Stories for October 2005

Monday, October 31

Stocks Soar on Consumer Spending, Acquisitions

A turnaround in personal spending and a flurry of acquisition activity sent stocks higher Monday, but it wasn't enough to salvage a volatile month.

Whirlybirds Are Cool

At last there's air conditioning available on helicopters, as problems of added weight and reduced power have been overcome.

Newsmakers

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

The Private Equity Economy

Private equity funds are capable of taking over nearly any company in America. The goal is the same: to throw off returns of 20 percent or more by heaping on debt and improving cash flow.

Oil Drops on OPEC Capacity News

Crude prices fell Monday as OPEC said it has "more than adequate" spare capacity to cover expected global demand this winter.

A Hard Sell

Paul Hibler and David Sanfield thought they knew a thing or two about running a restaurant. Then they went to downtown L.A.

Brown Derby's Replacement Sparks Preservation Debate

A showdown is shaping up over whether one of L.A.'s former Brown Derby locations should be considered historic.

Are They Both Talking About the Same Restaurant?

Haughty or divine? The dish on the Belvedere Restaurant depends on which review you read.

Those Funny Glasses Are Coming Back for Movies Shown in 3-D

Walt Disney Co.'s "Chicken Little" opens this week in 3-D, thanks to L.A.-based Real D Inc., the technology company behind the new 3-D digital movie projector system.

Different Statistics Show Mixed Messages on Jobs

L.A.'s unemployment rate has plunged to a five-year low of 4.5 percent, below the state and national rates.

Burbank Land Next to NBC Studios Is Sold to Developer for Office Project

A developer has taken on a significant project with the major purchase of NBC property in Burbank.

Well Suited

Global Effects started out making space suits for movies; now the company contracts for aerospace firms that want models.

Not Just Playing Phone Tag

Jamdat Mobile Inc. is facing a glut of new competitors in the cell phone market.

Musical Bears

A Los Angeles musician who wrote Coca-Cola jingles has sued the soft drink giant, seeking more than $1 million in royalties.

Consumer Spending Bounces Back

Consumers got back into a buying groove and boosted their spending by a solid 0.5 percent in September. Incomes also grew briskly.

Occidental Profit More Than Doubles

Occidental Petroleum Corp. on Monday said its third-quarter profit more than doubled, fueled by record energy prices, a jump in revenue and substantial one-time gains.

FCC Approves Two Major Deals

Government regulators approved SBC Communications' takeover of AT & T; and Verizon Communications' purchase of MCI Inc., removing the final federal hurdle for the deals.

Westwood Kingpins' Partnership Sours Amid Lawsuits, Acrimony

Longtime friends and real estate business partners Barry Beitler and Jeff Katofsky are locked in a bitter breakup.

She Shops All Day, and She Gets Paid for It

People across L.A. tell us how they do what they do.

Disney, Pixar Eyeing 'Chicken Little' Success

Disney and Pixar are waiting to see how much success "Chicken Little" has before starting talks about extending an agreement for Disney to continue distribution of Pixar films, the New York Times said.

If It Really Were Easy, We'd All Be Launching Our Own Funds

How do the sponsors launch a firm, and how do they make their money?

Tennessee Looking Like It's Nissan's Choice

Civic leaders want to keep Nissan from moving its U.S. headquarters, but the company seems poised for a move to Tennessee.

Stuff

Inventive, new products from Los Angeles-area companies.

Earnings Roundup

PS Business Parks Inc., On Assignment Inc., American Reprographics Co., DaVita Inc., IndyMac Bancorp Inc., Mercury General Corp., Ducommun Inc., Kilroy Realty Corp., Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. and Arden Realty Inc. were among the companies that

Northrop's High-Tech Strategy Facing Major Test With Coming Budget Cuts

The defense contractor's emphasis on tech-heavy equipment might spare it from the Pentagon's budget knife.

Update: Chick Audit Critical of Planning Department

Calling it an agency "stuck in the past," L.A. City Controller Laura Chick on Monday issued a sharply critical audit of the city planning department. The audit listed 30 recommendations for improvement.

Munitz Carries Baggage on Road Up Getty Villa

Barry Munitz, CEO of the Getty Trust, still has plenty to say about recent articles in the Los Angeles Times that have portrayed him as a man of grand appetites and lavish spending.

Wanted: Rich Parent-Investors Whose Kids Watch Lots of Cartoon DVDs

A cartoon called "Igor: UnHoly Frijoles" will be used to seek backers for a private equity fund for animation.

Play-What-We-Want Playbook Gets Spanish Radio Translation

Entravision Communications Corp., long considered an innovator in the Spanish-language radio market, has introduced a new format: "Jose: Toca lo que Quiere."

L.A. Gas Prices Keep Falling

The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles area dropped for the fourth week in a row, falling 5.9 cents to $2.771 for the week ended Oct. 31.

Discrimination Case Costs Sterling Even Without Verdict

Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who owns a portfolio of L.A. apartment buildings, may pay more than $5 million to a non-profit organization that sued him for discriminating against blacks and Hispanics.

Debatable Point: Will This Level of Debt Cause a Collapse?

Private equity pumps dollars into the economy, but at what price?

