Stories for February 2005

Monday, February 28

Court Says Street Beautification No Harm to Billboard Firm

A local billboard company lost a court ruling this month in a case in which it claims that palm trees and lighted pylons placed by the city of Los Angeles obstructed its billboards along Century Boulevard.

Low-Profile Capital Gets High Scrutiny

Capital Group Cos. is defending itself against conflict of interest allegations while trying to maintain its pristine reputation.

Candidates Square Off in Final Debate Before L.A. Mayoral Primary

The five major candidates for L.A. mayor turned their attention to themes of planning, housing development, traffic and dealing with the homeless.

Lured by Value, New Residents Push for New Commercial Mix

Drawn by its architecture and affordability, a new generation of homeowners is changing the face of L.A.'s historic West Adams district.

Employers Face an Extended Wait For Relief on Workers' Comp Bills

Brokers say the average rate reduction for workers' compensation premiums has been running between 5 percent and 10 percent this year.

JetBlue's Burbank Presence Changes Airport's Horizons

More advanced planes make non-stop Burbank-to-New York service a reality.

Chef's Choice

A former bill collector followed his muse into the kitchen, launching Chef Eric's Culinary Classroom to give improved stove skills to food lovers and future professionals.

How to Follow L.A.'s Political Contribution Rules

L.A.'s municipal election political fundraising has been going on at a fever pitch. For those inclined to commit dollars and/or time to local political campaigns, consider some of the rules and regulations.

Stamps.com Sticking to Basics To Reinvigorate Core Business

After an infamous foray into personalized postage that wound up being suspended by the U.S. Postal Service, Stamps.com has refocused its business, and fourth-quarter results indicate that the company is back on track.

Federated to Buy May in $11 Billion Deal

Federated Department Stores Inc. on Monday said it would buy rival May Department Stores Co. for $11 billion in a deal to create the largest U.S. department store chain.

Earnings Roundup: PeopleSupport, Univision Communications, Ducommun Inc., Innovo Group

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

China's Boom Being Felt by Local Recycling Firms

It's boom time in the scrap-metal industry, thanks to insatiable demand from the expanding Chinese economy.

Wendy's Rollout of Stores Falters

When Wendy's International Inc. bought Baja Fresh in 2002, it was heralded as the perfect marriage, but less than three years later, that marriage is in trouble.

Mayoral Hopefuls Play TV Chess Game

Mayoral candidates assess strategies amid higher TV rates and a new "people meter" system that measures audiences.

Dollar Loses Ground to Yen, Euro

The yen soared on Monday after data showed Japanese industrial output and retail sales posted strong growth in January, and the dollar fell against the euro.

Morning Headlines

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

Rising Prices Lead Owners to Convert Rentals to Co-Ops

The co-op concept has long been a staple of the East Coast real estate scene, and it's begun making inroads in L.A.

Investors Undaunted by Pricey Office

With average Beverly Hills office rates nearly the most expensive in L.A. County, interested buyers are paying top-dollar to ferret out off-market deals.

Estimates for 2005 Earnings Rise for Local Companies

Local businesses are poised to continue generating growth, with oil, videogame and raw materials companies showing the greatest momentum.

Nissan Open Sponsors Doused

When the Nissan Open got rained out, sponsors didn't get the publicity they'd hoped for, and a local non-profit lost out too.

Voters Face Contests on Council Seat, Beverly Hills Project

While the L.A. mayor's primary contest is all over the headlines and TV ads, area voters next Tuesday will decide several other key races and issues.

Amgen's Psoriasis Spots, Latest Target in FDA Crackdown on Ads, Get Pulled

Following similar moves against advertising for other drugs, the FDA has forced Amgen to pull ads for its psoriasis drug, Enbrel.

Prepare for Challenges In New Chinese Market

Case Study is a new feature in which experts offer practical advice on the various challenges that small business owners encounter every day.

L.A. Stories

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

Valley View

Once a campaign consultant for Vice President Spiro Agnew, L.A. City Councilman Greig Smith has endorsed Mayor James Hahn for re-election, even though he has opposed Hahn on some major issues.

Newsmakers

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

Stocks Dip on Inflation Worries, GM Downgrade, Biotech Fall

Stocks fell Monday on investors' anxiety over the threat of inflation, declines in biotechnology shares and a downgrade of General Motors Corp. stock.

Lawsuits Jeopardize Stem Cell Research Funding

The $3 billion in stem cell research, approved by California voters last November as part of Proposition 71, could be in jeopardy as a result of lawsuits filed last week.

Jakks Wrestling With Problems Of Executive Pay, Restatements

Tucked away in Jakks Pacific Inc.'s fourth-quarter earnings report was this nugget: top executives at the Malibu-based toy maker received $13.6 million in stock-related compensation last year, to go along with their already healthy salaries.

Ryland Group Executive Settles Insider Trading Charges

A Ryland Group Inc. division president agreed Monday to settle civil insider trading charges that he sold shares in the L.A.-based homebuilder before it reported a drop in orders.

Crude Futures Stay Above $51 a Barrel

Crude prices rose Monday, extending their recent surge above $51 a barrel amid concerns about continuing cold weather in the Northeast and the possibility OPEC will cut production in March.

Boingo Partners With Boeing for Airborne WiFi

Santa Monica-based Boingo will offer subscribers links into Boeing's in-flight system, making wireless service available to passengers.

Yaroslavsky Seeks Elected Chief Executive for L.A. County

L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said he is "seriously considering" asking voters to approve creation of an elected county chief executive, calling the five-member Board of Supervisors ineffective.

L.A. Gas Prices Keep Moving Up

For the seventh week in a row, gas prices edged up in Los Angeles, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

Income Falls, Core Inflation Picks Up

U.S. consumer spending was unchanged in January, personal income fell 2.3 percent, and the price index for consumer spending gained 0.2 percent, a government report showed Monday.

Competitive, Geographic Issues Mean China Flights Bypass L.A.

A combination of economic and geographic factors kept LAX out of the mix when the government tentatively granted weekly routes to China to two airlines.

Best for Business?

Can any of the four challengers be a better steward of the economy than Mayor James Hahn? At stake is whether L.A. can attract new companies with higher wage jobs and keep the ones that are here from fleeing.

Small Gains Predicted for Regional Economy

Southern California will experience a modest increase in economic activity in the next three to six months, according to data from the Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies.

Questions Over Billings, Profits Plague Insurer

Health Net Inc., facing pressure to improve its financial performance and mend fences with hospitals that claim they were shortchanged, has shaken up its California operations.

Impact of May-Federated Merger Looms

The proposed $17 billion acquisition of May Department Stores Co. by Federated Department Stores Inc. will mean the end of the Robinsons-May brand and the likely loss of local jobs.

Friday, February 25

California's Unemployment Rate Dips 0.2 Percent in January

The Golden State's unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent in January, from 6 percent in December, as the state added 20,000 non-farm payroll jobs.

City National Pays $750,000 to End Federal Money-Laundering Investigation

City National Bank, targeted by regulators for alleged violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and other money-laundering laws, agreed to the fine to settle the investigation.

Morning Headlines

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

Business Community Splits Allegiances on Mayoral Candidates

Unlike previous mayoral primaries in which there was a clear business candidate, the major contenders in this primary have split the vote.

L.A. Gas Prices Rise 3.7 Cents Over Week Before

California's mandated seasonal fuel blend switch helped drive the average price for regular unleaded gasoline in L.A. up 3.7 cents per gallon in the week ended Feb. 25.

Avery Dennison Names Scarborough CEO in Planned Succession

Avery Dennison Corp., the giant label maker, named Dean A. Scarborough its president and chief executive, replacing Philip M. Neal, who remains chairman after leading the company for the past seven years.

Dollar Flat Against Euro on GDP Data

The dollar traded flat Friday against the euro after a report showed the U.S. economy grew in line with economists' expectations in the fourth quarter.

Oil Holds Above $51 Per Barrel

Oil stayed above $51 a barrel on Friday despite warnings from big consuming nations that economic growth may suffer from a renewed rise in fuel costs.

Home Prices Continue to Surge as Sales Activity Slows

The median price of a single-family house in L.A. County surged in January, while sales activity only marginally improved, according the California Association of Realtors.

GDP Revised on Stronger Exports

U.S. economic momentum at the end of 2004 was stronger than previously thought, according to a government report on Friday revising up fourth-quarter output on stronger exports and investment.

