Stories for April 2005

Friday, April 29

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Oil Prices Drop, Settle Below $50 Level

Oil prices closed below $50 a barrel for the first time in more than two months on Friday, declining by more than $5 a barrel in the past week on rising U.S. supplies and slower economic growth.

L.A. Gas Prices Fall for the Second Straight Week

Gas prices continued their downward momentum in L.A. and throughout much of Southern California, creeping lower for the second straight week, the Automobile Club of Southern California said.

Business Briefs: Magnetek, Skechers, First American Bank, KB Home

Magnetek releases quarterly results, Skechers USA has a securities class-action lawsuit against it decided in its favor, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Worldwide Restaurant Concepts Agrees to Be Bought for $208 Million

News that the Sherman Oaks-based franchiser of the Sizzler steak restaurants will be bought by private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners for $7 a share sent its stock surging more than 30 percent.

District Attorney Launches Probe of Villaraigosa Campaign Contributions

District Attorney Steve Cooley says media coverage of donations to the mayoral candidate from employees of two Florida companies prompted initial review to see if a wider probe is warranted.

Stocks Rally as Oil Prices Skid

Stocks ended higher Friday as oil prices plunged below $50 per barrel and a pair of economic reports eased investors' inflation concerns.

Clear Channel Sets Spinoff, IPO

Clear Channel Communications Inc. on Friday said it would spin off its entertainment unit and set an IPO of about 10 percent of its $2.5 billion outdoor advertising unit.

Inflation Eats Into Consumer Spending

U.S. consumer spending rose 0.6 percent in March, but inflation erased most of the gain, while first-quarter worker compensation posted the smallest increase in six years, the government said Friday.

Thursday, April 28

Earnings Roundup

A number of local companies in the L.A. area reported earnings on Thursday: Diodes, K Swiss, IRIS International, Stamps.com, Fremont General Corp., Center Financial Corp., Guitar Center, California Pizza Kitchen, International Rectifier, Youbet.com, Tetra

Five Charged in Insider-Trading Ring that Netted Nearly $1 Million

Four men who worked for the investment banking firms Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin and Chanin & Co. and one outsider have been charged in an insider-trading ring that prosecutors said netted $970,000.

Spitzer Sues Intermix Over 'Spyware'

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on Thursday sued Intermix Media Inc., claiming it installed "spyware" that installs pop-up ads that can slow and crash personal computers, the Associated Press reported.

Northrop Grumman Posts Higher First-Quarter Profit

Northrop Grumman Corp. on Thursday said that quarterly profit rose sharply on higher sales and operating margins at its ship and missile units, and the defense contractor raised its 2005 forecast.

IHOP's First-Quarter Net Income, Revenue Drop

IHOP Corp. said Thursday its net income and revenue decreased due to disappointing same-store sales growth, which was not enough to offset increases in general and administrative spending.

Unocal Net Income Soars 69 Percent on Oil Prices

Unocal Corp. said Thursday that first-quarter earnings jumped 69 percent from last year on strong crude oil and natural gas prices, and a 5 percent increase in output.

Stocks Close Lower on Weak GDP Report

Stocks sank Thursday after a report showed the economy grew at its slowest pace in two years during the first quarter, raising more questions about the strength of the economy.

Jamdat Pushes the Right Buttons In Licensing Cell Phone Games

Jamdat Mobile's licensing deals with Tetris and Major League Baseball solidify the L.A.-based video game developer's position in the cell phone game market.

Crude Prices Slide Toward $50 a Barrel

Crude futures dropped more than $1 a barrel Thursday as growing crude supplies and signs of slower economic growth led traders to test the $50 mark.

Economy Grows at Slowest Pace in Two Years

The U.S. economy grew at a 3.1 percent annual rate of expansion as consumers and businesses curbed spending in the face of rising prices, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

U.S. Jobless Claims Rise to 320,000

The number of Americans claiming jobless benefits for the first time grew as expected, while continued claims declined to their lowest level in four years.

Former Homestore CEO Stuart Wolff to Face Criminal Charges

Former Homestore Inc. CEO Stuart Wolff and another senior ex-Homestore executive were indicted on Thursday on multiple charges of insider trading, falsifying books and violating securities laws.

Comcast First-Quarter Profit More Than Quadruples

Comcast Corp. said Thursday its profit more than quadrupled in the first quarter as more customers signed up for its premium cable and Internet services.

Wednesday, April 27

99 Cents Only Stores Delays Financial Results Again

The City of Commerce-based discount retailer said it could be as late as June before it releases its fourth-quarter and fiscal-year results as it undertakes a review of its lease accounting practices as are other retailers nationwide.

Oil Prices Fall Below $52 a Barrel on Inventory Report

Oil prices dropped by more than $2 a barrel Wednesday after the U.S. government reported a large build in crude oil inventories.

Mortgage Applications Increased Last Week

Applications for U.S. home mortgages increased last week, as refinancing and purchasing rose amid lower interest rates on loans, an industry group said Wednesday.

Earnings Roundup: Teledyne, IndyMac, Skechers, PeopleSupport, First Consulting

A number of local companies in the Los Angeles area reported higher earnings on Wednesday.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Riordan Resigns as State Education Secretary

Former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan will step down from his statewide education post on June 30. His departure had been rumored for several weeks.

Durable Goods Orders Plunge in March

New orders for long-lasting U.S.-made goods slipped by 2.8 percent in March, the biggest drop since September 2002, as orders for aircraft fell, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

De La Hoya Forms $100 Million Real Estate Development Venture

Oscar de la Hoya's partnership with Highridge Partners Inc. will invest $100 million over the next three years in redevelopment projects in run-down California cities with large Latino populations.

Business Briefs: IRIS International, Image Entertainment, Univision, Northrop

IRIS International will acquire the assets of the urinalysis business segment of Quidel Corp., Image Entertainment will distribute DVD titles by Just For Laughs, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Stocks Close Higher on Drop in Oil Prices

Stocks rebounded Wednesday as a slide in oil prices and upbeat earnings news overshadowed a drop in durable goods orders that revived worries about the strength of the economy.

Boeing First-Quarter Earnings Fall

Boeing Co. on Wednesday said quarterly earnings fell 14 percent as pension and compensation costs rose, but operating results improved at its core commercial jet and defense units.

Tuesday, April 26

Countrywide's First Quarter Net Rises 27 Percent

The Calabasas-based mortgage lender said net income rose to $688.9 million in the first quarter, boosted by brisk home-buying activity. Countrywide also raised its earnings guidance for all of 2005.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Spitzer to Probe AIG

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on Tuesday said he will audit American International Group Inc. over reports that AIG improperly booked workers' compensation premiums.

Audit Accuses L.A. Technology Agency of Skirting Contract Rules

Latest in series of audits from Controller Laura Chick accuses managers in L.A.'s Information Technology Agency of "systematically skirting" city contracting rules to award no-bid contracts.

Stocks Head Down Amid Mixed Economic Signals

A suprise rise in home building is overshadowed by a drop in consumer confidence and investor wariness as the Federal Reserve gets set to meet next week.

Rise in Business Travel Boosts Hilton Earnings

Beverly Hills-based Hilton Hotels Corp. reported first quarter profits jumped 73 percent Tuesday as growth in business travel allowed the hotel chain to hike room rates.

Monday, April 25

Business Briefs: Macerich, Northrop, Pacific Energy, Vans, Cannon

Macerich completes purchase of Wilmorite; Northrop Grumman seeks to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory; Pacific Energy Partners boosts quarterly distribution.

L.A. Shouldn't Lose Transit Funds to Bay Bridge Project

There is a huge train robbery under way in Northern California. Or should we call it a bridge robbery?

Employees Are In the Chips As Company Vests Stock Options

Public companies normally fight against increased accounting regulation. But sometimes, they rush to comply, especially when it allows them to avoid hefty expenses on their income statements.

Greene Days Over, Panish Makes His Move

Prominent plaintiff's attorney Brian Panish has left Greene Broillet Panish & Wheeler LLP on the heels of handling several multimillion-dollar verdicts in product liability cases.

Stocks Take a Step Up

Stocks ended the day higher on Monday as a continuing rise in home sales, a surge in merger activity and declining oil prices helped boost investor confidence.