Houlihan Lokey to Be Acquired by Orix

L.A.-based investment banking firm Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin has agreed to be acquired by Tokyo-based Orix Corp. for $500 million in cash and stock.

Antitrust Unlikely to Re-Emerge in Alt-Weekly Merger

The Justice Department is not expected to tinker much with a deal that lets alternative chain New Times Inc. acquire the owner of the LA Weekly.

Barrick Bids for Placer Dome

Barrick Gold Corp. bid $9.2 billion for rival Placer Dome Inc. on Monday, a deal that would create one of the world's biggest gold miners.

Venture Capital Activity Jumps Sharply in Third Quarter

Third-quarter venture capital funding in the Los Angeles area jumped sharply from a year ago.

Toy Company Going to the Dogs and Cats to Build Bigger Market Share

Toy companies see flat sales, so they're jumping into the new market of pet accessories.

The Club Deal

The group attempt to buy Computer Sciences Corp. is an example of how far funds are stretching to do deals.

Chic Sleep

John Arnett is leading boutique chain Kor Hotel Group into expansion mode.

Firms Set Targets on Industries, Establish Criteria for Investment

The characteristics including specialties, deals and leadership of some of L.A.'s leading private equity firms.

Fashion Industry Kicks Off Inaugural L.A. Awards Show

Will the inaugural L.A. Fashion Awards bring more recognition to often-overlooked local designers?

Buying Now, Paying Later Skews the Big Picture

It's holiday season prognostication time, that stretch in October when news organizations start fixating on whether this will be a good or a bad year.

Midwest Business Activity Expands

Business activity in the Midwest expanded faster than expected in October, with new orders surging and hiring picking up as well, a report showed on Monday.

Putting the Carts Before Stores Yields Benefit in World of Malls

Mall operators are looking for ways to spiff up their vending carts and boost sales.

Friday, October 28

Economy Grows at Energetic Rate

Third-quarter economic activity expanded at a 3.8 percent annual rate, providing evidence of the economy's stamina as it coped with recent hurricanes.

International Rectifier Shares Drop on Gross Margin Numbers

International Rectifier Corp. shares plunged as much as 22 percent on Friday, after management revealed that its plan to reach 50 percent gross margin numbers had been completely derailed.

Munitz Carries Baggage on Road Up Getty Villa

Barry Munitz, CEO of the Getty Trust, still has plenty to say about recent articles in the Los Angeles Times that have portrayed him as a man of grand appetites and lavish spending.

LAX Traffic Rises 5 Percent in September

Passenger traffic at Los Angeles International Airport rose 5 percent in September from year-ago levels, airport officials reported Friday, led by an increase in international passengers.

Stocks Rally on GDP Growth

Stocks rallied Friday on better-than-expected gross domestic product growth last quarter despite the disruptions caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Special Election Measures in Trouble

The ballot measures backed by Gov. Schwarzenegger are in serious trouble 10 days before the Nov. 8 special election, according to a new poll released Friday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Chevron Profit Up but Misses Forecasts

Chevron Corp. posted a 12 percent rise in quarterly profit on the back of record oil prices, but damage from recent hurricanes dragged results below forecasts.

Delta to Eliminate Discount Carrier Song

Delta Air Lines Inc., which is reorganizing under bankruptcy protection, will discontinue its carrier Song and incorporate Song's fleet into Delta's regular service.

THQ Shares Jump on Narrowed Loss

Shares of THQ Inc. jumped more than 21 percent on Friday, after the Calabasas Hills-based video game publisher trimmed its second-quarter loss on a 48 percent surge in sales, beating estimates.

Bristol-Myers Profit, Outlook Miss Mark

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s quarterly profit and 2005 forecast missed estimates, a day after the company warned it may abandon an experimental diabetes drug.

L.A. Gas Prices Slip on Lower Demand

Lower demand and increased imports from abroad sent L.A. gas prices slipping for a third week, and steeper declines are expected in the coming weeks, said the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Thursday, October 27

Two Huge Telecom Mergers Approved

Federal antitrust regulators approved two multibillion-dollar telecom mergers: SBC Communications Inc. and AT & T;, and Verizon Communications Inc. and MCI Inc.

Countrywide Profit Jumps 27 Percent

Countrywide Financial Corp. on Thursday said quarterly profit rose 27 percent, even with a charge related to Hurricane Katrina, as loan product volume rose to $147 billion.

IHOP Profit Soars 56 Percent

IHOP Corp. on Thursday beat estimates as its third-quarter profit shot up 56 percent from a healthy increase in same-store sales. The Glendale-based restaurant chain also raised its full-year outlook.

Exxon Mobil Profit Surges

Exxon Mobil Corp. on Thursday said quarterly profit surged 75 percent to nearly $10 billion, raking in a bonanza from record oil prices.

Hilton Profit Surges 46 Percent

Hilton Hotels Corp. on Thursday said third-quarter profit soared 46 percent, led by increases in hotel stays and rates across various consumer segments.

September New Home Sales Rise

Sales of new homes rose more slowly than expected in September, while the number of new houses on the market hit a record and median prices fell.

Stocks Slip on Durable Goods Orders

Stocks tumbled Thursday after a larger-than-expected drop in durable goods orders raised new questions about the economy and corporate profits.