California Unemployment Rate Declined in January

California's unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent in January, from 6 percent in the previous month, as the state added 20,000 non-farm payroll jobs.

Avery Dennison Taps New Chief Executive in Planned Succession

The label maker named Dean A. Scarborough its president and CEO, replacing Philip M. Neal, who remains chairman after leading the company for seven years.

Existing Home Sales Dip in January

Sales of existing homes slipped 0.1 percent in January as appealing mortgage rates supported demand in the housing market, a real estate trade group said Friday.

Better-Than-Expected GDP Raises Stocks

News that the economy grew at a better-than-expected rate of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter sent the major indexes higher Friday.

Thursday, February 24

JetBlue Airways Announces Burbank to New York Flights

The discount airline announced Thursday it will offer three daily non-stop flights from Bob Hope Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport starting May 24.

Poll Shows Early Voter Support for Schwarzenegger Agenda

Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposal to phase out the $300 billion state workers' pensions system in favor of individual retirement accounts is supported by half of voters, a poll found Thursday.

Most U.S. CEOs See Business Conditions Improving

Confidence in the U.S. economy is picking up as business conditions improve and profits rise at a majority of large companies, a new survey of corporate leaders found.

USDA Ups Farm Exports Forecast to $59 Billion

The U.S. will export $59 billion worth of farm goods in fiscal 2005, up from a previous forecast of $56 billion, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday.

Amtrak's Northbound Service to Remain Closed Through Weekend

Amtrak rail service north of L.A. shut down Monday will remain offline until this weekend, as the recent storms once again damaged tracks along the train's coastal route.

Mayoral Candidates Raise Nearly $8 Million in Hotly Contested Race

L.A.'s mayoral candidates have raised nearly $8 million and spent nearly $7 million according to figures submitted by the campaigns to the city Ethics Commission on Thursday.

Durable Goods Orders Dip, Jobless Claims Rise

New orders for durable goods tumbled in January and initial claims for jobless benefits rose last week, according to government reports released Thursday.

Dollar Slips Further Against Euro

The dollar slipped again Thursday against the euro, which was rising on doubts that the United States' trade imbalances will narrow soon.

Oil Prices Rise Toward $52

Crude futures moved toward $52 a barrel Thursday afternoon, as traders remained anxious over mixed signals from OPEC and winter weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

Morning Headlines

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

Yahoo Starts to Sing a New Tune Over Music Downloading

After Apple's success with iTunes and the emergence of music download services, Yahoo Inc., through its Yahoo! Music unit, is making another run at online song-selling.

Stocks Rise Despite Weak Jobs Data, High Oil Prices

Stocks ended higher on Thursday as a strong government oil inventory report helped investors look past oil prices at four-month highs and unimpressive economic data.

Earnings Roundup: Jamdat Mobile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., Tekelec, VCA Antech Inc., IHOP Corp., Fremont General Corp., Point.360

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

Luxury Home Prices in L.A. County Surge 28 Percent

Luxury homes in Los Angeles County posted their largest-ever gains in appreciation last year, according to an annual survey by Fist Republic Bank.

Wednesday, February 23

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lambastes Local Opposition

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Chief Executive Lee Scott said Wednesday that despite opposition in some corners from labor and community groups, the world's largest retailer would hold fast to its commitment to open new stores in California including 25 this year

Consumer Price Rise Eases Fears

Consumer prices edged up just 0.1 percent in January as energy costs went down significantly for the second straight month, according to a report on Wednesday.

Legal Challenges to Stem Cell Initiative Filed

Two petitions have been filed with the state Supreme Court to halt California's stem-cell initiative.

Update: Topanga Canyon Boulevard Closed as Rain-Related Costs Mount

The rains that drenched Southern California and triggered mudslides, washed away roads and left at least nine dead subsided Wednesday as sunshine fought its way through the clouds.

Crude Oil Prices Hover Above $51

Oil prices stayed above $51 a barrel Wednesday, holding onto some of Tuesday's gains as traders worried about the impact of a weaker dollar on energy markets.

Dollar Gains on Euro, Yen

The dollar recovered slightly Wednesday after a monthly survey found German executives less optimistic about Europe's biggest economy and South Korea denied plans to sell the currency.

Earnings Roundup: Gemstar-TV Guide, Molina Healthcare, Thomas Properties Group, Specialty Laboratories

Quarterly results from TV program guides provider Gemstar-TV Guide, managed care organization Molina Healthcare, real estate operating firm Thomas Properties Group, and clinical tests provider Specialty Laboratories.

Feds Set Up Health Care Fraud Unit to Address Jump in Scams

Health care fraud has become so bad in Southern California that the U.S. Attorneys Office has formed a criminal unit dedicated to the problem.

Schwarzenegger's Approval Rating Slipping, Poll Says

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's job approval rating remains high, but his support has slipped from the lofty levels during his first year in office, according to a poll released Wednesday.

Morning Headlines

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

Tame Inflation Data Helps Lift Stock Market

Stocks finished higher on Wednesday after investors got some reassurance from government data showing only modest inflation.

CB Richard Ellis Names President as CEO

CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. named Brett White to succeed Chief Executive Ray Wirta on June 2, as part of a long-planned succession strategy.

Tuesday, February 22

Boeing to Sell Rocketdyne Unit for $700 Million

Boeing Co. reached an agreement Tuesday to sell its Canoga Park-based Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power division to Pratt & Whitney, one of the world's largest manufacturers of aircraft engines, for $700 million in cash.

Earnings Roundup: Skechers USA Inc., Herbalife Ltd., Cogent Systems

Quarterly results from footwear maker Skechers USA Inc., nutritional supplement vendor Herbalife Ltd. and fingerprint identification firm Cogent Systems.

Morning Headlines

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

Consumer Confidence Dips in February

The consumer confidence index fell in February, but remained above its levels from one year ago, a New York-based business research group reported Tuesday.

L.A. Gas Prices Continue to Climb

For the sixth week in a row, gas prices rose in Los Angeles, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

Dollar Falls on Central Banks's Shifts

The dollar dipped on Tuesday on concerns that central banks were shifting their reserves out of dollar assets.

Economic Growth Likely to Ease in 2005

Economic growth will slow this year, but it will still be enough to reduce the nation's unemployment rate, business economists say.

Storm Losing Steam, Forecasters Say

More rain is expected in Southern California Tuesday, but forecasters said the weather that triggered mudslides and washed away roads should continue to improve as the system loses steam.

Stocks Fall as Rising Oil Prices Spark Inflation Fears

Stocks fell sharply on Tuesday after oil prices climbed to a 15-week high and the dollar fell against the yen, touching off inflation fears.

Crude Jumps Above $51 a Barrel

Oil prices jumped to their highest level in more than three months on Tuesday, rallying above $51 a barrel as traders considered cold weather, the declining dollar and a potential cut in supply from OPEC.

California Small Business Owners Optimistic About 2005

More than two out of three California small business owners expect growth this year to top 2004 and nearly 36 percent plan to hire new employees, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

Jakks Pacific to Restate 2002, 2003 Net Income

Jakks Pacific Inc. said Tuesday it will restate 2002 and 2003 net income because it misclassified assets related to several acquisitions.

Operations, Finances Cited as Red Cross Sells Headquarters

The American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles, struggling financially despite donations targeted for tsunami relief, is planning to sell its Wilshire Boulevard headquarters.

Countrywide to Revise 2004 Results Due to Accounting Error

Countrywide Financial Corp. said it overstated its 2004 results by 20 cents a share because it improperly recognized securities sales in quarterly periods when the sales were made afterward.

Monday, February 21

Development Duo Saw Nightclubs as Primary Attraction

David Gajda and Jose Malagon didn't intend to become major Hollywood players when they sought a Cahuenga Corridor home for their business offices 12 years ago.

Novartis Buys Generic Drugmakers Hexal and Eon

Novartis AG said Monday it will buy generic drugmakers Eon Labs and Hexal AG for $8.3 billion, creating the world's largest generic drug company.

Newsmakers

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

Teamsters Back Drivers' Antitrust Proposal

Stymied in its efforts to organize independent owner-operators that truck freight, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is backing state legislation exempting drivers from anti-trust laws.

New Policing Strategies Significantly Reducing Area's Crime Problem

You won't find Michael Downing's name in cement out front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, But Hollywood's top cop has left deep footprints along the Walk of Fame with his inclusive brand of community policing.