Occidental Petroleum Earnings Jump 74 Percent

L.A.-based oil company reports $846 million in first quarter net income, as it reaps windfall from rising oil prices.

Avery Dennison Meets Lowered Earnings Expectations

The Pasadena-based label maker met its reduced earnings forecast and lowered its forecast for the year, citing slower-than-expected sales growth and higher-than-expected costs.

Buik Steers Local United Way Chapter Down New Road

The United Way of Greater Los Angeles has handed its leadership to its first woman president.

The Last Days of Hollywood Park

In L.A.'s real estate world, monster properties on the order of Hollywood Park don't come along every day. The sale and development of the sprawling site is likely to be a lengthy, costly and litigious process.

Conversions and Office Activity Propel Submarket to Next Level

Vacancy rates in the Hollywood/West Hollywood submarket fell again in the first quarter, as demand picked up and the amount of available office space shrunk.

'Spyware' Probe Leaves L.A. Tech Stock Staggering

Executives of Intermix Media have been on the defensive since New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer launched an inquiry into the marketing firm's alleged "spyware."

Say 'See You Later, Alligator' to Using Cliches in Your Business Presentations

Your use of clich & #233;s can damage your image as a manager and reduce the effectiveness of your oral and written communication.

Update: Stamps.com Shares Surge on Program's Relaunch

Shares of Santa Monica-based online postage vendor surge 19.1 percent after the U.S. Postal Service decides to relaunch a personalized stamp program.

Hip-Hop Oldies May Be a Way To Make It Big for New KDAY

KDAY is back on the air after a nearly 14-year hiatus with hopes of pioneering a new musical subgenre: "classic rap."

Low but Climbing Interest Rates Entice Builders Into Submarket

New construction pushed Ventura County's commercial vacancy rates up slightly during the first quarter, but the region remains largely a landlord's market as developers are building new product only sparingly.

As the City Builds Out, Developers Build Up

With few large tracts for new homes in cities, some of the nation's largest homebuilders are getting into the infill movement, mostly with mixed-use retail-residential projects.

Bankruptcy Law Could Give Bill Collectors Headaches

Bankruptcy reform will transform the nature of the collection agency industry, most likely by forcing more unprofitable accounts into play.

Local Venture Capital Fundings Fall 40 Percent in First Quarter

Start-up companies in Southern California raised 40 percent less money in the first quarter than in the year-ago period. On the national front, venture capitalists invested $4.6 billion in the first quarter, a 16 percent decline from nearly $5 billion a

Brits Invade National Enquirer L.A. Bureau

British-born David Gardner has replaced American-born Jerry George as the Enquirer's West Coast editor.

Bankruptcy Reform Holds Potential Problems for Collection Companies

Under bankruptcy reform, collection agents are worried about the cost of tracking low-profit accounts.

Former Mattel Executive Pleads Guilty to Federal Election Charges

Fermin Cuza admitted to using family members and associates to make more than $100,000 worth of political contributions, then billing his employer using false invoices.

Mixed Signals Leave Cloudy Impression of L.A. Economy

Mixed data may or may not signal a recession, a situation complicated locally by volatility on gas prices and real estate.

Office Market Still Flagging as Demand Fills Industrial Space

Continuing demand for port-related space pushed already-low vacancy rates in the South Bay industrial market even lower.

Battle Flares Over Downtown Hotels

The owner of the Westin Bonaventure has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to block public financial support for a new 1,200-room convention center hotel.

Go West, Successful Publisher, To Escape Decadent N.Y. Scene

Judith Regan's plans to move her imprint to Los Angeles by the end of the year is sending ripples through area publishing houses, which generally cater to niche audiences rather than mass markets.

Times Seeking to Stem Setbacks on Circulation Front

With circulation continuing to slide, the Los Angeles Times unveils a promotional campaign and emphasizes its "readership" numbers.

Refugees From Tighter Markets Fill in Empty Space Along Strip

Vacancy rates continued to inch downward throughout the Wilshire Corridor during the first quarter, with higher asking rents in the Miracle Mile/Park Mile section and lower rents in the Wilshire Center submarket closer to downtown.

Early Glitz

Financed by Jack Warner and his friends, Hollywood Park attracted stars and served as the center of a social scene in its glory days which have since faded.

Jamdat Pushes the Right Buttons In Licensing Cell Phone Games

Jamdat Mobile's licensing deals with Tetris and Major League Baseball help solidify the company's position in the U.S. market.

L.A. Stories

A collection of stories about culture and business in and around Los Angeles.

New Projects Fail to Alleviate Space Crunch in Tight Market

Even with new projects making more space available and easing vacancy rates slightly, the chronically tight market for industrial property in the San Gabriel Valley began to push lease rates upward.

Rules Ease, Boosting U.S. Law Firms' Role in Japan, China

New rules in Japan's legal world have spurred some L.A. firms to open offices there and might increase profits at partnerships with already-established Tokyo offices.

Industrial Market Stays Heated, Office Construction Catches Fire

The Inland Empire's industrial market continued its red hot pace in the first quarter, but it was the region's rapidly growing office market that raised eyebrows.

Limited Supply Leads Companies to Santa Clarita

Momentum in North Los Angeles County's industrial market kept pace in the first quarter, further pushing up rents and lowering vacancy rates.

Wall Street Gives Thumbs-Up to L.A. Real Estate Firms

Banc of America Securities research analysts announced the results of a survey of local commercial brokers that bolstered the view that L.A. landlords stand to gain as the local office market continues to strengthen.

Valero Buys Premcor for $6.9 Billion

San Antonio-based company, which operates a Wilmington refinery and more than 200 California service stations, is now the largest U.S. refiner.

Increased Building Prices Lead To Expectations of High Rents

A dip in first-quarter vacancy rates bolsters the theory that's been driving downtown office investment for several months that the influx of residential development will eventually spur occupancy in office, retail and other sectors.

Sluggish Submarket Prodded to New Heights by Bustling Ports

The Mid-Cities industrial market, which had slowed down late last year, rebounded in the first quarter, spurred by burgeoning port activity that absorbed market space and lowered the vacancy rate.

Villaraigosa Advisers Span Labor, Business

Antonio Villaraigosa's advisers come from labor, politics and business, some with conflicting agendas.

Newsmakers

The awards and promotions of the movers and shakers of L.A.'s business community.

Mayor of San Diego Resigns

San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy, who barely won a tough re-election battle against a write-in candidate, has resigned amid a widening federal probe of his handling of the city's deficit-ridden pension system.

Consumer Confidence Down; Home Sales Up

Consumer confidence declines for the third straight month, while housing sales remain white hot, shooting up 12 percent.

Measures to Take Prior To Applying for a Loan

Because working capital is essential to growth, Todd Kesselman, owner of Inventory Capital Group Inc., has advice on steps companies can take to improve their chances of finding financing.

Beauty Beat

Jose Granda's distribution company is targeting the growing Hispanic market for cosmetics by getting products into Wal-Mart and other stores.

Rising Rates Spur Race Among Investors to Buy

Sales drove both the office and industrial sectors in the San Fernando Valley during the first quarter as investors concerned about rising interest rates dived in to make deals.

Benefits Outweigh Costs of Universal Preschool Program

Providing preschool to all of the state's 4-year-olds is a virtually risk-free investment that will result in a stable work force equipped for the 21st century's complex global economy.

Small-Business Owners Express Frustration on Health Insurance

Small business owners are so fed up over the high cost of health care that a majority of them sampled in a new survey support a government-run program similar to the one used in Canada.

Long Odds

Attendance and profits at horse racing venues have slowed to a trot due to greater choice among gambling venues.

Gas Prices in L.A. Dip for Second Week

Local gas prices dipped for the second week in a row, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Spillover Effect From Housing Spurs Buyers in Office Market

The drive to satisfy housing demand in L.A. County continued to spill into the office market in the first quarter, as condo conversions and new residential projects gobbled up land and drove prices higher for commercial investors.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Latham & Watkins Make Big Name in Big Apple World

Latham & Watkins has become a dominant player on the corporate law front, a notable achievement for an L.A. firm in a New York world.

Pasadena Submarket Booming, Glendale Remaining Stagnant

Strong demand for commercial property in Pasadena led the way for the Tri-Cities region in the first quarter, despite another lackluster performance by struggling Glendale.