Skechers Shares Slump on Outlook

Shares of Skechers USA Inc. plunged nearly 24 percent on Thursday, after its third-quarter profit matched analyst estimates but its fourth-quarter guidance came in below expectations

Earnings Roundup

California Pizza Kitchen Inc., THQ Inc., International Rectifier Corp., Public Storage Inc., Hanmi Financial Corp., Teledyne Technologies Inc., Fremont General Corp., Nara Bancorp Inc., Superior Industries International Inc., Center Financial Corp. and K-

Oil Prices Up on Weather Forecast

Oil futures rose Thursday, with forecasts of cold weather in the Northeast outweighing bearish sentiment from news of increased oil and gas stocks.

Jobless Claims Up; Durable Goods Dip

The number of people who lost their jobs because of recent hurricanes climbed above the half-million mark, and orders for durable goods fell in September.

Wednesday, October 26

Oil Rises on Supply Data

Oil futures rose Wednesday after the government released data showing a decline in distillate fuels, reinforcing concerns that supplies might be stretched thin this winter.

L.A. to Double Affordable Housing Fund

L.A. will double its funding in the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund to $100 million, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Wednesday.

Stocks Dip on Earnings Mix

Stocks finished lower Wednesday as investors focused on earnings reports and weighed the odds of a yearend rally that would give the stock market a boost.

Boeing Earnings Miss Forecasts

Boeing Co.'s quarterly results missed forecasts as revenue at its defense unit slid, sending shares of the top U.S. aerospace group lower on Wednesday.

Lockheed Joins Computer Sciences Buyout Group

Lockheed Martin Corp. is part of a group of companies looking to purchase Computer Sciences Corp., The Wall Street Journal reported.

Starwood Hotels Profit Falls

The Sheraton owner reported lower third-quarter profit on taxes paid on the repatriation of foreign earnings, though its core earnings beat forecasts.

Earnings Roundup

Zenith National Insurance Corp., Specialty Laboratories Inc., Skechers USA Inc., Cogent Inc., Diodes Inc. and 21st Century Insurance Group were among the companies that reported earnings Wednesday.

ConocoPhillips Third-Quarter Profit Up

ConocoPhillips said Wednesday its third-quarter profit surged 89 percent, reflecting strong prices for crude oil and natural gas.

Maguire, Macquarie Form Joint Venture

Maguire Properties Inc. announced today it's forming a $1.2 billion joint venture with Macquarie Office Trust, a large Australian real estate owner.

Guitar Center Shares Plunge on Earnings

Shares of Guitar Center Inc. dropped nearly 17 percent Wednesday after investors punished the retailer for reporting net income and revenue that came in under analyst estimates.

New EarthLink Venture Reveals Details

EarthLink Network Inc. and SK Telecom Co. Ltd. announced details of their new $440 million joint venture, changing the company name to Helio Inc. and promising to take cellular to a new level.

Tuesday, October 25

September Existing Home Sales Flat

Sales of existing U.S. homes were unchanged in September, as strong post-Katrina sales in the U.S. South helped offset weaker activity elsewhere.

Airlines Reeling From Wilma

Air carriers canceled hundreds of flights after Wilma shut airports in Miami and other Florida cities, with full service unlikely to resume before Wednesday.

Earnings Roundup

Guitar Center Inc., VCA Antech Inc., Avery Dennison Corp., Wilshire Bancorp Inc., Digital Insight Corp. and Superior Galleries Inc. were among the companies that reported earnings Tuesday.

Oil Seeks Signals on Demand

Oil steadied near $60 a barrel on Tuesday as investors sought proof of slower fuel use after Wilma bypassed oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico.

Cathay, UCBH Vying for Great Eastern

Cathay General Bancorp on Tuesday exercised options to buy a minority stake in Great Eastern Bank as it tries to prevent UCBH Holdings Inc. from acquiring the bank.

Business Briefs: Kilroy Realty, Avery Dennison, Jakks Pacific

Kilroy Realty Corp. says it will restate a number of financial statements and postpones the release of its third quarter results, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Stocks Slip on Low Consumer Confidence

Wall Street closed lower after a surprising drop in consumer confidence and a disappointing forecast from Texas Instruments Inc.

Update: Northrop Profit Up Slightly

Northrop Grumman Corp. on Tuesday reported that its third-quarter profit grew despite costs incurred from hurricane-related damage to its Ship Systems facilities on the Gulf Coast.

Consumer Confidence Falls

Consumers have lost more confidence in the economy during October as they contended with hurricanes, surging gas prices and job market worries.

Plan to Cablevision Private Is Withdrawn

The family that controls Cablevision Systems Corp. abandoned a bid to take the company private after failing to agree to terms with the board of directors.

Monday, October 24

Capital Group Battles to Keep Its Cards Close to the Vest

A divorce case highlights the extent to which Capital Group is willing to go to keep its vital information out of public view.

Oil Slides as Wilma Misses Refineries

Crude futures fell Monday as Hurricane Wilma crashed ashore in Florida, avoiding already battered Gulf of Mexico oil producing and refining facilities.

Local Venture Capital Investing Jumps

Venture capital investing in Los Angeles area rose in the third quarter from the year-earlier period, according to figures released Monday by VentureOne and Ernst & Young LLP.