Operations, Finances Cited as Red Cross Sells Headquarters

The American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles, struggling financially despite an outpouring of donations targeted for tsunami relief, is planning to sell its Wilshire Boulevard headquarters.

Doctor-Turned-Activist Treated Yucca Corridor

When Socoro Callejaf moved to Hollywood from Mexico City in 1992, she quickly noticed the obvious: a concentration of liquor stores near local schools and an absence of affordable housing.

'Taxpayers Don't Look at Artificial Distinctions'

Bob Hertzberg discusses his call to break up the LAUSD and his unhappiness with Mayor James Hahn.

Parking Lot Owner Brought Business, Non-Profits Together

For Steve Ullman, making money and giving it away has been a family affair.

Statistics Persuaded Investor to Develop Housing

Larry Bond's 300-unit apartment development has proven a success in its own right and has spurred others to take on large residential developments in the neighborhood.

Telly Selling

Paul Jackson's father, a BBC producer, prophesized that his son would climb to the upper levels of the venerated British broadcaster's entertainment division.

Consumer-Confidence Data Useless, Study Says

Consumer confidence indexes move markets and alter economic outlooks, but they're useless for forecasting Americans' spending patterns, a new study says.

Schwarzenegger Embraces Idea Of Private Retirement Accounts

Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposal to privatize California's two pension funds is designed to help reduce the state's budget deficit by cutting benefits and shifting liability for investment decisions to risk-averse state employees.

Litigious 'Sheriff' Filed One Too Many Suits Over Disabilities Act Compliance

Jarek Molski has filed suit against so many restaurants, wineries and bowling alleys that a federal judge has declared him a "vexatious litigant," meaning he now needs court permission to sue.

Firm Recasts to Offer Surgical Sponge Tracking Technology

Santa Monica hedge fund operator Milton "Todd" Ault finds himself moving from hedgefund to health care now that he has taken over as chairman and chief executive of Franklin Capital Corp.

Yahoo Starts to Sing a New Tune Over Music Downloading

After Yahoo Inc. acquired Launch Media in 2001, the streaming radio service that also offered music videos took a back seat to higher-profile services. Now, Yahoo is playing catch-up.

Feds Set Up Health Care Fraud Unit to Address Jump in Scams

Health care fraud has become so bad in Southern California that the U.S. Attorneys Office has formed a criminal unit dedicated to the problem.

Developers of Downtown L.A. Hotel Short of Funds Despite City Pledge

Despite a pledge of up to $177 million in public assistance for a 1,200-room downtown hotel, developers continue to scramble for more money.

Rainy Weather Is Mucking Up Job Sites, at Cost to Developers

Heavy rain that started in October is adding time and money to condominiums, apartments and other construction projects throughout Southern California.

Seeing Beyond Hollywood Boulevard, Goldberg Created Climate for Success

in eight years on the council, Jackie Goldberg became one of Hollywood's most forceful advocates, bringing in major projects where her predecessors had failed.

Student Switches From Networks to Groceries

Kumar Venkata dropped out of his master's degree program in computer networks at USC -- and started an Indian grocery store near campus.

Crowds Aren't Moseying Down To Shop Amid Old West Decor

Downtown San Dimas seemed like a ghost town late on a recent Friday afternoon, with several businesses along the Western-themed stretch of West Bonita Avenue called Frontier Village having closed for the day.

LAWA, Seeking Boost In Palmdale Air Traffic, Looks to the Air Force

LAX officials are trying to get the Air Force and military contractors to consider Palmdale as an alternative.

UC's Service Workers Expected to Call for Strike

More than 7,000 service employees in the UC system are expected to give its union leaders the authority to call for a strike when a vote is taken in the next few weeks.

Dealmaker Finds Dream Job Working With Many Groups

Helmi Hisserich's place in the remaking of Hollywood took shape in the administration of former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, where she was a member of the Business Development Team.

They Caught the Wave as It Began to Take Form

Many real estate investors look at distressed urban property and see a money pit. CIM Group Inc. sees the chance to acquire lots in bunches and create a unified district.

L.A. Stories

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

London Brent Rises in Light Trading

Brent crude futures rose in light trading Monday on concerns over a potential OPEC production cut, tightening global market forecasts and U.S. cold weather.

Unfit for Market

When Arden Group Inc. opened a Gelson's Market in Paseo Colorado in 2001, it was lauded as a perfect fit, but the store will soon be closed, a victim of weak sales resulting from what turned out to be a poor location.

Morning Headlines

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

Telecom Deals Likely to Hurt Small Players

The wave of consolidation sweeping the telecom industry will result in new kinds of bundled services that could simplify the bills of business customers in California maybe even at a discount.

Executive Finds Happiness With Incubation of Newegg

Simon Hsieh has big plans for Newegg.com, a company that sells computing and electronic products online.

Hahn, Villaraigosa Trade Jabs Over Respective Biotech Plans

Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and one of his challengers, City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, sparred last week over efforts to attract biomedical and biotech jobs to L.A.

More Bad News at L.A. Times' Parent

Hurt in part by declining home delivery numbers at the Los Angeles Times, Tribune Co.'s January circulation revenues fell 7.6 percent from the year-earlier period, to $58.3 million.

Hollywood's Close-Up

The area has become a vibrant community -- but that wasn't so a few years ago, before a group of people set about to restore what had been an L.A. jewel. Here's our status report on Tinseltown's new act.

Lawyer, Lobbyist Merge Operations To Broaden Reach

A lobbyist and an attorney have joined forces to create a Los Angeles firm that provides expertise in their two fields.

Verizon Seeks OK on Fiber-Optic TV

Verizon is moving onto cable turf by delivering programming.

Judge OKs Inventor's Mattel Suit

A Santa Monica game inventor representing himself in a breach of contract suit against Mattel Inc. has been given the go-ahead to proceed with the case by a federal court judge.

Hertzberg Hoping Enthusiasm Takes Hold Outside Valley

Can Bob Hertzberg drum up enough support outside of his Valley base to stay in the mayoral race after the March primary?

A Rapid Turnaround for Maker Of Advanced Imaging Systems

Just two years ago, 3D Systems Corp. was an executive's worst nightmare. That's when Abe Reichental, at packaging giant Sealed Air Corp., received a life-changing call from a headhunter.

Veteran Executive Of Logistics Firm Seeks Top Port Job

Guy Fox, executive vice president of customs services for Stonepath Logistics Inc. and a veteran of the region's maritime industry, is lobbying to become executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

Real Estate Brokers Made It Through Lean Years to Build a Leasing Market

When buildings stood vacant for years not including the transients and drug dealers real estate brokers Chris Bonbright and John Tronson stayed loyal to Hollywood.

'Mr. Fix-It' and His Work on El Capitan Helped Spark Rebirth

Jeff Rouze imagined the great movie palace the El Capitan Theatre had been in the 1920s -- and he convinced the insurance company he worked for to invest in the property.

Don't Take The Bait

Being outrageous no longer means violating a social pact, but beating a path. The best way to get noticed these days, and it seems nearly everyone wants to get noticed, is to say something outrageous.

L.A. Bookshops Battle to Satisfy Local Demand for 'DisneyWar'

The day after "DisneyWar" hit the bookshelves at Brentano's Century City store, sales were so heavy that managers had to keep copies behind the counter just to keep up with phone orders.

New Reality

To many, reality TV represents a cultural low point, but for the Bogna family at Classic Bath Designs Inc., the home improvement show is a sign of a healthy market for custom cabinetry.

Outlook Good for Region's Retail Landlords as Vacancies Decline

L.A.'s retail market is in store for below-average vacancy rates and strong rent growth, according to a forecast from Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co.

Architects Referenced Old Style for New Look

Designing buildings that fit with their surroundings and conserve an area's historical significance are more than just concepts to Bill Roschen and his wife, Christi Van Cleve.

Friday, February 18

Earnings Roundup: PC Mall Inc., Superior Industries International Inc.

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

Flash Flooding Warning Issued for Area From Burbank North

The National Weather Service declared a flash flooding warning for the area from Burbank north to the Verdugo hills and Boulder Canyon. Doppler radar estimates that 4 to 5 inches of rain has fallen over this area since about 2:30 p.m., the service reporte

Northrop Buys Technology Unit From Xerox

Northrop Grumman Corp. said Friday it agreed to purchase Integic Corp., a Chantilly, Va.-based information technology provider partially owned by Xerox Corp.