Los Angeles-Area Home Prices Slip in March

Median sales price of existing family homes falls 1.5 percent from February to $466,250. Meanwhile, prices remain 19 percent higher than March 2004.

High Flier

Laurie Marshall Grindle wanted to be an astronaut, but found success as chief engineer on NASA's latest experimental hypersonic craft.

Sales Take Off as Fashion Boutiques Head to Cyberspace

A boutique is the kind of place where kid glove treatment, often by the proprietor herself, drives sales. Now, even this market niche is being transformed by the Web.

Existing Home Sales Surge in March

Existing home sales rose 1 percent in March to an annual rate of 6.89 million units nationwide from 6.82 million in February, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Investments Coveted Due to Low Vacancies, Steady Rents

The Westside started 2005 much as it ended 2004, with declining vacancy levels and steady asking rates that are luring investors into the lucrative market.

Jails Funds Added While Health Department Crisis Looms

L.A. County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen was using the word "ironic" a lot in describing the new budget last week.

Friday, April 22

Oil Prices Surge Above $55 a Barrel

The price of crude oil rose Friday, fueled by a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia and refinery problems in the U.S. that triggered supply concerns.

Stocks Slide on Oil, North Korea, Earnings

Disappointing first-quarter profits, surging oil prices and geopolitical fears pulled stocks lower Friday as investors collected profits from Thursday's rally.

Stocks Open Lower on Earnings

Disappointing first-quarter profits helped pull stocks lower Friday as investors, fearing an economic slowdown, collected profits from Thursday's rally.

Uncertain Times for Clear Channel Cluster

Clear Channel executives say that Roy Laughlin's departure was not linked to a specific dispute over the chain's Los Angeles stations.

Qwest Raises MCI Offer to $9.7 Billion

Qwest raised its bid for MCI to $9.7 billion, saying it was making its "best and final offer" after being rejected three times by the long-distance telephone company.

L.A. Gas Prices Finally Begin to Slide

Gas prices in L.A. and throughout Southern California, after peaking and then hovering near record highs, began inching lower over the past week, the Automobile Club of Southern California said.

Business Briefs: PFF Bancorp, Hanmi Financial, Superior Industries, Health Care Property Investors, China Digital Communication

PFF Bancorp, Hanmi Financial and Superior Industries release quarterly results, Health Care Property Investors plans to sell $200 million of 12-year bonds, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Nasdaq to Buy Instinet Network for $934.5 Miliion

The Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. will acquire Instinet Group Inc.'s electronic trading network, a move designed to improve Nasdaq's position among the world's stock markets.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Thursday, April 21

Amgen Profits Rise on Strong Drug Sales

Amgen Inc. on Thursday reported higher first-quarter profit on strong sales of its drugs to treat anemia, arthritis and infection in chemotherapy patients, and it raised its 2005 earnings forecast.

Stocks Rise on Fed Survey, Earnings

Stocks rallied on Thursday as a regional Federal Reserve survey eased concerns about slowing economic activity, while cell phone makers Motorola and Nokia gave strong earnings outlooks.

Time Warner, Comcast Win Bid for Adelphia

Time Warner and Comcast reached an agreement Thursday to buy the assets of bankrupt cable company Adelphia in a deal valued at $17.6 billion in cash and stock.

Update: UC Reaches Pact With Unionized Service Workers

The University of California and the union representing 7,300 service workers on nine campuses reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract Wednesday, six days after a daylong strike.

Jobless Claims Down 36,000 in Latest Week

The number of Americans claiming initial jobless benefits plunged 36,000 last week, the largest drop in more than three years, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Earnings Roundup: Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co., Wilshire Bancorp Inc., 21st Century Insurance Group, Ixia

A number of local companies in the Los Angeles area reported higher earnings on Thursday.

Stocks Up on Fed Survey, Earnings

Stocks rallied on Thursday, as a regional Federal Reserve survey eased concerns about slowing economic activity, while cell phone makers gave strong earnings outlooks.

Crude Futures Slip Despite Oil Inventory Drop

Oil prices fell Thursday, despite government data showing declining domestic inventories of oil, as traders kept close watch on gasoline stocks ahead of the summer driving season.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Wednesday, April 20

Crude Futures Rise to $53 a Barrel, Supplies Fall

Oil prices jumped on Wednesday as a U.S. government report showed crude stocks falling for the first time in 10 weeks and gasoline inventory dropping ahead of peak summer driving demand.

Earnings Roundup: Jakks Pacific, FirstFed Financial Corp., Cash Technologies Corp., Ryland Group, City National Corp.

A number of local companies in the Los Angeles area reported higher earnings on Wednesday.

Consumer Prices Up More Than Expected

A surge in energy prices helped push U.S. underlying inflation up at the sharpest rate in 2-1/2 years during March, the Labor Department said on Wednesday.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Watt Commercial Properties, Partner Close Purchase of Retail Portfolio

The purchase of publicly held Kramont Realty Trust for $1.2 billion was announced in December. It marks an expansion for the partnership of Santa Monica-based Watt Commercial Properties and Australia's Centro Properties Group.

Business Briefs: Smart & Final Inc., Jamdat Mobile Inc., Mossimo Inc.

Smart & Final's CEO earns nearly $1.7 million in 2004, Jamdat Mobile buys Blue Lava Wireless for about $137 million and raises its first-quarter guidance, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Markets Close Lower on Inflation Fears

Stocks continued sliding Wednesday as a sharp jump in consumer prices last month fueled fears of inflation and renewed interest-rate increases.

US Airways, America West in Merger Talks

Merger talks between US Airways and America West could be the start of consolidation for U.S. airlines, although US Airways' chairman concedes that such a combination faces many hurdles.

Business Activity Expands, Fed Beige Book Says

The pace of business activity continued to expand through early April, but price pressures from rising energy costs intensified in some areas, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

Nightclubbers Get Clobbered in Suit by Construction Contractor

The owners of Paladar may be forced to shutter the Cuban-themed Hollywood restaurant due to a legal judgment they lost.

Tuesday, April 19

WPT Enterprises CEO Steven Lipscomb Ends Plan to Sell Shares

Shares of the L.A.-based creator of the World Poker Tour rose Tuesday after the company announced that the newly-named CEO had terminated a plan to sell 450,000 shares by March 2006.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Chain Store Sales Fall in Second April Week

U.S. chain store sales fell in the second week of April, as stormy weather slowed down the demand for spring apparel, a report said on Tuesday.

L.A. Didn't Get Its Basketball Bounce

Sports bars, sportswear retailers and restaurants across L.A. have lost receipts and T-shirt sales are taking a hit because the Lakers didn't make the playoffs this year.

Fleishman-Hillard Agrees to Settlement to End Claims it Overbilled L.A. Departments

The $5.7 million settlement related to claims it overbilled the Department of Water & Power, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Port of L.A. and the operator of LAX ends its troubles with the city.

Stocks End Higher as Inflation Fears Ease

Stocks rallied on Tuesday, as investors cheered a lower-than-expected increase in basic wholesale prices and a solid start to the first-quarter earnings season.

Earnings Roundup: Smart & Final, Cheesecake Factory, Global ePoint

A number of local companies in the Los Angeles area reported higher earnings on Tuesday.

Business Briefs: Buena Vista Games, DirecTV, Southwest Water

Disney's Buena Vista Games buys Avalanche Software and opens a studio in Vancouver, DirecTV Group sues 12 people who allegedly defrauded the company, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Housing Starts Plunge, Producer Prices Shoot Up

Inflation at the wholesale level, propelled by a surge in the price of gas, rose 0.7 percent in March, while U.S. housing starts posted their steepest drop in more than 14 years, the government reported Tuesday.

L.A. Mayoral Candidate Villaraigosa Hits $1.8 Million Fundraising Cap

Antonio Villaraigosa has raised nearly $1.2 million in the last two weeks, bringing the total raised since the March 8 primary to $1.8 million and outpacing incumbent Mayor James Hahn.

Cablevision Said to Raise Adelphia Bid

Cablevision raised its bid for Adelphia to $17.1 billion, a move that could threaten a competing offer from Time Warner and Comcast, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

DaVita CFO Steps Down Amid Merger Activity, Federal Scrutiny

DaVita Inc. said Tuesday that Denise Fletcher stepped down as CFO at the same time the firm is acquiring Gambro Healthcare while under investigation for the third time in four years.

