospitals.But the Department of Health Services says it may not meet the Jan. 1 deadline for iss
Venice interactive software company Spiderdance Inc. has been recognized as a powerful link between television and the Internet. The firm landed a Bandies Award for its core technology, which permits Internet users to synch in real time with television pr
Last week the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved past the 10000 mark for the first time since summer. But that's not to say everything is peachy. There have been grim reports on the economy and layoffs are still being announced. It remains a risky time to
When it opened in the summer of 1995, the Metro Rail Green Line was dubbed "the train to nowhere." On the west, it bypassed LAX and went to the shrinking aerospace employment center in El Segundo. On the east, it ended in Norwalk, two miles short of a maj
Haru Maruyama had simple guidelines when he was shopping for a restaurant location near downtown Los Angeles. "I was looking for low rent and high ceilings," said Maruyama, who had previously managed the now-defunct Katsu in Los Feliz.
Expanding Universe: A big New Year's Eve block party on Hollywood Boulevard could get bigger, as organizers look to extend the bash from three blocks to six
Los Angeles golf-course magnate David Price made a fortune riding the boom in golf's popularity. Now, he finds himself in the rough. The publicly held company Price founded eight years ago is grappling with a stock-price meltdown, whose resolution is bein
Immigration officials and lawyers representing visa applicants say that the length of time and amount of information required to secure the most common form of work visa has increased since Sept. 11, though there is debate over the root cause.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is preparing to do battle with Clear Channel Communications Inc. because of the company's practice of filling radio airtime with prerecorded material.
The Party's Over?: Turns out that even zero percent financing has its limits and despite another strong sales month in November, new vehicle demand appears to be slowing down. GM's chief sales analyst told the Wall Street Journal that a relatively short a
State lawmakers are moving to make the recently passed hike in benefits to jobless workers retroactive to Sept. 11. That $5.4 billion hike in unemployment insurance benefits, which passed the Legislature in September and was quickly signed into law by Go
Anthrax, cheerleaders, Cher, sex parties. They all found their way onto local television news during November sweeps. But for all the time and effort Los Angeles stations put into developing sexy and attention-grabbing stories to boost their numbers, most
BMK Inc., one of the nation's largest distributors of general merchandise to drugstores and supermarkets, is short of cash and looking for an investor. A series of financial mishaps forced the City of Commerce company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy pro
Where's My SAG Card?
This month, the state will have its new chief economist and he will be faced with steering California through a sharp slowdown and a possible recession. Longtime bank economist Howard Roth is expected to take over as chief economist at the Department of
Honeywell Garrett Engine Boosting, a division of New Jersey-based aerospace conglomerate Honeywell International Inc., will begin laying off 300 local workers this month as it closes down its Torrance plant. The Torrance operation, which manufactures turb
Icebox.com, the site featuring naughty animated shorts, launched last year with a simple premise: acquire quality content for next to nothing, build a strong online following, and develop lucrative mainstream media deals. The company folded in February.
As voters go to the polls on Dec. 11 in the L.A. City Council's 2nd District to choose a replacement for Joel Wachs, the race between State Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, D-Mission Hills, and DreamWorks SKG executive Wendy Greuel may all come down to a little
Favorite Internet sites
Richard Wattenberg and his brother Allen have been business partners since they opened a downtown hamburger stand more than 40 years ago. They took a two-year hiatus when Allen was drafted into the Army in the mid-1960s and Richard sold the burger busines
Talk about a nice problem to have. Sabeus Photonics Inc. had planned to announce this week the closing of its third round of venture funding, having raised $18.75 million. But the closing now has been extended to the first quarter of next year to allow ad
Getting a jump on its cable industry rivals, Charter Communications Corp. has become the first operator to offer interactive TV to customers in the Los Angeles area. The service is available at no extra charge to digital cable subscribers in Glendale, Bur
Kim Williams, the new senior vice president and chief financial officer for NBC West Coast, must pay special attention to the bottom line in these uncertain times for media companies. More profiles.
Life in and around Los Angeles International Airport forever changed on Sept. 11. Which is just fine for Merry Norris. As executive director of Gateway to L.A., a property-based business improvement district primarily north of Century Boulevard, Norr
Everything's for sale for the right price. So goes the reasoning behind Apartment Investment and Management Co.'s stunning $1.5 billion deal last week for Beverly Hills-based Casden Properties.
On a recent Saturday in a crowded West L.A. parking lot, Michael examined two badly dented side panels of a two-door red Honda Civic. He could make the repairs, paint the sides, and make it almost as good as new all for $200, instead of the $700 to $1,2
At a time when many retailers are short on customers, Paseo Colorado in Pasadena has come up with a policy that could drive a few away. The Pasadena shopping center, which opened Sept. 28, is charging as much as $5-$8 to park in the underground lot if a t
The board of Los Angeles-based J2 Communications Inc., embroiled in a bitter dispute over a deal for the sale of the company, agreed at a special shareholder meeting held Dec. 6 to a one-week moratorium on litigation, though the prospect of a settlement w
Business is recovering at Los Angeles restaurants stung by the economic downturn and a loss of customers due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Owners are bracing for another relatively rough quarter but see a return to pre-downturn numbers by mid-2002 as
Old movies don't die, their dye just fades. To date, bringing back the brilliance has been an often costly and tedious proposition. Veteran Hollywood visual effects man Peter Kuran wants to change all that with his invention, Restored Color Imaging.