DaVita Gets Second FTC Information Request

The FTC signaled concern Friday over the potential anti-competitive effects of a proposed merger between DaVita Inc. and Gambro Healthcare, requesting more information about the deal.

Wholesale Prices Rise 0.3 Percent in January

Wholesale prices rose 0.3 percent in January, driven by increases in the cost of new cars, cigarettes and alcohol, a development that could lead the Fed toward steeper interest-rate increases.

Wet Winter Taking Its Toll on Developers

Heavy rain that started in October is adding time and money to condominiums, apartments and other construction projects throughout Southern California.

Dollar Gains After Core Inflation Rise

The dollar gained against the euro on Friday after a report showed a jump in core inflation, which could put pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.

Developers Tally Costs of Unusually Wet Winter

Heavy rain that started in October is adding time and money to condominiums, apartments and other construction projects going on around the county.

Oil Prices Rebound Above $48 Per Barrel

Crude oil futures prices rebounded above $48 a barrel in light trading Friday on the back of bargain-hunting by traders following a drop in prices the previous day.

Morning Headlines

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

Consumer Sentiment Eases in February

U.S. consumer sentiment, a barometer of consumer spending, unexpectedly fell in February, according to a survey released Friday.

Schwarzenegger Heading to China to Promote Trade

Governor's trip, scheduled for mid-April, is aimed at generating tourism and sales of merchandise and agriculture to Chinese buyers.

Stocks Mixed on Inflation Fears, Vioxx

A rise in wholesale prices prompted fears about inflation, and an FDA panel voted that Merck & Co.'s Vioxx drug was safe for market, sending stocks to a mixed finish Friday.

Thursday, February 17

Hollywood Residential Development Market Still Sizzling

Hollywood continues to attract housing developers willing to pay princely sums to build projects in the community.

Morning Headlines

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

Stocks Sag on Greenspan Testimony

Stocks slipped Thursday as Fed chief Alan Greenspan offered testimony on the state of the economy, the funding shortfall for Medicare, and problems facing the Social Security program.

Stocks Drop on Mixed Economic News

Stocks fell Thursday as mixed economic news and hints of higher interest rates from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan weighed on equities.

Oil Prices Dip as Traders Mull OPEC Forecast

Crude prices slipped Thursday from early highs as traders considered an OPEC forecast of rising global demand against concerns about production cuts.

Dollar Rises After Strong U.S. Jobs Data

The dollar gained some ground on Thursday after U.S. jobless claims came in lower than expected, suggesting the U.S. economy is on track for further interest rate increases.

Earnings Roundup: Smart & Final, First Consulting Group, Digital Insight, Stamps.com, Entravision, Reliance Steel & Aluminum

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

Index of Leading Economic Indicators Falls in January

The closely watched gauge of future U.S. economic activity slipped 0.3 percent in January, indicating potential weakness in the economy in coming months.

Jobless Claims Fall, Import Prices Rise

The number of laid-off workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits dipped for a third straight week, while the price of goods imported to the U.S. rose.

Wednesday, February 16

L.A. Hotels Give Unionized Workers a Break on Health Care Costs

The eight L.A. hotels locked in a labor dispute with their employees agreed today to stop charging unionized workers $10 per week for health care costs.

Industrial Production Flat in January

U.S. industrial production was flat in January, although manufacturing output remained healthy, a government report showed on Wednesday.

Morning Headlines

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

Hollywood Has Designs on Jobs in Videogames

L.A.-area videogame companies are in hiring mode, attracting Hollywood screenwriters, animators, artists, producers, writers and even agents.

Calpers Names Union Leader Rob Feckner Its President

The California Public Employees Retirement System board chose Rob Feckner as its president Wednesday, replacing ousted Sean Harrigan, who led the board since 2003.

Stocks Flat on Oil Price Rise, Greenspan's Observations

Stocks ended little changed Wednesday as the market weathered a rise in oil prices and fears Fed chief Greenspan's observations on the economy could lead to more interest rates hikes.

Alvarez Charged With 12 Counts in Metrolink Crash

Juan Manuel Alvarez, the 25-year-old who is accused of causing a fatal Metrolink derailment last month, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 11 counts of murder and one count of arson.

VICA Calls for Withdrawal of City Suit Over Online Hotel Booking

The Valley Industry and Commerce Association called for the withdrawal of L.A.'s class-action lawsuit to crack down on online hotel bookers the city accuses of evading occupancy taxes.

Housing Starts Up 4.7 Percent to Nearly 21-Year High

Construction of new homes and apartments rose 4.7 percent in January to the highest level in over two decades as low mortgage rates powered the U.S. housing industry.

Environmentalists Win Right to Keep Measure on Ryland Proxy

The SEC last week blocked Calabasas-based homebuilder Ryland Group Inc. from removing an environmentalist group's resolution from its proxy ballot.

Economy Expanding at Solid Pace, Says Greenspan

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress on Wednesday the U.S. economy entered 2005 in good shape, but warned policy-makers must continue to guard against inflation.

Tribune Co. Reports Lower January Revenues; Times Home Delivery Declines

Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times, reported circulation revenues of $58.3 million for the month of January, down 7.6 percent from the same period a year ago, due in part to declines in home delivery at the Times.

Earnings Roundup: American Pharmaceutical Partners and Guess

The pharmaceutical company and the casual apparel maker report increases in income and revenue.

Oil Prices Steady, U.S. Inventories Swell

Crude oil futures prices held steady on Wednesday as the U.S. government reported a rise in crude and gasoline stocks.

Tuesday, February 15

Dollar Continues Fall Against Euro

The dollar dipped Tuesday against the euro, as Washington reported weak economic data and a survey showed a brighter economic outlook for Germany.

Crude Futures Fall After Rally Fizzles

Crude oil futures headed lower Tuesday following signals from OPEC of a possible production cut.

Alvarez Charged With 12 Counts in Metrolink Crash

Juan Manuel Alvarez, the 25-year-old man accused of causing a fatal Metrolink derailment last month, pleaded not guilty today to 11 counts of murder and one count of arson.

Median Income Is $56,000 Below Amount Needed to Qualify for Typical Mortgage

The gap between what Californians earned and what they need to buy a median-priced home in the fourth quarter of 2004 increased by 41.6 percent from one year earlier, according to a new report.

Circuit City Gets $3.25 Billion Buyout Offer

Circuit City Stores Inc., the number. two U.S. consumer electronics chain, said Tuesday it had received an unsolicited takeover offer for $3.25 billion, or $17 per share.

Stocks Rise on Spending Data

U.S. stocks ended higher on Tuesday, cheered by better-than-expected January spending data and sustained merger activity.

Study Spotlights Low Pay of UC Service Workers

University of California's 7,000 service employees make wages below their counterparts at community colleges statewide and at Kaiser Permanente, according to a report released Tuesday.

Anaheim to Appeal Ruling That Allows Angels to Change Name

The Anaheim City Council on Tuesday voted 4-1 to appeal a Jan. 21 Orange County Superior Court ruling that denied the city's request to bar the city's baseball team from changing its name from the Anaheim Angels.

Retail Sales Are Weakest in Five Months

Retail sales dipped 0.3 percent in January as a drop in demand for cars offset strength at clothing and department stores.

May-Federated Merger Talks End

Merger talks between May Department Stores and rival Federated Department Stores reportedly have ended after the two retailers couldn't agree on how much Federated would pay for May.

Agreement Reached to Create Biotech Park in Boyle Heights

L.A. city and county have reached a preliminary agreement to create a joint powers authority to establish a biotech park at USC's Boyle Heights health campus.

Local Toy Firms Expect to Rely on Sales of Best-Known Brands

As the area's toy manufacturers prepare to display their 2005 products at the American International Toy Fair, many are betting what's worked in the past will continue to sell.

DirecTV Releases Executive Salaries, Bonuses

In its SEC filing, the largest U.S. satellite-TV operator said CEO Chase Carey will be paid $2.08 million this year with a $3.5 million bonus for 2004.

Credit Lyonnais, French Agency Settle California Civil Suit

Credit Lyonnais and a French government entity managing the bank's failed assets agreed Tuesday to a tentative settlement of $600 million in the civil suit filed by John Garamendi.

Morning Headlines

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

Monday, February 14

Business Briefs: Youbet.com, International Aluminum Corp., Computer Sciences Corp., Impco Technologies

Youbet.com Inc. reports earnings, International Aluminum's COO to retire, Computer Sciences Corp. sells units for $850 million, and En Pointe Technologies reports earnings.