Monday, April 18

Earnings Roundup: Rotonics Manufacturing, j2 Global, Foothill Independent Bancorp, Virco Manufacturing

A number of local companies in the Los Angeles area reported higher earnings on Monday.

Architect to Push Rossetti's Portfolio Beyond Stadiums

Carl Meyer, the new principal and managing director of the Rossetti design firm's California office, started his career as a high school teacher.

L.A. Didn't Get Its Basketball Bounce

Sports bars have lost receipts and T-shirt sales are taking a hit because the Lakers didn't make the playoffs this year.

Business Briefs: Grill Concepts, Sports Club, CalAmp, Pacific Energy Partners, Northrop, Recom Managed Systems

Grill Concepts faces being delisted by the Nasdaq, Sports Club delays filing its year-end results, Rotonics Manufacturing releases third-quarter financials, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Shifting Gears

Some car dealers have canceled their ads in the Los Angeles Times out of loyalty to GM or because of their own complaints about the paper's coverage of the industry.

Rules of the Road

What to do and above all, what not to do as you're typing up a message to a colleague or a client.

E-Mail Sampler

Business leaders discuss their e-mail habits, their feelings about the technology and how it's changed the way they manage their time.

New Spin

L.A. is alive with the sound of vinyl, as used record stores cater to the demands of audiophiles and collectors of old-fashioned LPs.

Stocks Mixed on Adobe Buy, 3M Earnings

Stocks finished the session mixed on Monday as investors weighed news of Adobe Systems' $3.4 billion buy of Macromedia against disappointing first-quarter earnings from 3M Co.

Nightclubbers Get Clobbered in Suit by Construction Contractor

The owners of Paladar may be forced to shutter the Cuban-themed Hollywood restaurant due to a legal judgment they lost.

Crude Futures Above $50 Per Barrel

Crude prices remained above $50 per barrel Monday after the president of OPEC said the group would address rising demand by increasing its daily production by 500,000 barrels beginning next month.

Adobe to Acquire Macromedia in $3.4 Billion Deal

Adobe Systems Inc. said on Monday it agreed to buy Macromedia Inc. for about $3.4 billion in stock to extend its lead in the market for creating and distributing digital documents.

Will a Third Trial Be the Charm for Casden Brothers?

Condominium developer Alan Casden will return to trial for a third time against his brother Henry in a six-year dispute that began when the pair decided to work together.

Hahn Proposes More Funding for Police, Public Safety, Housing

In his annual State of the City speech on Monday, L.A. Mayor James Hahn proposed more funding for police, paramedics, after-school initiatives, violence prevention programs and housing.

Diners Gobble Up Liquor and Pizza Combo at CPK Eateries

California Pizza Kitchen customers can now skip the ice tea and order mixed drinks with their barbecue chicken pizzas.

Warner Music Sets IPO at 32.6 Million Shares

Underwriters for Warner Music Group Corp. on Monday set the terms of the record company's pending IPO at 32.6 million shares with an estimated price range of $22 to $24 a share.

Messages Can Reveal Sender's Real Agenda

Even the most carefully concealed e-mails can leave traces that can be retrieved and used in corporate espionage cases and sexual harassment lawsuits.

Adelphia Deal Could Lead to Changes to TV Scene

The proposed Time Warner purchase of Adelphia could have significant consequences on the cable and satellite scene, affecting both rates and programming.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

In the World of Payroll, Every Day Is Tax Day

Jerry Pavelec, president of EZNet Business Solutions, explains how to set up payroll and human resources systems and how traps can be avoided.

Redistrict Reform Battle Presses On Even as Deal Nears

Despite talk in Sacramento of a potential redistricting deal between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders, L.A. software entrepreneur Bill Mundell continues to push for a ballot measure on the issue.

AIG's Troubles Amount to Big Money, Even to L.A's Wealthiest

Some of L.A.'s richest men are big victims in the ongoing saga at American International Group Inc., whose shares have lost nearly half their value over the past year.

Spread of E-Mail Has Altered Communication Habits at Work

The growth of e-mail has changed the work habits of executives and other professionals, altering the way entire industries operate.

Activist Power

Karen Bass, the only African-American woman in the Legislature, is opposing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's reform initiatives while introducing bills that would ease the paperwork burden on small businesses.

L.A.-Area Gas Prices Slip for the First Time in 14 Weeks

A gallon of self-serve regular in Los Angeles fell a bit less than 1 cent to $2.594 for the week ended April 18, down from $2.602 the previous week.

Neighborhood Councils Stealing Chamber of Commerce Thunder

Some local chambers of commerce are watching with concern as neighborhood councils steal their thunder.

Importers Face Uncertainties Over Renewed Port Logjams

Surging apparel imports from China and a rise in traffic are raising concerns the ports could jam up sooner and in bigger numbers than in previous years.

Spending Up in Proposed Budget as Real Estate Market Raises Tax Revenues

Bolstered by a surging real estate market, L.A. county officials Monday unveiled a proposed $18.5 billion budget that restores some services cut during the last four years and reopens jails.

Global Crossing Settlement Called Wrist Slap as Case Ends

The SEC's settlement with Global Crossing Ltd. and three of its executives puts an end to a three-year investigation into the conduct of those running the company.

L.A. Stories

A collection of stories about culture and business in and around Los Angeles.

Writers, Stations at Loggerheads as Contract Talks Break Down

Labor strife is percolating at local CBS stations, as consolidation and other issues have arisen with the expiration of the writers' contract.

Uncertain Times for Clear Channel Cluster

Clear Channel executives say that Roy Laughlin's departure was not linked to a specific dispute over the chain's Los Angeles stations.

Lease Talks Failed to Fly Right, Judges Say

The city of Los Angeles may be forced to release bids on a site at Van Nuys Airport; officials had wanted to negotiate the lease in secret.

IDS Seeking to Move In on City Centre's Downtown Site

IDS Equities LLC has agreed to pay City Centre Development Ltd. about $50 million for a 6.3-acre parcel north of Staples Center, according to sources close to the deal.

Builders Can't Pencil Apartments

The high cost of land makes it unfeasible for developers to build apartments in L.A., a situation that may aggravate the city's affordable housing dilemma.

Boxed In

Williams Records Management was once a trucking and warehousing company; now it's a repository for paper and digital documents.

Soaring Aluminum Prices Lift Processor Reliance Sky High

Rising commercial aircraft orders are the wind beneath the wings of Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co.

Don't Dismiss L.A.-Style Sprawl as a Failed Experiment

When viewed from the prism of urban history, Los Angeles has become very much the global trailblazer for a new and still-evolving form of urbanism.

Newsmakers

The awards and promotions of the movers and shakers of L.A.'s business community.

Dispute Over Stretchable Trim May Undo Apparel Firm Tag-It

Apparel manufacturer Tag-It Pacific Inc. is locked in a lawsuit for a stretchable waistband material that could potentially wipe out 20 percent of the company's business.

Some Stick to Pen and Paper, Opting Out of E-Mail Revolution

There are still holdouts. Wesco Financial chief executive Charles Munger doesn't use e-mail and doesn't have any plans to.

Friday, April 15

L.A. Gas Prices Creep Up

The average price for regular self-serve unleaded gas in L.A. jumped 8.2 cents to $2.623 on Friday from $2.541 one week ago, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Consumer Sentiment Slips in April

U.S. consumer confidence fell in April as gasoline prices soared, reinforcing concerns that growth in the United States may be on the brink of a slowdown.

Industrial Output Up 0.3 Percent in March

Output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities rose by 0.3 percent in March despite the first decline in manufacturing activity in six months, the government reported Friday.

Oil Prices Fall Below $51 a Barrel

Crude futures fell Friday, dipping below the $51 mark, ahead of a meeting where the Group of Seven industrial nations were to discuss the economic impact of soaring energy prices.

Stocks Sink to 2005 Lows

Stocks plunged to 5 1/2-month lows on Friday, marking their third day of sharp falls, as economic growth appeared to slow in the U.S.