Newsmakers

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

Miracle Mile Skyscraper Under Contract for $105 Million

Developer Wayne Ratkovich's firm is under contract to buy the 32-story People's Bank building in the Miracle Mile.

Former DA Keeps Busy With Photos, Consulting for TV

Former L.A. D.A. Gil Garcetti published his third book of photography, has an exhibition at Hollywood's Municipal Art Gallery, and is working as a consulting producer on a TV drama.

Need for More Original Content Putting AOL on Expansion Path

America Online's original content business is taking off and its Culver City facilities are in major expansion mode.

Growing Firm Looks for New Space in Downtown L.A.

Duane Morris LLP, fresh off its announced merger with Hancock Rothert & Bunshoft LLP, is looking for new office space downtown to hire 25 more lawyers in the next 18 months.

Stocks Jump on Bernanke Appointment

Stocks rallied Monday after Ben Bernanke was selected as the next Federal Reserve chief. Strong quarterly earnings from drugmakers and lower oil prices also bolstered the gains.

Guides Say They Weren't Paid But Had to Wait

Two former guides have filed suit against Starline Tours, alleging that they didn't get paid for the time between tours.

Turnout Turnabout

Operatives on both sides of the aisles are trying to figure out how to get out the vote in next month's special election.

Bargain Hunting

In the comparison-shopping world, companies such as Shopping.com Inc. and Shopzilla Inc. are among the leaders.

JibJab Moves to MSN for the Premiere of Its 'Big Box Mart' Spoof

JibJab Media Inc.'s latest animated short spoof, "Big Box Mart," drew millions of viewers in its first week, but not on Yahoo Inc.'s media site.

More Bidders Interested in Refco Assets

Three new bidders, including Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Cos., are interested in all or part of Refco Inc.'s business, as competition for the futures and financial market brokerage firm heats up.

Vulnerability of Vino Is Concern at Storage Sites

Newer warehouses have sprinklers, climate-controlled systems and a layout designed to minimize breakage in an earthquake.

Splitting Hairs

Craic Technologies has developed a micro-spectrometer that's easier to use than earlier models.

Allegiance to TV Guide Isn't Winning Gemstar Many Fans

There's skepticism that Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. can resurrect its flagship at a time when more TV viewers are going online for their programming information.

Hilton Negotiating Merger to Fly Corporate Flag Across the Globe

If stockholders were taken off guard by news that Hilton Hotels Corp. was in talks to buy Hilton Group PLC's international hotels, they can blame Stephen Bollenbach.

Speculators Snag Their Entitlements, Then Take the Money and Run

Buying into downtown's land rush early has proven to be a lucrative investment for those willing to go through the entitlement process.

Green Building Movement Ready for Its Day in the Sun

Toyota's L.A. facilities include an environmentally conscious campus, an example of the green building movement centered on conserving energy.

Cendant to Split Into Four Companies

Cendant Corp. on Monday said it would break itself up into four companies, reversing more than a decade of expansion through dozens of acquisitions.

Crimping Shrimp

Heavy tariffs that have triggered new customs requirements are driving some importers out of business, with steep price hikes a likely result.

Big Role for Ex-Partners in KPMG Case

The indictments are certain to raise industry-wide questions about whether the partnership structure is too loose to rein in rogue accountants.

Snyder Rolls Dice With Project in Low-Income Neighborhood

Jerry Snyder is negotiating to build in a challenging parcel south of the Santa Monica Freeway.

Merck Profit Rises, but Sales Fall

Merck & Co. on Monday said third-quarter earnings rose, as lower costs offset the loss of its withdrawn arthritis drug Vioxx and lower demand for Zocor.

Television Advertising for November Initiatives Rising to $100 Million Level

The run-up to the Nov 8 California special election is turning out to be Christmas in October for the state's broadcasters.

Adult Content Projected to Drive Video Podcasting, Cellular Sales

L.A.'s adult entertainment industry is churning out content for portable video players and video-enabled cell phones.

Moody's Cuts Mattel's Outlook

Moody's lowered its outlook Monday on Mattel Inc.'s debt to negative from stable, saying the El Segundo-based toymaker's weak third-quarter results could carry well into the fourth quarter.

Celebs Yes, Sales No

L.A.'s Fashion Week draws celebrities, but some designers opt out because they say they don't see the publicity resulting in sales.

New Times to Buy LA Weekly Parent

Village Voice Media, the owner of the LA Weekly, will be bought by New Times Media to create an alternative newspaper powerhouse with publications in 17 of the nation's biggest markets.

Welder Sees What Everybody Needs

Mark House used to make aircraft parts, now he manufactures metal caskets a business he figures is more reliable than Pentagon contracts, because "everybody dies."

Pace of Activity Slows as Deals Take Longer and Prices Peak

Activity tapered off in the third quarter as deals took longer to close and prices seemed to have peaked.

Things May Change, but Movies Will Survive

Watching Hollywood try figuring out why more people aren't going to the movies has gotten to be interesting sport.

Computer Sciences Lures Buyout Firms

Shares of Computer Sciences Corp. soared as much as 18 percent after The Wall Street Journal reported private equity companies are looking to buy the El Segundo-based computer-services company.