Complexity of Jury Instructions Rises, Adding Difficulty to Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases involve some of the most complex issues that jurors must understand so that they can calculate damages according to negligence and harm.

Record Profit Levels Seen At L.A. Law Partnerships

A surge in overseas business, coupled with ongoing internal restructurings, has contributed to record revenues and profits at Los Angeles firms, according to a Business Journal survey.

Dollar Falls on Japan Trade Data

The dollar dipped against the euro and the yen Monday after Japanese data highlighted the imbalance between Asian trade surpluses and U.S. deficits.

Former West Basin Water District President Sentenced to Prison

The son of U.S. Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison today after being convicted of bribery and money laundering last fall.

Vamping on Beverages With Transylvania Ties

Michael Machat is a Beverly Hills trademark lawyer who moonlights as an importer of "vampire wines" from Transylvania the real Transylvania, in Romania.

'Rebuild Trust Between the City and the People'

Richard Alarc & #243;n discusses his influences, his priorities and his feeling that residents of Los Angeles have lost trust in City Hall and Mayor James Hahn.'Rebuild Trust Between the City and the People'

L.A. Stories

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

Stocks End Little Changed After Verizon Bid for MCI

Verizon Communications Inc.'s $6.7 billion bid for MCI Inc. met with indifference Monday on Wall Street, where stocks ended little changed in light trading.

Sacramento Lawmakers Aiming at Health Care

New legislative efforts reflect continued concern that health care inflation, though slowing, continues to outpace both personal income growth and profits.

California Keeps Malpractice Rates in Check

Competition among carriers and a law limiting damages in medical malpractice cases have helped control insurance rate hikes in California and ensure there is coverage for the most risky specialties.

Affiliates Shrug Off Changes in Networks' Anchor Chairs

Brokaw is gone and Rather is going, but network anchors have little impact on ratings for local news.

Northrop Awarded $257 Million Aircraft Carrier Overhaul Contract

Northrop Grumman Corp. has been awarded a $257 million U.S. Navy contract for maintenance on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

The Searcher

Paul Reilly sold his real estate development company to KPMG, then rose to the top there. He's since jumped ship to Korn/Ferry, where he's expanding the range of services offered to clients.

Sales Data Fuels Case for Slowing Housing Market

Economists point to the slowdown in home prices as a sign of a weakening housing market, but real estate agents say that buyers still get into bidding wars.

Victim's Family Hires Attorneys To Get Metrolink Suit on Track

The widow of the Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy killed in the Jan. 26 Metrolink crash has retained three local attorneys to file a lawsuit against Metrolink.

Local Toy Firms Expect to Rely On Sales of Best-Known Brands

As L.A. companies including Mattel and Jakks Pacific prepare to display their new products at the American International Toy Fair, many are betting that tried and true products will continue to sell.

High Co-Pay Cost Leads Workers to Cut Doctor Visits

The rising cost of health care has prompted many companies to require employees to bear a greater share of those costs, but now even some employers are having second thoughts about that strategy.

Regulations Hurt Affordable Housing, HUD Says

State and local regulations hurt efforts to build affordable housing for low- and middle-income people, and the problem has worsened, a government report said Monday.

Japanese Eateries Hope L.A. Acquires a Taste for Their Fare

In the four months since the Japanese-based restaurant chain Umenohana opened its first U.S. location in Beverly Hills, it's been a struggle converting diners to its menu of tofu and tofu skin.

OfficeMax CEO Resigns, Six Workers Fired

OfficeMax Inc. CEO Christopher Milliken resigned on Monday and the company terminated six employees as a result of an internal investigation into its accounting.

Specialty Labs Chief Executive Follows Chairman Out the Door

Specialty Laboratories Inc. said on Monday that Chief Executive Douglas Harrington will step down on March 29. Chairman Richard Belluzzo departed just four days before.

Use GE as the Model for Government Efficiency? Workers Would Be Axed

Have you stood in line at the post office or Department of Motor Vehicles while the employees move without a sense of vitality? That's ineffective government bureaucracy.

Three of the Union's Strongest Leaders Face Varying Challenges, Priorities

Labor figures bring extensive experience to their roles as leaders of local SEIU chapters.

P.R. Exec Tries on Old School Tie in New Assignment

As the new director of the LAUSD's Partnerships & Adopt-A-School Office, Vivien Hao has gone back to school.

Alarc & #243;n Looking to Play Underdog Role One More Time

Richard Alarc & #243;n has risen from the underdog position before, but his chances to do it again in the mayor's race don't seem promising.

Hollywood Has Designs on Jobs In Videogames

L.A.-area videogame companies remain in a hiring mode, as the once-fledgling industry is attracting Hollywood screenwriters, animators, artists, producers, writers and even agents.

Alameda Corridor Traffic Gains Offset by Added Freight

Traffic on the Alameda Corridor rail project is climbing, but not fast enough to keep pace with the rise in cargo hitting the ports.

Dollar's Fall Keeps Production in L.A., but Worries Persist

The falling dollar has proven a boon to the region's efforts to stem runaway production, but industry officials cautioned programs are still needed to keep location shooting local.

Gas Prices Continue Steady Rise

For the fifth week in a row, gas prices rose in Los Angeles, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

Work Force

An aggressive approach to training and service has placed office supplier One Stop Shop among the fastest-growing businesses in Los Angeles.

Hollywood Residential Development Market Still Sizzling

Hollywood continues to attract housing developers willing to pay princely sums to build projects in the community.

Expansion Plans

Mirroring the national organization, L.A. locals of the Service Employees International Union are becoming a dominant force.

Employers Should Demand Transparency

The current system by which employers are providing health care for their employees is fundamentally flawed by its very nature.

Newsmakers

The Journal keeps track of the awards and promotions of the movers and shakers in and around Los Angeles.

Spotlight on the Marina

In an industrial district between Marina del Rey and Culver City, a new neighborhood is coming together with a bit of community engineering.

L.A. Times Business Editor Wartzman to Step Down, Head Magazine

Los Angeles Times Business Editor Rick Wartzman is stepping down from the post to edit the struggling L.A. Times Magazine, according to an internal Times memo.

Environmentalists Win Right to Keep Measure on Ryland Proxy

Last week, the SEC blocked Calabasas-based homebuilder Ryland Group Inc. from removing an environmentalist group's resolution from its proxy ballot.

Verizon to Acquire MCI in a Deal Worth $6.75 Billion

Verizon Communications Inc. on Monday said it would buy MCI Communications Inc. for $6.75 billion, giving Verizon entry into the market serving large corporations.

After Surviving the Lean Years Company Is Poised for Growth

Daniel Greenberg, chairman and chief executive of Electro Rent Corp. describes the last seven years of his business life as "a long painful trip through the desert."

Morning Headlines

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

Trust at Issue for Financial Broadcasts

The arrest of a financial adviser and TV commentator on suspicion of failing to disclose more than $1 million in cash and stock from a Van Nuys company he touted might raise new suspicions about media and business.

Friday, February 11

Labor Leaders Tell AFL-CIO Consolidation, Organization Needed

Top national labor leaders meeting in Los Angeles criticized the AFL-CIO today, saying it needed to consolidate its 58 member unions and emphasize organizing for the labor movement to survive.

HP's New CEO Will Face Major Decisions on Direction

Hewlett-Packard Co.'s next CEO must decide whether to stick with Fiorina's strategy of trying to beat rivals or break the company into separate businesses that can focus on specific markets.

Shareholders Reelect Disney Board

Disney's shareholders elected all company board members by a margin of 92.2 percent in a preliminary count of votes at the annual meeting on Friday.

Analyst Downgrade Hits KB Home, Ryland Group

Smith Barney Citigroup analyst Stephen Kim downgraded six homebuilders on Friday, leading to lower share prices of two local companies, Ryland Group Inc. and KB Home.

Alameda Corridor No Closer to Goal of Reducing Truck Traffic

A surge in goods through the ports has boosted revenues, but the Alameda Corridor isn't reaching its goal of reducing truck traffic to and from the port complex by 50 percent.

Apple Sets 2-For-1 Stock Split

Apple Computer Inc.'s board authorized a two-for-one stock split that will increase its authorized share count to 1.8 billion from 900 million.