L.A. Times Weekday Circulation Declining

Los Angeles Times circulation could dip below 900,000 on weekdays when figures are reported to a national auditing firm early next month, executives of the newspaper's owner, Tribune Co., said Friday.

Beverly Hills Leads Rise in Hotel Room Rates, Which Edge Up Countywide

The average daily room rate inched up less than 1 percent across L.A. County in February, but that figure obscured big changes in submarket room rates across the county, said PKF Consulting.

Import Costs Jump, New York Factory Index Falls

An index of New York manufacturing conditions fell to a two-year low in April, while rising oil costs pushed U.S. import prices up at their fastest pace in two years.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Mattel's First Quarter Earnings Slump on Sales of Barbie, Hot Wheels

Mattel Inc. said Friday that its first-quarter earnings dropped nearly 28 percent from a year ago as sales of its Barbie and Hot Wheels brands fell and sales of its Fisher-Price products were essentially flat.

Baseball Team Deals Showing New Clout on Local TV Scene

Baseball broadcast deals illustrate the growing clout and spending power of regional sports networks, and the desire of teamowners to be on the air.

State and County Unemployment Rate Fall as Economy Adds Jobs

California's unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in March from 5.8 percent in February, as the economy added 17,600 non-farm jobs, the state Employment Development Department said Friday.

Thursday, April 14

Business Briefs: IHOP, NMB Technologies, Intermix Media, American Soil Technologies, East West Bancorp

IHOP's CEO is "disappointed" with first-quarter performance, a former employee of NMB is arrested on charges of e-mailing trade secrets to competitors, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Stock Indexes Reach New Lows for Year

The major stock indexes hit fresh lows for the year Thursday as continued improvement in the labor market and a government report on business inventories fueled concern economic growth is slowing.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Update: Hertzberg Endorses Villaraigosa

The last major endorsement in the Los Angeles mayoral race has gone against incumbent James Hahn. The announcement came at a biomedical facility in Sylmar Thursday morning, where L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina was on hand.

Jobless Claims Fall as Expected

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 last week, the second straight week of improvement, the government reported Thursday.

Crude Prices Up on Oil, Gas Stocks Report

Crude futures rose Thursday from near seven-week lows reached after a U.S. government report showed an increase in the country's oil and gasoline stocks.

Business Inventories Up 0.5 Percent in February

U.S. business inventories rose 0.5 percent in February, matching analyst expectations, while sales posted their largest drop in nearly two years, government data showed on Thursday.

UC Workers Stage One-Day Strike

The service workers at all nine UC campuses and five medical centers, including UCLA and the UCLA Medical Center, say they want higher wages, better training and more opportunities for promotion.

Resignation Illustrates Tensions Between Museum Staff, Donors

The announcement last week that Andrea Rich would resign as head of LACMA underscores the often-tumultuous relationships between boards and executives of arts institutions.

Wednesday, April 13

Business Briefs: Mattel, Computer Sciences Corp., Maguire Properties, Macerich, DirecTV, Hilton, Lions Gate

Mattel's annual proxy statement reveals its CEO's compensation, Computer Sciences Corp. completes its $185 million buy of the San Diego Tech Center, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Business Groups Clock In on Effort to Loosen Overtime Law

Several statewide business groups have launched an effort to loosen California's daily overtime law, although the change would face labor opposition.

Disappointing March Retail Sales Drive Down Stocks

Stocks fell sharply Wednesday despite a drop in oil prices as March retail sales fell short of expectations, damaging investor confidence in the economy.

Oil Prices Plunge on Inventory Report

Oil prices dropped by more than $1 a barrel Wednesday after the government released data that showed crude oil and gasoline supplies on the rise.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Slow Growth Expected for Global Economy

The global economy's growth is expected to slow this year as high energy prices weigh on activity, the International Monetary Fund reported Wednesday.

March Retail Sales Weaker Than Expected

U.S. retail sales rose 0.3 percent in March, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday, falling short of expectations after a sharp downturn in department store and clothing sales.

Tuesday, April 12

Stocks Reassured by Fed, Easing Oil

Stocks rallied on Tuesday after reassuring words from the Federal Reserve's March 22 meeting eased worries about aggressive interest-rate hikes, while crude oil fell below $52 a barrel.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

U.S. to Power Global GDP, International Monetary Fund Says

The world economy will expand 4.3 percent this year as strong growth in the U.S. and China balances weakness in Europe and Japan, the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday.

Ticketmaster Scores Win over Competitor in Contract Dispute

Online entertainment ticket retailer Ticketmaster has won a court victory in its ongoing legal dispute with Costa Mesa-based Tickets.com.

L.A. Loses Bid to Host Headquarters for New State Stem Cell Institute

L.A. and two other county cities lost long-shot bids Tuesday to host the headquarters of a new state stem cell research institute authorized as part of the $3 billion bond voters approved last fall.

Update: Dodgers' Home Opener a Sellout

Tuesday's home opener at Dodger Stadium was the team's fastest sellout since the team moved to Chavez Ravine in 1962, as the Dodgers pulled out an exciting ninth-inning win.

Mossimo Seeks to Take Company Private as Target Sales Slide

The founder and majority shareholder of the clothing maker offered Tuesday to buy up Mossimo's outstanding shares and take the company private, a move opposed by some shareholders.

Oxy Anticipates Added Activity on U.S. Terrain

The acquisition of El Segundo-based Unocal Corp. left Occidental Petroleum Corp. as the last company standing on the local scene, and it's expanding domestic operations.

Crude Futures Slump on Revised IEA Forecast

Oil prices dipped Tuesday on the heels of a revised forecast from the International Energy Agency for slowing growth in oil demand this year.

Environmental Lawyers Take Their Case Against Santa Monica Public

The legal team that won a $300 million settlement for Santa Monica two years ago after its water was polluted by MTBE is taking its case to the public after complaining the city has failed to pay its legal fees.

Business Briefs: Impco, Occidental Petroleum, PC Mall, Jacobs Engineering, Edison, China Digital, Innovo Group

Impco Technologies' CFO resigns, Occidental Petroleum sells its potassium products business, PC Mall spins off of eCOST.com, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Trade Deficit Widens More Than Expected

The U.S. trade deficit soared to an all-time high of $61.04 billion in February as the U.S. economy sucked in record imports, the government said Tuesday.

Verizon Files MCI Registration Statement

Verizon Communications Inc. said Tuesday it filed a registration statement with the SEC in connection with the company's proposed acquisition of MCI Inc.

Monday, April 11

Global Crossing, Three Former Executives Settle SEC Charges

Telecommunications firm Global Crossing Ltd. and three of its former executives on Monday settled accounting charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Film Student

Teri Schwartz has moved from producing star-driven Hollywood films to building a new cinema department at Loyola Marymount University.

Wendy's Names New Chief Executive of Faltering Baja Fresh

Wendy's International Inc. has named Brion Grube, a 15-year company veteran who expanded Wendy's reach in Canada, as chief executive of its troubled Baja Fresh chain of Mexican restaurants.

Newsmakers

The awards and promotions of the movers and shakers of L.A.'s business community.

Baseball Team Deals Showing New Clout on Local TV Scene

Baseball broadcast deals illustrate the growing clout and spending power of regional sports networks, and the desire of teamowners to be on the air.

Gateway Getting $150 Million From Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. has agreed to pay Irvine-based PC maker Gateway Inc. $150 million over four years to settle a legal dispute, and the companies will work together to develop and market Gateway products.

Support Flocks To Villaraigosa As Momentum Begins to Build

People who do business with City Hall are scrambling to get on board Antonio Villaraigosa's campaign, as the L.A. City Councilman appears to have the edge over the incumbent mayor.

Vons Tries to Reinvent Itself in Atmosphere and Food Selection

Vons stores are getting makeovers in the latest example of bigger chains trying to compete with specialty operations like Whole Foods.

Baseball's L.A. Standing Raised After Bad Year at Staples Center

A tough year at Staples Center the hockey strike and the Lakers' collapse has increased the rankings of baseball owners on this year's list of top sports executives.

Resignation Illustrates Tensions Between Museum Staff, Donors

The announcement last week that Andrea Rich would resign as head of LACMA underscores the often-tumultuous relationships between boards and executives of arts institutions.

Liberal Talk Station Takes Flight, but Stays Under Radar

After its troubled takeoff last year in L.A., Air America is broadcasting here again, with some signs of listener interest.