Attorney Steers Course Into Pro Bono Work

People across L.A. tell us how they do what they do.

Business Briefs: Weinstein Co., Federated, Platinum Equity, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Bob and Harvey Weinstein's The Weinstein Co. raises $490 million in private equity, Platinum Equity Group agrees to acquire Amherst, N.Y.-based ESM Group Inc., and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Pete's Points

Former Gov. Pete Wilson misses politics. So he keeps his hand in the game by offering advice to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Earnings Roundup

J2 Global Communications Inc., MannKind Corp. and Diagnostic Products Corp. were among the companies that reported earnings Monday.

L.A. Gas Prices Fall Again

The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles area fell for the third week in a row, declining 6.5 cents to $2.830 for the week ended Oct. 24.

Stuff

Inventive, new products from Los Angeles-area companies.

Bernanke Picked to Chair Fed

President Bush on Monday selected Ben Bernanke, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, to replace Alan Greenspan as Fed chairman.

Shortage of Technicians Means L.A. Has More Meters That Won't Read

Since June, the city of Los Angeles has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of parking meters on the fritz.

Friday, October 21

Former DA Keeps Busy With Photos, Consulting

Gil Garcetti is thrilled with his second career as a photographer. He's also busy working as a consulting producer on the TV drama "The Closer."

Raw Material Costs Hit Caterpillar

Caterpillar Inc. on Friday posted disappointing quarterly results and warned that higher raw material costs and production bottlenecks would crimp profits.

HPC Industries Buys Vanguard Plastics

L.A.-based HPC Industries Inc. announced Friday that a subsidiary acquired Vanguard Plastics Inc. to form what HPC claimed would be the world's largest manufacturer of plastic carryout packaging.

Stocks Mixed on Google, Caterpillar

Stocks closed mixed but mostly higher Friday, with Caterpillar's results dragging down the Dow while strong earnings from Google led a broader rally.

L.A. County Jobless Rate Lowest in Five Years

L.A. County's unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in five years, driven by a thriving informal economy that appears to be growing with each passing month.

Oil Rises as Wilma Halts Recovery

Oil prices got a boost on Friday, rising from a three-month low as Hurricane Wilma showed signs of hindering the recovery of oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hedge Fund Contests Refco Bankruptcy

VR Group, named by Refco as a major creditor, said it would challenge the broker's bankruptcy filing and that its operations were not under threat from the case.

SpaceX Sues Boeing, Lockheed Over Launch Venture

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. on Thursday filed a lawsuit to challenge plans by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to jointly launch government satellites.

High L.A. Gas Prices Lower Demand

Gas prices in L.A. and throughout Southern California fell for a second straight week, as high per-gallon costs continued to chip away at demand, said the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Ex-KPMG Tax Partner Denied Bail

An indicted ex-KPMG tax partner who was considered a flight risk by prosecutors was denied bail and is being transferred to a New York jail.

Google Shares Hit All-Time High

Google's shares hit a new high Friday after the Internet search giant said third-quarter financial figures that astounded analysts and its own management team.

Thursday, October 20

Gas Trader Cook Inlet to Be Acquired

The $3.4 billion natural gas trading and marketing firm is being acquired by Australia's Macquarie Bank Group.

Indicators Slip for Third Month

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell for its third consecutive month in September due to a rise in energy costs that was magnified by Hurricane Katrina.

Jobless Claims Plunge

The number of unemployed U.S. workers filing for initial jobless aid fell a larger-than-expected 35,000 last week on the back of fewer hurricane-related claims.

Ford Reports Third-Quarter Loss

Ford Motor Co. reported a third-quarter loss of $284 million and said it is developing a restructuring plan that will include plant closings and staff reductions.

Enron Wins Approval of Settlement

Enron Corp. on Thursday won a judge's approval of a $1.5 billion settlement of claims that it gouged California and other western states during the 2000-2001 energy crisis, Bloomberg News reported.

Earnings Roundup

Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co., Ixia and Cathay General Bancorp were among the companies that reported earnings Thursday.

Pfizer Profit Halves as Sales Slide

Pfizer Inc. on Thursday reported a 52 percent drop in third-quarter profit due to tumbling sales of its Celebrex drug and generic competition for other medicines.

L.A.-O.C. Rents Soar 6.3 Percent

Apartment rents in L.A. and Orange counties soared to an average monthly cost of $1,441 during the third quarter, according to a study released today by RealFacts.

Stocks Drop as Indicators Fall

Stocks ended sharply lower on Thursday after a key inflation gauge hit a 25-year high and stirred fears of higher interest rates.

Shamrock Closes New Real Estate Fund

Shamrock Capital Advisors, an investment arm of Roy E. Disney, announced Thursday it has closed a new $104 million fund that will invest in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods.

Ex-KPMG Tax Partner Seeks Release on Bail

A former KPMG tax partner who has been arrested and indicted on charges of tax evasion has asked a federal judge to release him on $10 million bail.

Viacom Pulling Plug on Dreamworks Bid

Viacom will not to make a bid for DreamWorks SKG, saying shareholders would likely balk at a major acquisition when it's about to split into two companies, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Business Briefs: Image Entertainment, Entravision, Keystone

Image Entertainment asks Lions Gate Entertainment to raise its bid by Oct. 31, Entravision Communications launches the Spanish-language equivalent to "Jack" radio, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Oil Prices Fall on Gas Stocks Rise

Crude futures fell Thursday on news that gasoline stocks rose last week and as forecasts predicted Hurricane Wilma will likely avoid oil facilities on the Gulf Coast.