Northrop Settles Rocket Dispute With SpaceX

Northrop Grumman and Space Exploration Technologies have settled lawsuits filed against each other after working on a Pentagon-funded rocket program, The Wall Street Journal said Friday.

Flash Flood Warning Issued for Santa Clarita Valley

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for the foothill burn area of the Santa Clarita Valley. The warning is in effect until 7 p.m.

Oil at $47 as Market Outlook Seen Tighter

Oil prices hovered around $47 a barrel on Friday, bolstered by revisions to the International Energy Agency's supply and demand forecasts and sliding U.S. temperatures.

Update: L.A. City Council Votes Against Tax to Fund More Cops

A sharply divided L.A. City Council on Friday defeated for a second time this week a motion to put a half-cent sales tax increase on the May 17 ballot to fund more police.

Downtown L.A.'s SBC Tower Sold for $130 Million

Selling partnership including Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund reaps hefty profit profit on the former Transamerica tower and adjacent parcels it purchased 18 months ago.

Morning Headlines

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

Thursday, February 10

Mandatory Health Care Proposal Unveiled

Assemblyman Keith Richman unveiled a proposal Thursday to reduce the number of uninsured, requiring individuals to purchase health insurance much as they do car insurance.

Wayman Replaces Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard

Hewlett-Packard Co. directors appointed CFO Robert P. Wayman as interim chief executive to replace Carly Fiorina, who was ousted on Wednesday.

December Trade Gap Narrows, Jobless Claims Fall

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in December due to declining oil import prices, while first-time claims for jobless benefits dropped to the lowest level in more than 4 years.

Farmer Bros. Reports Net Loss

The coffee roaster said its second quarter losses, which mark the 13th straight quarter of year-over-year earnings declines, reflect increases in world green coffee prices.

Stocks Up on Economic Reports

Stocks closed higher Thursday, as investors focused on a drop in unemployment claims, a narrower U.S. trade deficit in December and a rise in exports.

Sports Club's Principal Stockholders Move to Take Company Private

The Sports Club Co. today announced a proposal by its four principal stockholders and their affiliates to take the company private and retire its outstanding senior secured debt.

Dollar Rises After Trade Data

The dollar rose to new highs against the euro and yen on Thursday after a report showed the U.S. trade deficit narrowed more than expected in December.

Morning Headlines

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

Activision Tumbles on Insider Stock Sale

Shares of videogame publisher Activision Inc. fell as much as 16 percent on heavy volume after insiders sold 7.1 million shares.

Verizon Reportedly Enters MCI Bidding

Telecom giant Verizon reportedly has made an informal acquisition offer to acquire MCI, one week after speculation that Qwest was interested as well.

Judge Dismisses Illegal Contributions Charges Brought Against O'Donnell Associates

The associates of trial attorney Pierce O'Donnell were accused of conspiring to launder $25,000 in campaign contributions to L.A. Mayor James Hahn's 2001 mayoral campaign.

Hertzberg Nabs Endorsement of Riordan

Former L.A. mayor was set to announce his endorsement of the business-friendly Hertzberg on KFI's "John & Ken Show" Thursday evening.

Hotel Workers Reject Latest Offer in Long-Running Contract Talks

The union representing 2,800 hotel workers rejected an offer by the Los Angeles Hotel Employer's Council that would increase wages by $1.90 per hour over five years.

Earnings Roundup: Macerich, MRV Communications, Image Entertainment, Digital Theatre Systems, Infonet Services, Capstone Turbine

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

Wednesday, February 9

Pillsbury, Shaw Pittman to Merge, Creating One of Largest Law Firms in Nation

Pillsbury Winthrop LLP and Shaw Pittman LLP have agreed to a merger that would create one of the 20 largest law firms in the country as ranked by annual revenues.

Stocks Sag on Cisco Systems Outlook

U.S. stocks slid on Wednesday on a disappointing revenue outlook from Cisco Systems Inc., but blue chips limited losses as shares of Hewlett-Packard Co. surged following the ouster of Chief Executive Carly Fiorina.

Port to Negotiate With Burlington Northern for New Facility

The Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners directed port staff to enter into negotiations with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. to lease port-owned land for a near-dock rail facility.

Earnings Roundup: Big 5, Lions Gate Entertainment, Tekelec, Napster, United Online, 21st Century Insurance, DaVita

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

Cherokee Inks Deal with Interior Designer

Cherokee Inc. said Wednesday it has signed an agreement with Arcila-Duque Interiors Inc. to represent home and product designer Juan Carlos Arcila-Duque.

Eyeing Buses, Greuel Proposes Selling Ads on Garbage Trucks

L.A. City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel has proposed selling ad space on city vehicles, most likely garbage trucks, to fund the hiring of new police officers.

Hotel Industry Experiences Strong 2004

L.A. County hotels saw a 7.5 percent increase in 2004 occupancy rates from a year earlier, as the industry continued to show signs of recovery from a slump following 9/11.

Guitar Center to Acquire Maryland Chain

Guitar Center Inc. said Wednesday it agreed to acquire the privately held Music & Arts Center chain for $90 million, which includes 60 retail stores and seven instruction centers.

December Inventories Up Less Than Forecast

U.S. wholesale inventories rose 0.4 percent in December, drained by rising sales of cars, machinery and computer equipment., the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

Crude Prices Rise as U.S. Supplies Fall

Oil futures rose Wednesday after the U.S. government's weekly supply snapshot showed declining inventories of crude and distillate fuel.

Mortgage Applications Increase

Applications for U.S. home mortgages increased last week as consumers made the most of a drop in interest rates to refinance existing loans, an industry group said Wednesday.

Legislation Would Delay Hospital Seismic Safety Standards

Citing the weak financial state of California's hospitals, Sen. Jackie Speier introduced legislation on Wednesday that would push back the date by which hospitals have to meet the new seismic standards.

Sales Tax Proposal to Fund LAPD Hires Fails to Make Ballot

A motion to place a half-cent sales tax hike on the May 17 ballot failed in L. A. City Council on Wednesday, despite impassioned pleas from L.A. Mayor Hahn and Police Chief Bratton.

Hewlett-Packard Ousts CEO Fiorina

Hewlett-Packard Co. on Wednesday ousted Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina in a surprise move at the company she worked to transform from a printer business to a tech giant.

Morning Headlines

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

GM Pension Plans Plan Big DirecTV Group Inc. Sell-Off

Pension plans for General Motors Corp. employees intend to divest 20 percent of their holdings in DirecTV by selling 55 million shares, according to an SEC filing.

Tuesday, February 8

Ares Management Purchases Military Meal Supplier

L.A. investment management firm Ares Management LLC announced Tuesday it acquired a 50 percent stake in AmeriQual, a provider of ready-to-eat meals used by the military.

Dollar Slips a Bit Against the Euro

The dollar erased some of its gains on the euro on Tuesday after President Bush presented what he called a "lean budget."

Maguire Properties Reports Quarterly Decline in Net Income

L.A.-based real estate investment trust Maguire Properties Inc. reported that net income fell 20 percent in the fourth quarter from the year-earlier period.

Earnings Roundup: Sport Chalet, Occidental Revision, Computer Sciences Corp., Cheesecake Factory

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

Morning Headlines

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

Crude Oil Futures Rise

Crude oil futures prices rose as investors awaited two supply reports, one from the U.S. Department of Energy and one from the International Energy Agency.

Boeing Cuts Costs in Retiree Benefits

Boeing Co. is using Southern California as a proving ground in its effort to reduce the amount it must pay in health benefits to retirees.

Ethics Commission Fines Developer Over Campaign Finance Violations

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission hit Beverly Hills developer Mark Alan Abrams with a $270,000 fine for violating campaign finance laws.

Chain Store Sales Up in First Week of February

Sales in February's first week were up 0.6 percent over January and sales at major retailers rose by 2.3 percent for the week ended Feb. 5, a report said on Tuesday.

Wet Seal Faces SEC Probe

Struggling teen retailer Wet Seal Inc. faces an informal Securities and Exchange inquiry into its second-quarter results from 2004.

Bush Budget Kicks Off Debate in Congress

Republicans and Democrats in Congress began partisan arguments over President Bush's $2.57 trillion budget that seeks spending cuts to rein in budget deficits.

Stocks End Higher on Dollar, Oil

Stocks edged higher on Tuesday as investors were cheered by a recovering dollar and moderating oil prices.