Boeing Co. has slashed $46 million off the cost of its C-17s in hopes of securing 60 additional orders from the Air Force a move that, if successful, would guarantee that military plane making remains in Los Angeles County into 2009.
Hollywood, always looking to capitalize on anything youthful, is riding the skateboarding craze in a big way with major entertainment companies getting into the competition. Late last month, Walt Disney Co. announced it had optioned the autobiography and
An Orange County judge's ruling last month could have major ramifications among homeowners though attorneys around town are still scratching their heads about the possible outcomes.
Brent Stafford and Michael Malone have been traveling between Los Angeles and New York preaching a message they believe could help pull advertising out of its worst slump in decades. The key, say these two development executives from the West Coast office
Monday, December 3
Excited and anxious about the impending birth of his first child 11 years ago, Jusman Ichwan would often attend his wife's frequent doctor's visits. But what the computer consultant from Indonesia discovered bothered him no end needlessly long visits as
Launching into negotiations a full seven months before their current pact expires, Hollywood directors appear determined not to take the same acrimonious road that writers and actors traveled in their negotiations with producers earlier this year.
After months of searching, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appears close to choosing a new director for its troubled Department of Health Services.
LAW: New Head of SEC In L.A. Will Take A Civil Approach
Househunters: Did someone forget to tell L.A. homebuyers that the august National Bureau of Economic Research has concluded that a recession is underway?
Tenet Healthcare Corp.'s proposed purchase of the Daniel Freeman hospitals in Marina del Rey and Inglewood is coming under fire from the Service Employees International Union, which accuses the company of putting profits ahead of quality medical care.
Movie Review: Shallow Hal
It's that nerve-wracking time of year again the top brass at Los Angeles law firms gather around the conference table to decide who will make partner and who won't.
The next time the guy next to you says "Mike and Sully" are on his cell phone, it's unlikely he'll be talking about his insurance agents. As part of a deal struck with Sprint PCS, games featuring characters from Walt Disney Co.'s "Monsters, Inc." have sta
In an unexpected economic burst for Los Angeles but also one that is prompting extra security safeguards, as many as 12,000 to 20,000 Nation of Islam delegates will be coming to Los Angeles in February for the group's annual worldwide convention
How can a company in a cyclical industry transform itself into a steady earnings-growth performer? It's a puzzle that Countrywide Credit Industries Inc. has been trying to solve for 15 years. Now that mortgage rates have turned upward, the Pasadena-based
Keeping up with technological advances and staying one step ahead of competitors are constant challenges faced by today's entrepreneurs.
Sonic Automotive Inc.'s deal to buy Avalon Ford Inc.'s four Don Kott dealerships last month is the latest move in an aggressive campaign by the Charlotte, N.C.-based company to further establish a presence in the nation's capital of cars.
One month after government and economic development leaders throughout L.A. County gathered to find ways to stimulate the local economy, modest progress has been made, according to a report from the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., which co-sponsor
The circulation of an "investment summary" document assessing the cash flow and value of Maefield Development's Sunset Millennium project in West Hollywood has fueled speculation in real estate circles that at least a share of the project could be for sal
Donald Sterling has built his fortune by buying properties at fire sale prices and then sitting contentedly as their values increased. As owner of the long-lamented Los Angeles Clippers, the strategy has made him an even wealthier man. In 1981, he plunked
There's been a two-month delay in the opening of The Palm steakhouse near Staples Center, although executives for the Washington, D.C.-based chain insist that it has more to do with red tape than concerns over the economy.
For much of the past half century, American society and nowhere more than Southern California has been characterized by ever-growing mobility. Yet today, with trends accelerated by 9/11 and its aftermath, the era of constant movement may be waning.
In an attempt to get around a spending cap on downtown redevelopment and coax developers to pursue new projects, the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency has proposed splitting much of the current downtown redevelopment project area into two new zones.
More customers and more loans drove higher third quarter earnings at San Fernando Valley's independent banks. Thanks to growing loan portfolios, Santa Clarita-based Valencia Bank & Trust Inc., Glendale-based Verdugo Banking Co. and Encino-based First Com
Hiwire Inc., which provides software systems for Internet-based advertising, recently pulled in a $9.5 million round of funding from a variety of sources, including Clear Channel Communications, one of its largest clients.