Insurance Firm Eyes Expansion As Means of Boosting Business

A 10-lawyer firm specializing in insurance coverage and founded by Los Angeles rainmaker Kirk Pasich is joining Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky LLP in opening its first California office.

Haute Couture Goes to the Dogs With New Breed of Boutiques

A tailored Angora wool outfit, replete with pockets and decorations, will set you back about $270 at Fifi & Romeo on Beverly Boulevard. Fashion doesn't come cheap even for dogs.

Safe Safaris

Destinations & Adventures offers customized high-end trips to Africa and other exotic locales.

Stocks End Mixed on Crude Rise, Ford Profit Warning

Stocks inched lower on Monday as crude oil prices rebounded late in the session and a profit warning from Ford Motor Co. weighed on the auto sector.

Fox Enters New Era With Hard Look at League Licenses

As Fox Sports matures from brash upstart to established heavyweight, big changes appear on the horizon.

Pay-to-Shelve Grocery Store Practices Called Too Pricey

A state Senate committee is considering legislation that would lift the veil on the practice of "slotting," or charging companies for shelf space.

Curator to Build Contemporary Collection at Hammer

Gary Garrels, the new senior curator of UCLA's Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, said his passion for contemporary art began with a visit to a show of Mark Rothko's paintings in 1974.

Losses Mount for Region's Hockey Teams

The cancellation of this year's season because of a labor impasse creates opportunities and challenges for owners.

Lawsuits Target Companies Over Pension Benefits

The law firm of Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstreif has found a lucrative niche by working for defendants and plaintiffs on class action suits over pension disputes.

L.A Gas Price Creeps Upward for 13th Week in a Row

The price for a gallon of self-serve regular in the L.A. area jumped nearly 13 cents last week to $2.602, according to survey data from the federal Energy Information Administration.

Court Order

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which presides over California and all other Western states, is large, busy and controversial.

Mergers and Acquisitions Making a Slow 2005 Start

Despite early predictions of robust dealmaking for 2005 and a few high-profile deals, merger and acquisition activity fell in the first quarter, both nationally and locally.

Korean-American Banking Icon Ends Tenure in Payments Flap

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has claimed an unlikely victim: Benjamin Hong, the longstanding former chief executive of Nara Bancorp, who is considered the "godfather" of Korean-American banking.

J2 Backers Retaining Optimism Despite Exposure on Phone Tax

Of all the e-mails that get sent by J2 Global Communications, its managers are hoping this one got through.

Hilton Charms Agents With Speedy Payments

Looking to ingratiate itself with travel agencies, Hilton Hotels Corp. now pays commissions on a weekly basis.

Oil Prices Up as OPEC Weighs Output Boost

Oil prices rose Monday, reversing an earlier decline of more than $1 a barrel as OPEC pondered a production increase next month.

China Unlikely to OK MG Rover Rescue

China's biggest carmaker said it was unlikely to agree to a rescue deal for MG Rover, as administrators battled on Monday to find a buyer for the UK firm.

Oxy Anticipates Added Activity on U.S. Terrain

The acquisition of El Segundo-based Unocal Corp. left Occidental Petroleum Corp. as the last company standing on the local scene, and it's expanding domestic operations.

L.A. Stories

A collection of stories about culture and business in and around Los Angeles.

Ford Shares Plummet After Earnings Warning

Shares of Ford Motor Co. fell on Monday to their lowest level in nearly two years after the automaker cut its 2005 earnings forecast and abandoned a key 2006 profit goal.

Corporations Make Donations Without Whole Explanation

Corporate-based foundations channel companies' charitable works, but without full disclosure to shareholders and regulators.

Business Briefs: Earle M. Jorgensen Co., Southwest Water, First Commerce Bancorp, American Business Bank, STAAR Surgical

Earle M. Jorgensen decides to go public, Southwest Water names a new CFO, First Commerce Bancorp and American Business Bank release quarterly results, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

History Doesn't End, but Politics Do

The Los Angeles mayor's race has a haggard, been-there-done-that feel as if the City of Angels were approaching the end of politics.

Sony Set to Put MGM Space on Office Sublease Market

Before the investment consortium led by Sony Corp. completes its acquisition of MGM, the group has hired CB Richard Ellis Inc. to sublet part of MGM's office space in Century City and Santa Monica.

Roosevelt Wraps Up 'Timeless' Renovation

The latest renovation of the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is set to be wrapped up next month an effort that owners hope will stand apart from some previous off-base endeavors.

Magic Johnson Endorses Villaraigosa

Hall-of-fame basketball star and businessman Earvin "Magic" Johnson endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa, becoming the latest prominent African-American to turn against incumbent Mayor James Hahn.

Maersk Lease Feud Heads to Court

Maersk and the Port of Long Beach are locked in a dispute over lease funds that could go to court if it can't be resolved through mediation.

Absence of Leadership May Hinder NFL Deal

In the past, politicians helped bring sports teams to the city. But these days, no one is stepping up to the plate.

Microsoft, Gateway End Lawsuits

Microsoft Corp. agreed to pay Gateway Inc. $150 million over four years to settle a legal dispute, and the companies will work together to develop and market Gateway products.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Hill Makes Climb to DirecTV Post

David Hill put Fox Sports on the map with both pro football and a new kind of game coverage. Now he's taking his ideas to satellite company DirecTV.

Dealing With Inventory Means Taking of Stock

As the volume of shipments grows, inventory control problems can become costly. Logistics consultant Rene Jones of AHM Corp. has some advice for small business owners ready to get their stockroom in order.

Unocal CEO's Pay Surges 86 Percent

Unocal Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Charles Williamson received $4.6 million in total pay last year, according to the company's annual proxy statement filed Monday with the SEC.

Business Groups Clock In on Effort to Loosen Overtime Law

Several statewide business groups have launched an effort to loosen California's daily overtime law, although the change would face labor opposition.

Saturday, April 9

L.A. Commuters Spending Less Time Stuck in Traffic

Despite improvements, L.A.'s freeways are still far more congested than in major cities such as Atlanta, San Francisco and New York.

Friday, April 8

GM Pulls Ads From L.A. Times

General Motors Corp. said Thursday it would stop advertising in the Los Angeles Times over disagreements with car reviews and other articles that have appeared in the newspaper.

Sony Set to Put MGM Space on Office Sublease Market

Before the investment consortium led by Sony Corp. completes its acquisition of MGM, the group has hired CB Richard Ellis Inc. to sublet part of MGM's office space in Century City and Santa Monica.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

99 Cents Only Stores Records Same-Store Sales Drop in First Quarter

The City of Commerce retailer reports that its same-store sales fell 2.8 percent but blames outside factors, including a strike in the first quarter of 2004 that artificially inflated sales and created an unfavorable comparison.

Britain's MG Rover Collapses

MG Rover Group succumbed to its mounting debts Friday and filed for bankruptcy protection after a deal with a Chinese automaker fell through and a government loan wasn't granted.

Stocks Down Even as Oil Prices Fall for Fifth Straight Day

Stocks ended lower Friday after a week of gains, even as oil prices fell for a fifth straight day and two big cable operators reportedly agreed to bid for bankrupt Adelphia Communications Corp.

Business Briefs: Big 5 Sporting Goods, MGM, Hilton Hotels, IHOP, Bluetorch

Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. faces being delisted from the Nasdaq, the consortium led by Sony Corp. completes its acquisition of MGM, and other business briefs about L.A. companies.

L.A. Gas Prices Continue Climbing

Double digit increases in gas prices helped drive the average price for regular unleaded gasoline in L.A. up 14 cents per gallon in the week ended April 8, said the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Consumer Confidence Edges Up Slightly

Consumer confidence held fairly steady over the past month even against the backdrop of surging energy prices, a slowdown in the growth of payrolls and rising interest rates.

Time Warner, Comcast to Buy Adelphia

Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp. have reached a tentative agreement to buy the cable TV company Adelphia Communications Corp. for nearly $18 billion, according to newspaper reports.

Oil Prices Fall More Than $1 a Barrel

Oil prices fell by more than $1 a barrel Friday, dropping for the fifth straight day as gasoline futures tumbled and brokers said the market had jumped too high, too fast.