L.A. Residents to Face Advertising Glut for Tut Show

Opening day for King Tut's L.A. showing isn't until June 16, but the pharaoh has already received celebrity treatment an entourage to help kick off his grand entrance.

Monday, February 7

PMC Global Sells Two Units to Graco Inc. for $65 Million

The privately-held industrial conglomerate in Sun Valley sold its Gusmer Corp. unit and its European affiliate to Graco for a total of $65 million.

UCLA Contracts Insurer to Bring More Korean Patients

Hospitals usually don't go farther than across town seeking new patients, but UCLA has set it sights across the Pacific.

Earnings Roundup: Mercury General Corp., Diodes, Wellpoint, Intermix Media, Activision

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

Maguire Swings for the Fences

Rob Maguire made a $1.51 billion bid for the massive 10-building portfolio owned by CommonWealth Partners LLC that left competitors far behind.

Two Senior Executives Go to New P.R. Firms

L.A.'s public relations community has seen two significant shifts involving high-level executives.

Paid Practice Fields Yield More Strikeouts Than Hits for Owners

Spring training is nearly in sight, not just for major league ballplayers in Florida and Arizona, but for customers of the 100 or so batting cages that dot Los Angeles County.

Napster Shares Dip on Rival's Favorable Publicity

Shares of the online music service fell nearly 10 percent after a Barron's magazine article praised RealNetworks.

Amtrak Service Between L.A., Santa Barbara Partially Reopened

Amtrak re-opened service on three of its five trains daily between L.A. and Santa Barbara on Monday giving the Santa Barbara hospitality industry a much-awaited boost.

Analyst to GenesisIntermedia Arrested for Securities Violations

An investment analyst who helped raise the stock of now-defunct GenesisIntermedia Inc. was arrested today on alleged disclosure violations.

Dealing With The Dollar - The Importers

Philip Hall is treading water as the dollar drags down his fish import business.

Stocks End the Day Down Slightly

Stocks settled lower Monday despite a drop in oil prices and new strength in the dollar as investors wondered whether the market could hold onto last week's gains.

Fleishman's Woes in L.A. Unlikely to Garner Much Attention From Its Multinational Parent

Wall Street is not very interested in the scandal at Fleishman-Hillard's L.A. office, since it involves a few people from a single office of a single division of Omnicom Group Inc.

L.A. Stories

Stories about the bizarre, the strange, the business-like, in Los Angeles.

Bush Sends Congress $2.57 Trillion Budget

President Bush on Monday sent Congress a $2.5 trillion budget that seeks deep spending cuts on many domestic programs to rein in soaring budget deficits.

Dealing With The Dollar - Exchange

The weakness of the dollar on the international scene is affecting the local economy across many sectors.

Eyeing Buses, Greuel Proposes Selling Ads on Garbage Trucks

L.A. City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel has proposed selling ad space on city vehicles, most likely garbage trucks, as a way to fund the hiring of new police officers.

L.A. Residents to Face Advertising Glut for Tut Show

L.A. will soon be swamped with a huge marketing campaign promoting the King Tut exhibit at LACMA.

Dealing With The Dollar - The Hoteliers

Catering to Japanese travelers has its advantages, but it doesn't solve a hotel operator's woes.

They Should Keep That Bunny Away From Those 'Desperate Housewives' First

Politicians and military strategists searching for effective ways to wage their campaigns should look to a successful tactic employed in the domestic culture wars.

SBC Takeover Will Lead to Losses Of Local Telecommunications Jobs

SBC has said it will cut 13,000 jobs as a result of the merger, which will likely translate to job losses in Southern California.

Firm Loses Appeal Over Finder's Fee in $255 Million Deal

A Tokyo mergers and acquisition firm's claims that it was due a fee from the 2002 sale of the former Arco Plaza have been denied by an appellate panel in the 2nd District.

Boeing Cuts Costs In Retiree Benefits

Boeing Co. is using Southern California as a proving ground in its effort to reduce worker benefits, denying health coverage to new hires once they retire.

Parks Unable to Bring Momentum to Grass-Roots Effort

Candidate Bernard Parks moved into politics after a controversial ending to a Los Angeles Police Department career.

Banks Find Modest Boom in Demand for Currency Trades

Local institutions have beefed up their foreign exchange trading desks, largely at the request of business clients needing protection from currency fluctuations.

Lightweight Newsprint Could Bring Cost Savings to Heavyweight Papers

The Los Angeles Times is trying out a lighter grade of newsprint in an attempt to cut costs.

Stock Market Dips on Mixed Earnings

Stocks fell after rising slightly in the morning on Monday amid a light schedule of corporate and economic news and a mixed batch of earnings reports.

Struggling Promenade Project At Howard Hughes on Market

The owners of the Promenade at Howard Hughes have put the struggling Westside retail and entertainment center on the market.

Tech Turn

David Bohnett launched GeoCities, then sold it to Yahoo. Now he's investigating new Internet ventures and promoting political causes.

Location Sinks Two Groceries As Foot Traffic Doesn't Add Up

Two high-end supermarket chains are shuttering locations that had suffered from disappointing sales.

Convenience Proves to Be Mother of Invention

The goal of Laine Caspi's operation is to market all the items that she and her network of moms think up that would make their lives easier.

Hand Stand

During a trip to Malaysia, Maxwell Lee was asked to help distribute gloves in the U.S. The request turned into his company, Adenna Inc.

'I Haven't Done a Vengeful Thing in My Life'

L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks met with reporters and editors of the Business Journal to discuss his candidacy for mayor. Here are excerpts from that interview.

Dealing With The Dollar - The Exporters

L.A. exporters would like to be able to take advantage of a weak dollar.

Dealing With The Dollar - The Retailers

The declining dollar has caused store prices to rise over increased costs from overseas vendors.

Dealing With The Dollar - The Manufacturers

The fall of the U.S. dollar has made Small World Kids Inc. act like a kid in a candy store.

TV Veteran Reaches Goal as General Manager at KWHY

The first day that Araceli De Leon walked into a television station she met the general manager and thought to herself, "I would love to do his job."

PierPass Program Delayed Until June

Troubles with finding a company to develop an extended-gate system at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach will push the start of the late-shift program back until June 1.

Dealing With The Dollar - The Real Estate Investors

Investors on the sidelines may reduce U.S. real estate company holdings this year.

None Aboard While Amtrak's Coastal Service Suspended

The Santa Barbara hospitality industry is being hit hard by nature's assault on the Pacific Coast's narrow rail system.

Currency Management Turns on Tightrope Walk by Policymakers

The decline of the dollar has its origins in several factors, including the dot-com crash, the 2001 terrorist attacks and the rise of Asian manufacturing.

L.A. Center Studios Signs Six Tenants Downtown

Los Angeles Center Studios has inked long-term leases totaling 31,000 square feet with six entertainment firms.

Setbacks Dealt to Cities in Political Contributions Battle

The cities of Santa Monica and Pasadena recently lost a court ruling in their four-year fight to overturn successful ballot initiatives aimed at preventing political corruption.

Timcor Acquired by Commercial Capital

Timcor Exchange Corp. is being acquired by Commercial Capital Bancorp for $29.4 million in stock, nearly 6.7 times Timcor's 2003 net income.

Ubiquitous Japanese Convenience Store to Debut in L.A.

Having conquered Japan and made significant headway in China, the Tokyo-based FamilyMart Co. convenience store chain is ready to make its U.S. debut in West Hollywood

Newsmakers

A collection of awards and promotions of some of the movers and shakers from in and around L.A.

Trailer Producer Craig Murray Consolidates Two Subsidiaries

Craig Murray Productions, one of the region's largest movie trailer production companies, is consolidating two of its four operating units.

Carsdirect Looks for Customers In Place They Find Their Money

Bob Brisco figures so many consumers are buying their cars with money from mortgage refinancing that he might as well develop a toehold in both areas.

Book Paints Unflattering Portrait of Disney's Iger, L.A. Times Says

A new book about Disney President Robert Iger, the frontrunner to become the next CEO, could damage his reputation at a time when the search is on for Michael Eisner's replacement.

Churning Profits, One 'Pip' at a Time

At Los Angeles' largest foreign exchange desk, some $50 million in euros, yen, and other major currencies are traded each business day.

Special Report: Dealing With The Dollar

Is the fall of the dollar good or bad for L.A.'s economy? It's a bit like unemployment. The numbers have little meaning until they hit and then the impact can be overwhelming.