Wednesday, October 19

Housing Construction Increases

Housing construction unexpectedly rose in September to the highest level in seven months, defying expectations of a slowdown in the housing market.

Bank of America Profit Up

Bank of America Corp. on Wednesday said third-quarter profit rose 10 percent, helped by surging credit card fees, investment gains and securities trading.

Earnings Roundup

Jakks Pacific Inc., Stamps.com Inc. and Summa Industries were among the companies that reported earnings Wednesday.

Troika Acquired by Qlogic

Westlake Village-based Troika Networks Inc., a data storage software and hardware maker, was purchased by Aliso Viejo-based Qlogic Inc. for $36.5 million.

Fuel Costs Hamper Mass Transit

Mass transit systems nationwide are considering cutting service, laying off staff, raising fares and delaying capital spending to meet rising diesel fuel prices.

Amgen Profit Jumps, Revenue Disappoints

Amgen Inc. said Wednesday its third-quarter earnings jumped due to increased sales of its drugs to treat anemia in cancer patients, but its revenue results still dipped below estimates.

Green Street Settles NASD Case

Broker-dealer Green Street Advisors agreed to pay $150,000 to settle NASD claims it failed to register eight of its research analysts who regularly issued reports.

JPMorgan Chase Profit Jumps

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the No. 3 U.S bank, on Wednesday said quarterly earnings rose 78 percent, helped by strong trading across all markets.

Stocks End Higher on Earnings, Oil

Stocks rallied on Wednesday, as a drop in oil prices, a positive Federal Reserve survey and quarterly profit reports encouraged investors.

Centre Partners Sells Souplantation

Centre Partners LLC on Wednesday sold the operator of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants to Sun Capital Partners Inc. for a reported $198 million.

Oil Prices Up Before Report

Oil prices edged higher Wednesday as traders watched Wilma's path and awaited the release of a petroleum report expected to show that crude stocks rose.

City National Quarterly Profit Rises

City National Corp. on Wednesday reported third-quarter earnings rose 12 percent on stronger loan growth and raised its profit guidance for this year.

Tuesday, October 18

Safeway Profit Falls on Charges

Safeway Inc. reported Tuesday that profit slipped in the third quarter, weighed down by charges related to the restructuring of its Texas operations.

Earnings Roundup

Ryland Group Inc., Cheesecake Factory Inc. and East West Bancorp Inc. were among the companies that reported earnings Tuesday.

Report: L.A. Homes Overvalued

L.A. home prices are overvalued by nearly 34 percent and the region ranks among the nation's largest housing markets at risk for price declines, according to the PMI U.S. Market Risk Index issued Tuesday.

Oil Prices Fall as Wilma Fears Ease

Crude futures fell Tuesday as fears eased over the threat of Tropical Storm Wilma, with the storm looking more likely to avoid oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Merrill Lynch Profit Up 49 Percent

Merrill Lynch & Co. said quarterly net income climbed a better-than-expected 49 percent to record levels as underwriting and trading revenue jumped.

Inflation Concerns Drop Stocks

Inflation fears sent stocks sliding Tuesday as a jump in wholesale prices overshadowed strong profit reports from several Dow Jones industrials.

Inflation Up on Surging Energy Prices

Inflation at the wholesale level last month soared by the largest amount in more than 15 years, reflecting the surge in energy prices following the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

Business Briefs: Lions Gate, Jakks Pacific, Sony Pictures Digital

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. acquires British film distributor Redbus Film Distribution Ltd. for about $35 million in cash and stock, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Chain Store Sales Rise

Chain store retail sales rose for the fourth consecutive week as consumer demand for fall apparel got a lift from colder weather, a retail report said Tuesday.

Refco Files for Chapter 11

The troubled commodities broker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and reached a preliminary deal to sell its core futures brokerage business for $768 million.

Northridge Equipment Bought by Ashtead

Northridge Equipment Services Inc. has been acquired for $69.6 million by the U.S. subsidiary of UK-based equipment rental group Ashtead Group PLC, which is seeking to boost its U.S. presence.

Monday, October 17

Update: Judge Closes Divorce Testimony to Public

An L.A. County Family Court judge on Monday agreed to close from public view any testimony related to Capital Group Cos.' finances during the divorce trial of an executive for the downtown Los Angeles money manager.

State High Court to Decide Liability for Contractor Injuries

The California Supreme Court is expected to decide whether companies may be held liable when employees of independent contractors are hurt because of a dangerous condition caused on their property.

Burbank Shines as Media Firms Seek Space in Blooming Market

This time, Burbank was the star of the Tri-Cities commercial real estate market.

Office Vacancies Tighten Amid Residential Development Boom

A boom in the construction of residential units in Hollywood and the dearth of new office space pushed up rents and land values to new highs in the third quarter.

They Lack the Personal Touch but Gift Card Sales Ring It Up

Gift cards are turning up at more businesses, including supermarkets and fast food restaurants, but there are pitfalls retailers must watch out for.