Thursday, April 7

Teamsters and Food Workers Target 99 Cents Only Stores

After successfully organizing a handful of 99 Cents Only Stores truck drivers last year, the Teamsters have joined with the UFCW to unionize the rest of the discount chain's employees.

Oil Prices Drop Sharply As Gas Falls

Oil prices fell nearly $2 a barrel Thursday, following the lead of gasoline futures.

Parsons Buys Construction Company in Washington State

Parsons, the Pasadena-based construction management firm, said on Thursday that it acquired Sumner, Wash.-based RCI Construction Group.

Retailers Post Mixed March Sales

Youth-oriented apparel sellers were the big winners as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Limited Brands missed Wall Street forecasts. Higher-end department stores again delivered impressive results.

Hahn's Latest Fundraising Lags Behind Villaraigosa by One-Third

Mayor James Hahn raised $408,000 in the first four weeks of the mayoral runoff, excluding city matching funds, more than one-third less than the $653,000 Villaraigosa's campaign reported Wednesday.

Jobless Claims Post Biggest Dip in Two Months

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped by 19,000 last week, the largest decline in two months, the government reported Thursday.

Schwarzenegger Abandons Plan to Reform Pension System

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday bowed to pressure from law-enforcement groups who said the proposal would deny benefits to spouses of personnel who die in the line of duty.

March Home Foreclosure Listings Up

The number of foreclosed homes put up for sale rose 50 percent between February and March, according to a new study by Foreclosure.com.

Home Affordability in L.A. Declines Sharply in February

The number of people who could afford to purchase median-priced homes in the L.A. region decreased in February from a year earlier, a report said Thursday.

Business Briefs: GRE Shoreline Square, Tekelec, KB Home, Diodes

Trizec Properties sells a Long Beach property to joint venture GRE Shoreline Square for $87.4 million, Tekelec names a new senior vice president and CFO, and other business briefs about L.A. companies.

L.A. Times Acquires Two Local Papers

The Los Angeles Times said on Thursday that its Times Community News division has bought the La Canada Valley Sun and the Crescenta Valley Sun from Century Group newspapers.

Stocks Rally as Oil Prices Drop

Stocks ended higher Thursday, as the prospect of a good earnings season and lower fuel prices brightened investors' moods.

Chick Audit Critical of Public Works but Finds No Criminal Wrongdoing

L.A. City Controller Laura Chick on Thursday accused the city's Department of Public Works of awarding its annual contracts without considering competing bids or exploring possible efficiencies.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Earnings Roundup: Enova Systems, Cherokee, UTI Worldwide, First Regional Bancorp, Prospect Medical Holdings

A number of local companies in the Los Angeles area reported higher earnings on Thursday.

Wednesday, April 6

Crude Prices Dip on U.S. Supply Report

Oil prices settled lower Wednesday as investors weighed concerns about rising gasoline demand against government data that showed increases in the nation's crude supply and refining activity.

D.A.'s Public Integrity Unit Serves Search Warrants in Vernon

L.A. County investigators serve 10 search warrants throughout the day, seeking evidence of misuse of public funds.

Burkle's Sowing of Wild Oats Hints at Potential Turnaround

Billionaire Ron Burkle has cast a vote of confidence in the natural food chain Wild Oats, which has struggled in a segment dominated by Whole Foods Market Inc.

Business Briefs: DaVita, Tetra Tech, WPT Enterprises, Gemstar-TV Guide, Roger Richman Agency, DirecTV, Banyan

DaVita could soon land $2.95 billion in financing to buy Gambro AB's U.S. clinics, Tetra Tech gets a $125 million Navy contract, WPT Enterprises names a new CEO, and other business briefs about L.A. companies.

Nara Faces Possible Nasdaq Delisting

Failure to file 10-K leads to delisting warning, but company says it is working to file annual report as soon as possible. Analyst calls warning a analyst calls warning a "formality."

Mortgage Applications Fell Last Week

Applications for U.S. home mortgages eased last week along with weaker refinancings despite a dip in 30-year mortgage rates, an industry group said on Wednesday.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Curb Fannie, Freddie Growth, Fed Chairman Greenspan Says

Alan Greenspan urged Congress Wednesday to limit the size of the portfolios held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying it was vital to cut the risks they pose to the U.S. financial system.

Stocks End Mixed on Fuel Supply Report

Stocks finished mixed Wednesday, as a government report showed an improved supply outlook for oil and investors shifted their focus to company news.

Villaraigosa Raises $652,000 for Mayoral Runoff Election

The pace of contributions to Mayor James Hahn's challenger is picking up, but it's still slower than four years ago when Villaraigosa lost in the last head-to-head L.A. mayoral election.

MCI Shareholders Criticize Qwest Rejection

Four major MCI shareholders criticized the company's board Wednesday for favoring a $7.5 billion takeover by Verizon over a high-priced offer from Qwest, raising the likelihood the bidding war will continue.

Tuesday, April 5

Manufacturing Loses Ground but Prognosis Improves

Local manufacturing lost 15,700 jobs last year, but the sector is ready for a modest rebound, according to a report by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Crude Futures Fall After EU Cuts Forecast, Greenspan Comments

Oil prices fell Tuesday after the European Union cut its economic growth forecast and and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan expressed confidence that market forces would eventually bring oil prices under control.

Stocks End Higher on Greenspan's Reassurance

Stocks were encouraged by retreating crude futures, as Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said he expected high prices would curb demand while increasing production and exploration.

Apartment Rental Prices, Rates to Soar by Year's End, Study Says

Soaring housing prices and a lack of new apartments could lead to a sizeable hike in asking rents by year-end, according to a study released today by the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Chain Store Sales Fall in the Last Week of March

U.S. chain store sales fell in the fifth and final week of March, as storms cut into demand for spring apparel, a report said on Tuesday.

Villaraigosa Gets Coveted Bernard Parks Endorsement

L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks spurned Mayor James Hahn and endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa for mayor Tuesday, bolstering the Hispanic candidate's bid to gain greater black support.

Napster Boosts Sales View

Napster Inc. on Tuesday raised its fourth-quarter revenue guidance due to a jump in subscriber growth and stronger-than-expected sales of music downloads, sending its shares up nearly 18 percent.

Business Briefs: Jacobs Engineering, Reliance Steel & Aluminum, Northrop, JAMDAT, TAG Entertainment, NetSol

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. subsidiaries are awarded two engineering contracts, Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. raises its first-quarter guidance, and other business briefs about L.A. companies.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Pfizer Unveils Plan to Save $4 Billion

Pfizer Inc. on Tuesday forecast 2005 earnings at the low end of expectations and targeted $4 billion in cost savings as it struggles with patent expirations and waning demand for its arthritis drugs.

Morgan Stanley to Spin Off Credit Card Unit

Morgan Stanley plans to spin off its Discover Card division to existing shareholders, ending speculation that the credit card unit might be sold.

Monday, April 4

Computer Bug

Network Magic Unlimited has shifted from computer reselling to technical consulting and software related to problems such as viruses, spam and spyware.

Critical Endorsements Expected Soon from Parks and Hertzberg

Two of the most important endorsements in L.A.'s mayoral runoff are expected this week or next.

Perenchio Pay Comes in Different Way

A. Jerrold Perenchio has long refused to accept a salary to run the nation's largest Spanish-language media company. But Univision has paid his investment firm, Chartwell Partners LLC, millions of dollars.

Qwest Sends Financing Commitment to MCI

Qwest Communications International Inc. on Monday said it had delivered signed financing commitments regarding a potential transaction to MCI's board.

City Shaping

Suzanne Frick is leaving her position as planning director for Santa Monica, where her department came under sometimes harsh attack.

Appeal Ruling Rewrites Script in Lawsuit Over 'Stepmom'

In a case that appears to limit the rights of screenwriters to pursue copyright infringement cases, a 9th Circuit judicial panel has ruled against a screenwriter suing Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Stocks Mixed on Volatile Oil Prices

Volatile oil prices kept stocks mixed Monday, even as crude futures briefly pushed past $58 per barrel in early trading. Oil's move higher overshadowed ChevronTexaco Corp.'s $16.4 billion bid for Unocal Corp.

Employers Need Flexible Path for Women

Highly qualified women want to work. Not only have they invested heavily in their education and careers, but their professions give shape and meaning to their lives.