SBC Takeover Will Lead to Losses of Local Telecom Jobs

The proposed acquisition of AT & T; Corp. by SBC Communications Inc. is almost certain to result in job cuts in Southern California -- but when, where and how many?

Oil Falls as OPEC Cut Fears Fade

Crude oil futures prices dipped Monday after OPEC members signaled the cartel could wait until its mid-March meeting to make any production cuts.

P.R. Executive Pleads Not Guilty

Former Fleishman-Hillard executive John Stodder on Monday pleaded not guilty to charges he helped submit $250,000 in fraudulent bills to the city's Department of Water & Power.

Gas Prices Continue Moving Higher

For the fourth week in a row, gas prices climbed in Los Angeles, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

Friday, February 4

Report Logs Setbacks in Region's Employment, Income Growth, Traffic Congestion

The Southern California Association of Government's scathing report claims the six-county region has lost significant ground in the past decade in many areas.

Dollar Overturns Some of its Losses on Greenspan Speech

The dollar roared back, overturning some of its earlier losses, after Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said the U.S. current account gap can't widen forever.

Back to the Bargaining Table for Unite HERE, Hotel Employer's Council

Unite HERE Local 11 and the L.A. Hotel Employer's Council meet Monday to hammer out an agreement to replace the six-year contract that expired April 15.

Job Gains Disappoint, Jobless Rate 3-Year Low

U.S. employers added just 146,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department said on Friday, but the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in three years.

Consumer Sentiment Ends Weaker in January

U.S. consumer sentiment finished lower in January, as respondents to a poll published on Friday grew less certain about their financial outlook.

Greenspan Sees Trade Gap Stabilizing

Market forces and promised action by Washington to cut its budget deficit could stabilize, and cut, the record U.S. trade gap, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said Friday.

Business Briefs: Northrop Taps New Head of Space Tech Unit, Franklin Capital Buys SurgiCount Medical

Northrop Grumman names Alexis Livanos president of its space-technology unit, and Franklin Capital Corp. buys SurgiCount Medical for $4 million.

Federal Prosecutors Seek Reinstatement of Leung Spy Charges

Federal prosecutors filed a motion asking a judge to reconsider her recent decision to dismiss espionage-related charges against former FBI informant Katrina Leung.

Stocks Jump on Interest Rate Outlook

Stocks climbed Friday, as investors hoped a weaker-than-expected jobs report would pressure the Fed to stop its incremental increases in interest rates.

Thursday, February 3

Rob Maguire Buys Major Interest in Playa Vista Office Park

Rob Maguire, founder of Maguire Properties Inc., has bought out Equity Office Properties Trust's 87.5 percent interest in the Water's Edge office park in Playa Vista for $85.5 million.

January Sales Rise on Clearance, Despite Storms

Post-holiday clearance sales and gift-card redemptions boosted January sales at major U.S. retailers despite snowstorms in the Midwest and Northeast.

Stocks End Down on Amazon, Productivity

Stocks slid lower Thursday, weighed down by disappointing earnings from Amazon.com Inc. and a report showing low productivity gains from workers.

CarsDirect Buys Two Home Mortgage Web Sites

The online auto retailer expanded its toehold in the home mortgage market on Thursday, announcing the purchase of two Web sites, BestRate.com and LoanApp.com.

Padilla Hasn't Found the Time to Focus on L.A. Mayor's Race

With the March 8 primary fast approaching, one presumed ally of Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn has stayed on the sidelines.

U.S. Productivity Growth Slows, Jobless Claims Dip

U.S. business productivity growth climbed in 2004, but proved sluggish at the end of 2004, and claims for jobless aid slipped last week, according to government reports.

Earnings Roundup: Pacificare, Arden Realty, Pacific Energy Partners, K-Swiss, MannKind, Magnetek

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

Stock Tables Shrink in Face of Newsprint Costs, Internet

The L.A. Times has cut back on its stock tables due to the combination of high newsprint prices and easy availability of market information on the Internet.

Former Gemstar-TV Guide CEO Shell Joins Comcast

Jeff Shell, formerly of Gemstar-TV Guide International, announced Thursday he will be joining Comcast Corp. as the president of the cable provider's programming.

Qwest in Talks to Buy MCI

Qwest Communications International Inc. is reportedly in talks to buy MCI Inc. for $6.3 billion, just days after SBC Communications Inc. acquired AT & T; Corp.

Wednesday, February 2

King/Drew Faces Loss of $200 Million

Federal government threatens to cut off half of troubled King/Drew hospital's operating funds.

Charter, Citing Competitive Growth, Seeks Deregulation

Cable TV franchisee Charter Communications Inc. has petitioned federal officials to be relieved of city regulatory oversight, which could lead to higher rates.

Earnings Roundup: Countrywide, CB Richard Ellis, Center Financial, LTC Properties

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

Pantages Owner Inks Deal for Massive Hollywood Development

Nederlander Producing has signed a $300 million deal with Clarett Group LLP and Prudential Real Estate Investors to build a huge residential and retail project in Hollywood, adjacent to the Pantages Theatre.

Northrop Grumman Earnings Rise; Boeing's Decline

Northrop Grumman Corp., the world's largest builder of warships, said fourth-quarter earnings and revenue rose on strong U.S. military spending and lower pension costs.

News Corp. Profit Up 80 Percent

The media conglomerate said on Wednesday its quarterly profit rose 80 percent, boosted by DVD sales of "Day After Tomorrow" and ad sales at its cable networks.

Sales and Profit Surge for Google

Shares of the most-used Internet search engine surged to new highs after the company's fourth-quarter profit soared and sales topped $1 billion for the first time.

Fed Raises Rates for Sixth Time

The U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates for a sixth time since last June, as policymakers continued efforts of gradually lifting borrowing costs to ward off inflation.

Stocks Rise After Google Earnings, Fed

An upbeat earnings report from Google Inc. after Tuesday's market close and the rate hike from the Fed had stocks on Wednesday moving higher for a third straight day.

Tomjanovich Resigns as Lakers Coach

Citing health reasons, Rudy Tomjanovich announced at a press conference Wednesday that he is stepping down as coach of the Lakers after barely half a season.

Hotels Avidly Courting Travelers on Web Sites

Hotel companies want to regain control over room rates and bookings from online travel agencies as they lure customers back to their own Web sites with lower prices.

Tuesday, February 1

Factory Output Grew More Slowly in January

The manufacturing sector grew for the 20th consecutive month in January, though at a slower pace than one month earlier, a private research group reported Tuesday.

Stocks Rise on Spin-Off, Earnings News Despite Weak Data

U.S. stocks gained ground again on Tuesday, as American Express Co. said it would spin off its personal finance unit and a drop in oil prices offset weaker manufacturing activity.

American Express to Spin Off Financial Advisers Unit

The financial services giant said Tuesday it will spin off American Express Financial Corp. to its shareholders to boost the profitability of the parent company.

L.A.'s Downtown Renaissance Resulting in Parking Shortage

Downtown Los Angeles faces a looming parking shortage, according to an initial study by the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles.

Final Appeal to Save Accreditation of King/Drew Medical Center Denied

Withdrawal of accreditation will cost King/Drew at least $13 million in revenues and force non-emergency patients on Medi-Cal to use other hospitals.

Disney's Search for Eisner Successor 'On Track'

Walt Disney Co. Chairman George Mitchell said Tuesday the company was on track to hire a new chief executive to replace Michael Eisner when he steps down in 2006.

Earl Scheib Takes Itself Off the Block

Auto paint and body shop operator Earl Scheib Inc. said it has abandoned plans to sell the company or enter into a business combination with another company.

SBC to Cut 13,000 Jobs After AT & T; Purchase

SBC Communications Inc., the second largest U.S. local-telephone company, said it expects to cut 13,000 jobs as a result of its $16 billion acquisition of AT & T; Corp.

Earnings Roundup: Unocal, Nara Bancorp, Kilroy Realty, THQ, Zenith

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

Oil Eases as OPEC Fears Fade

Oil prices inched below $48 per barrel Tuesday as traders began to worry less about possible OPEC production cuts to focus on the upcoming U.S. petroleum stocks data.

Cargo Left on the Docks Causing Port Headaches

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will petition a statewide group to impose storage charges earlier on cargo left on the docks.

Construction Has Best Year Since 1996

Construction spending soared 1.1 percent in December, ending a year in which building activity posted the best performance since 1996.