JC Flowers in Talks to Buy Refco Unit

Refco Inc. on Monday said it is discussing the sale of its futures brokerage business to a group of investors led by private equity firm J.C. Flowers & Co. LLC.

Barbie Drags Down Mattel Profit

The El Segundo-based toymaker said on Monday that its third-quarter profit slumped 12 percent as lower Barbie sales eclipsed higher sales in much of the rest of its product portfolio.

Name Worth More Than Change for 99 Cents

99 Cents Only Stores has been trying to protect its brand by establishing trademarks on a growing list of similar names.

Learning the Hard Way

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu & #324;ez has stood up to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger but his stance has resulted in few accomplishments.

GM Deal, Cigarette Ruling Lift Stocks

Stocks ended higher on Monday after investors reacted to a favorable court ruling for cigarette makers and General Motors Corp.'s deal with the United Auto Workers union to cut its health-care costs.

Savvy Homeowners Sway Politicians to Block Development

Savvy homeowners have blocked development around the veterans' facility in the past, and shouldn't be counted out this time.

Investors Remaining Optimistic Despite Slight Rise in Vacancies

While investors acquired several desirable Ventura County commercial properties in the third quarter, vacancy rates in the office and industrial markets rose slightly from the previous three months.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Baby Bottles

Natural personal care products for babies are selling so briskly that giant Johnson & Johnson is getting into the game.

Peering Ahead

Michael Weiss, chief executive of StreamCast Networks Inc., says his company shouldn't be blamed for people's abuse of peer-to-peer technology.

Business Briefs: Molina, Jakks Pacific, Hustler, Amgen, Keystone Automotive

Molina Healthcare Inc. gets a chance to win back Medi-Cal contracts it lost in May, Jakks Pacific Inc. signs an agreement to develop and market Bratz pet products, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

N.Y. Fed Manufacturing Index Dips

Growth at New York State factories slowed in October to its weakest level in five months, although new orders jumped, the New York Federal Reserve said on Monday.

Landlords Raise Lease Rates asTenants Grab Remaining Space

Commercial landlords in the San Fernando Valley flexed their muscles in the third quarter, boosting rents in high-volume markets such as the West Valley.

Stuff

Inventive, new products from Los Angeles-area companies.

Talking Points

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu & #324;ez defends his record in a discussion with Business Journal reporters and editors.

L.A. Gas Prices Keep Slipping

The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles area fell for the second week in a row, dipping 6.6 cents to $2.895 for the week ended Oct. 17.

Clean Machines

Enova Systems transforms pollution-belching tractors, buses and trucks into clean-burning vehicles.

Hits Just Keep On Coming to Adelphia's Worn Image

Thousands of L.A. customers got the Spanish language feed of "Desperate Housewives" in another example of the troubles surrounding Adelphia Communications Corp.

Update: Downtown Hotel Deal Reached

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday announced a deal between the city and the Bonaventure Hotel that removes a major obstacle to the development of a $400 million, 1,100-room convention center hotel.

Rumors of Possible Sale as Arden Realty Hires Advisers

Trade magazine Real Estate Alert reported that L.A.-based Secured Capital Corp. has been retained to evaluate Arden's 19.2 million-square-foot Southern California portfolio.

S & P; Cuts Rating on Mattel's Debt

One day after Mattel Inc. reported its third-quarter profit fell 12 percent, Standard & Poor's cut the El Segundo-based toymaker's short-term credit rating to one level short of junk status.

Artful Blogger

Jason Calacanis started Santa Monica-based Weblogs Inc. in his bedroom and sold it for $25 million to America Online.

Lights Out for Unocal

Chevron Corp. has begun laying off workers at the El Segundo headquarters of the former Unocal Corp.

Rise in Rents, New Construction Signal Desirability of Market

A sharp jump in rents underlined the growing maturity of the Santa Clarita office market in the third quarter.

Military Radios Hold Promise for Civilian Disaster Response

Emergency officials are closely watching a military radio being developed by a local Boeing Co. unit that will allow first-responders to talk to each other more easily.

Landlord Bringing Chi-Chi Cuisine to Downtown Tower

Jim Thomas, CEO of Thomas Properties Group Inc., is courting celebrity chefs as part of his effort to open three high-end restaurants in City National Plaza, formerly Arco Plaza.

Tight Industrial Market Sends Tenants to Outlying Areas

Industrial real estate activity in the Mid-Cities area reached a peak not seen in recent years, as tight surrounding submarkets drove tenants to Pico Rivera and Santa Fe Springs.

Chinese Banking Giant Plans Big Entrance Into Los Angeles

Lending giant HSBC Bank USA is making a big push into Los Angeles but local competitors won't be rolling over.

Washington vs. West L.A.

Plans for development of the Westside's sprawling VA site will face opposition, and it won't be a typical fight.

Miracle Mile Thrives, While Rents Stay Low Toward Downtown

Stretching from west of downtown to Beverly Hills, the area saw its office vacancy rate drop more than a point, to 9.2 percent in the third quarter.

Law Firm Must Ponder Going to Bat Without Its Heaviest Hitter

Celebrity attorney Bert Fields' link to a federal wiretapping probe is raising questions about his future at a law firm whose success has been built largely around him.