Good intentions and bad planning conspired to turn William Hammond Hall's city-by-the-sea into a paragon of urban blight. Now, 50 years after the bulk of Redondo Beach was leveled under the federal Urban Renewal Program following World War II, public and
For Bill Hawkins, becoming a funeral director was a dream deferred. As a child, he had initially considered becoming an Episcopal priest, but when he was 11 the deaths of three family friends caused him to question his faith and alter his plans. He was p
The "Good Day L.A." Web site sums up how Fox executives must feel about introducing their wacky morning crew to other markets: "You never know what to expect from these guys and gals, and neither do we!"
At a time when many other retailers are pulling in their horns, Grupo Gigante is making plans to open five new supermarkets in Los Angeles next year.
Boom With a View. Operators of those 150-foot cranes at the Port of Los Angeles might get a little nervous upon learning that L.A. harbor commissioners last week heard a business pitch for "collapsible" cranes. More Stories.
Last week, economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research made it official. The U.S. economy is in a recession, and it has been since March. So much for that parlor debate, now there's a new one: How long will the pain last?
Group of Loyal Followers Helps. Five months after James Hahn took office, a small group of behind-the-scenes players outside elected circles is shaping the mayor's policies and helping chart the course of the nation's second largest city.
MEDIA: Advertising Down But Listening Up on Local Radio Despite War, Sweeps Bring Out the Worst in Local Television News
Traffic in Los Angeles may be a curse for commuters but it's a blessing for the local radio industry. More Angelenos are spending increasing amounts of time listening to the radio while they're in their cars, according to a study released by the Southern California Broadcasters Association. The survey of 1,000 adults in the Los Angeles area, which was conducted by Arbitron Inc., showed more people listen to the radio than watch television or read a newspaper on a daily basis. "You have less time to actually be at home," said association President Mary Beth Garber. "That's great for radio. It's not so great if you're trying to get your message across on television." The Los Angeles Lifestyle Study revealed that 39 percent of Angelenos spend more time listening to the radio than they did a year ago. Only 19 percent of respondents said they were watching more television and 22 percent said they were spending more time reading newspapers. While 42 percent said their television viewing had decreased and 32 percent said their newspaper reading was down, only 15 percent reported a decline in radio listening. Still, radio and other media throughout the U.S. are suffering the worst decline in ad spending in years as companies cut back to make it through the recession. Many forecasters expect only limited relief until the middle of next year at the earliest, though with 2002 being an election year the outlook is better for the fourth quarter. Nonprofit Again The Los Angeles Press Club is on its way to becoming a nonprofit organization, again. Founded in 1946, the professional association lost its nonprofit status after selling the building it once owned at 600 N. Vermont Ave. As a basic corporation, the club has to pay an annual fee to the state and file income taxes, a significant expense for a group with fewer than 400 members and $50-per-year membership fee. The club's working members voted to apply for nonprofit status by a more than 2-to-1 margin. Winning Web Site KNBC-TV Channel 4 once again beat out television stations in major markets throughout the state in the annual Web-page news competition sponsored by the Associated Press Television-Radio Association of California & Nevada. The KNBC site underwent a redesign last year when its parent network overhauled the Web sites of all its owned-and-operated stations. KNBC's site now has 40,000 subscribers and attracts nearly 1 million page views a month, said Rob Feldman, new media news director for the station. With the upgraded site, KNBC is looking to increase convergent advertising sales, offering exposure to viewers via television and the Internet. "We've figured out how to sell the Web," Feldman said. "It's just starting to make a dent in what our bottom line is." NATPE Blunder The future of the National Association of Television Program Executives' 2003 and 2004 conventions was recently called into question. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported last week that hotel operators in the city had received a letter from NATPE canceling room reservations for the two 20,000-person conventions. The letter was sent several days after the organization laid off six employees at its Santa Monica headquarters. "NATPE is involved in fruitful discussions leading to a strategic plan regarding the configuration of the conference in 2003 to make it appropriate for both domestic and international members. This plan may or may not involve New Orleans," Bruce Johansen, the group's president and chief executive, said in a statement. Staff reporter Claudia Peschiutta can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 229 or at
Maybe it's a sign of the economic times, but Wilshire Boulevard's Museum Row is starting to attract tenants from Beverly Hills. In the latest example of what is still just a mini-trend, Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland will move its practice from Beverly
Seems like old times. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, the century-old L.A. firm, last made a significant shift in management almost a decade ago also amid a recession that left even top firms struggling.
Where is a one-handed economist when you need one? Consider the developments of the past few weeks: On the one hand, housing sales have shown surprising strength in October and November. On the other hand, the newspapers are filled with layoff and bankrup
New Screen Actors Guild President Melissa Gilbert wants the union to speak with a single voice. First she'll have to weather a bitter election challenge.
Mall attendance is down and online shopping is up. It appears, on the surface at least, that there is a trend at work: this year's holidays may see more online transactions. So the Business Journal asks: Do you intend to do more online shopping this year?
Has CKE Restaurants Inc. finally made it over the hump? Company insiders are betting it has. In recent weeks, William Foley, CKE's chairman, Chief Executive Andrew Puzder and company founder and chairman emeritus Carl Karcher have stepped up their buying