Changing Times

The Los Angeles Times' new publisher faces a decline in circulation and fallout from a $1 billion tax dispute.

Update: LACMA Head to Resign Her Post

Andrea L. Rich, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is resigning from her post, a move that comes on the heels of the museum's announcement that it was moving forward with a big expansion after obtaining the needed funding.

Business Briefs: Cheesecake Factory, Northrop, Inamed, National Lampoon

The Cheesecake Factory Inc. averts a delisting on the Nasdaq, Northrop Grumman Corp. gets a contract extension with Vought Aircraft Industries, and other business briefs about L.A. companies.

Teamsters and Food Workers Target 99 Cents Only Stores

After successfully organizing a handful of 99 Cents Only Stores truck drivers last year, the Teamsters have joined with the UFCW to unionize the rest of the discount chain's employees.

At Public Companies, Rash of Upheaval Sweeps CFO Ranks

More CFOs are getting off the hot seat these days: recent resignations have hit 99 Cents Only Stores and Countrywide Financial, and Nara Bancorp reassigned its finance chief to a non-accounting position.

Manufacturing Loses Ground but Prognosis Improves

Local manufacturing lost 15,700 jobs last year, but the sector is ready for a modest rebound, according to a report by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Landlords Discover Profit Can Be Spread in Inner City

The founders of Learning Links LLC believe landlords in troubled neighborhoods can increase their profits by setting up a resource center and discounting rent for a teacher.

El Al Adds Flight as Tourism Heats Up, Violence Cools

If El Al Israel Airlines is any barometer, interest among Angelenos in visiting Israel has been on an upswing as violence in the Middle East subsides.

Aeronautical Engineer Getting Project Ready for Liftoff

Aeronautical engineering was the only thing Ivett A. Leyva ever wanted to do.

L.A. Gas Prices Up for the 12th Straight Week

Gas prices jumped nearly 8 cents a gallon last week in L.A., the third straight month they have been on the rise, according to data from the federal Energy Information Administration.

L.A. Tax Relief Seen as Having Little Effect on Business Costs

L.A.'s much-touted business tax overhaul will have only a negligible effect on the already high cost of doing business in the city, according to a new study.

Oil Prices Fall From $58 a Barrel Mark

Oil prices briefly topped $58 a barrel Monday, then reversed course, as OPEC ministers said they had begun discussing a second output rise to try to calm the overheated market.

Papers Spar In Court Over Right To Carry Official Local Notices

The Metropolitan News-Enterprise and the Los Angeles Daily Journal are fighting the latest skirmish among smaller newspapers over the right to publish ads for foreclosures, fictitious business names and probate cases.

Mixed-Use Complex Planned For Long-Empty Wilshire Lot

A new player is trying to develop a prime stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills that's been vacant for 30 years.

Hallmark Channel Goes Back in Time With One-Sponsor Shows

The Hallmark Channel is turning over chunks of its schedule to "sponsored programs" with exclusivity arrangements, a strategy that has helped boost ad revenues by about 45 percent.

Governor Inks Pact for New Power Line to Halt Blackouts

Gov. Schwarzenegger and governors of Nevada, Utah and Wyoming on Monday announced an agreement to build a new electric transmission line to relieve bottlenecks in the current Western U.S. power grid.

Owners of Small Funds Finding Their Names Disclosed on Web

If you value your privacy, be careful investing in small funds. That's the lesson investors learned when mutual fund companies inadvertently posted customers' account numbers and addresses on the Internet.

Getting Back on Track After a Server Disaster

Jason Buffington of NSI Software, a company that provides data replication and computer services for business, offers pointers on what all companies big and small should consider to ensure their computers stay up and running

Chihuahua Victory Goes to Chiat/Day

Chiat/Day doesn't have to pay damages in a lawsuit over the talking chihuahua that starred in its ad campaign.

Sliding Crude and AIG Settlement News Bolster Markets

Stocks ended higher Monday as crude oil futures retreated from record highs, and the shares of American International Group Inc. surged on reports it was close to a legal settlement.

Unocal's El Segundo HQ Could Be Shuttered

Unocal Corp.'s headquarters in El Segundo, with its 125 employees, might be shuttered as a result of its acquisition by ChevronTexaco as the oil giant squeezes out operating efficiencies.

L.A. Stories

A collection of stories about culture and business in and around Los Angeles.

Wrongful Termination Suit Unlikely to Heighten Scrutiny

A wrongful termination lawsuit isn't likely to increase scrutiny of senior executives at Fleishman-Hillard, accordingto those familiar with the investigation into alleged overbilling.

Major Donors

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gears up his campaign for a slate of initiatives to change the way California runs, he's being backed by business interests.

Newsmakers

The awards and promotions of the movers and shakers of L.A.'s business community.

Frenzy of Activity Hits Accountants

As a result of Sarbanes-Oxley reform, accountants across Los Angeles and the U.S. are scrambling to address new details or undertake auditing overhauls.

'Independent' Rock Station Finds It Must Stand on Its Own

Now that Indie 103.1 has lost its relationship with Clear Channel because of federal ownership rules, it must sell its own advertising, forcing it to hire a new sales staff and station manager

Cochran's Legacy Goes Beyond O.J.

Johnnie Cochran was more than a flamboyant, race conscious, courtroom showman. He also sought to use his prodigious talent to defend the rights of the poor and the dispossessed.

UC Service Workers Set Strike Date

Thousands of service workers employed by the University of California said Monday that April 14 will be the date of a one-day strike unless significant progress is made in negotiations for a new contract.

Burkle's Sowing of Wild Oats Hints at Potential Turnaround

Billionaire Ron Burkle has cast a vote of confidence in the natural food chain Wild Oats, which has struggled in a segment dominated by Whole Foods Market Inc.

Big Names Draw Crowds, With a Bonus of Networking

Organizers of the World Business Forum and other similar conferences expect a tough crowd for talks from multiple marquee speakers.

Drugstores Surviving Onslaught Of Chains by Banding Together

Independent drugstores were headed for the endangered list a few years ago, but in Los Angeles community pharmacies are holding on tightly, even as drugstore chains move into their neighborhoods.

Friday, April 1

Italian Firm Eni SpA Reportedly Close to Buying Unocal Corp.

Eni SpA may be close to winning a $17 billion bidding contest for El Segundo-based oil company Unocal Corp., Italian newspaper Finanza & Mercati reported.

At Meetings, Executive's Style Can Reveal Itself in Odd Ways

With financial information on the Internet and investors gravitating toward funds, annual meetings aren't the same.

Business Briefs: Computer Sciences Corp., Staar Surgical, Flamemaster, Beverly Hills Film Studios, Teledyne Technologies

Computer Sciences Corp. extends an IT outsourcing contract with General Dynamics worth $1.6 billion, Staar Surgical sells 4.1 million newly issued shares, and other business briefs about L.A. companies.

Record Oil Prices and Inflation Fears Spook Market

Stocks ended sharply lower Friday on record high oil prices and a manufacturing report indicating increasing prices that reignited inflation fears.

MCI to Reopen Merger Talks with Qwest

MCI Inc. said on Friday it would reopen merger talks with Qwest just three days after it agreed to a sweetened $7.5 billion buyout offer from Verizon.

Payroll Growth Surprisingly Weak, Unemployment Rate Dips

Payroll growth was sluggish in March as employers created 110,000 jobs, the smallest gain in eight months. Still, the the unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top L.A. business stories.

Manufacturing Activity Grows in March

The manufacturing sector expanded in March for the 22nd consecutive month, but at a slightly slower pace than in February, the Institute for Supply Management said Friday.

Oil Rises to New High Above $57

Oil prices rallied to a record close above $57 a barrel Friday, boosted by a jump in gasoline futures that could send the average retail cost of gasoline above $2.25 a gallon within weeks.

Gas Prices Rise on Crude Futures Surge

Gas prices followed rising oil prices, helping drive the average price for regular unleaded gasoline in L.A. up 5.3 cents per gallon in the week ended April 1, said the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Earnings Roundup: IMPCO, TMSF Holdings, Kennedy Wilson, 5G Wireless Communications

A number of local companies in the Los Angeles area reported higher earnings on Friday.