Industrial Space Gets Grabbed While Offices Sit Vacant

There are still two markets in the South Bay. Warehouse and industrial space is in high demand, while vast expanses of office buildings sit empty.

Platinum Equity Sells Logistics Unit

Platinum Equity Group on Monday said it is selling its ACR Logistics unit to Kuehne & Nagel International AG of Switzerland for about $528 million plus $60 million in assumed debt.

Intermix Pioneer Sets Sights on Video as His Next Online Frontier

Brad Greenspan, embattled former CEO of Intermix Media Inc., plowed some of the $48 million he earned back into the Internet, launching a new company called vidiLife Inc.

Tight Market Stifling Activity

Industrial facilities in the San Gabriel Valley remained scarce in the third quarter, driving manufacturers and distributors eastward in search of open space.

Oil Prices Rise as Storm Brews

Crude futures jumped Monday on concerns that a tropical storm in the Caribbean could become a hurricane that could threaten Gulf of Mexico oil facilities.

Headhunting in the World of Retail Executives

People across L.A. tell us how they do what they do.

Rents Rise as Industrial Users Continue Trek to Eastern Suburbs

Strong demand for industrial space in the Inland Empire caused rents to increase again during the third quarter.

Technology Company Leasing Leads to Drop in Vacancy Rates

Technology companies putting down roots in the entertainment world helped push the Westside vacancy rate below 10 percent for the first time in years.

In World Without Moguls, Who Pulls Strings?

When Michael Eisner finally tiptoed out of Walt Disney Co. a couple of weeks ago, Hollywood lost its last mogul.

Activision Fires Back in Real-World Shootout Over Game

Activision Inc. has countersued a game developer, alleging fraud, breach of contract and copyright infringement.

Even Lagging Areas Lifted by Hot County Real Estate Market

L.A. County's office market continued to strengthen in the third quarter, as vacancies fell and lease rates began to perk up.

Birth of a Veterans Campus Led to Development of the Westside

The VA campus played a significant role in bringing more workers and housing to West L.A. and Santa Monica in the early part of the 20th century.

GM, UAW Reach Deal as GM Posts Loss

General Motors Corp. on Monday announced a deal with the United Auto Workers union to slash its health-care costs, and it posted a fourth straight quarterly loss.

Properties Changing Hands but Leasing Activity Remains Low

Downtown properties continued to change hands in the third quarter even as vacancies stagnated and average asking rates for Class-A space rose only slightly.

Pick and Choose

There are a range of possibilities for the future of the VA site. The most controversial proposals would require significant construction.

Newsmakers

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

Get Ready for Yet Another Upgrade as Next Version of Web Takes Hold

A new, faster version of the Internet is making a slow arrival into the United States.

Albertsons Draws Union Ire in Bristol Farms Conversions

The United Food and Commercial Workers are objecting to the Boise, Idaho-based company handing off Albertsons stores to Bristol Farms to grow the upscale chain.

Friday, October 14

Consumer Mood Falls to 13-Year Low

Consumer sentiment fell unexpectedly in early October to its lowest level in 13 years, as high gas prices and the fallout from hurricane damage took their toll.

Demand Drop Dips L.A. Gas Prices

Gas prices in L.A. declined this week due to a drop in demand caused by high pump prices since the hurricanes, said the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Refco Winds Down Securities Unit

Refco Inc. is winding down the business of its regulated broker-dealer unit Refco Securities LLC, according to the company that clears the unit's trades.

Delta Sues to Halt Payments at LAX

Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of LAX, denies reports that Delta Air Lines is seeking to stop making payments on bonds its owes to the airport for facility improvements.

Hilton in Talks to Buy UK Hilton's Hotels

Hilton Hotels Corp. on Friday said it is in discussions to acquire the hotel division of UK-based Hilton Group Plc, in an all-cash deal reported to be worth about $6.3 billion.

Yahoo Mulls AOL Stake

Yahoo Inc. is considering buying a stake in Time Warner Inc.'s America Online Internet unit, the Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site on Friday.

Chi-Chi Cuisine Coming Downtown

Jim Thomas, CEO of Thomas Properties Group Inc., is courting celebrity chefs as part of his effort to open three high-end restaurants in City National Plaza, formerly Arco Plaza.

Dramatic Slump in Vehicle Sales

Sales of new cars and trucks at the retail level fell in October, led by steep declines at General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Container Traffic Surges at Local Ports

Container traffic at the ports of Long Beach and L.A. surged in September, driven by strong growth at the Port of Long Beach, which edged out its sister port in handling the most cargo.

Occidental to Buy Vintage

Occidental Petroleum Corp. on Thursday agreed to acquire smaller rival Vintage Petroleum Inc. for about $3.52 billion to expand in Latin America and California.

Stocks Up on Consumer Price Index, GE

Stocks ended the week higher on Friday as mild inflation data and improving retail sales created a brighter economic picture. Nonetheless, the major indexes finished lower for the week.

Consumer Prices Up; Retail Sales Rise

Consumer prices surged in September by the largest amount in nearly 25 years, inflation jumped 1.2 percent last month, and retail sales posted a small increase.

Oil Prices Slip on Flagging Demand

Crude futures fell more than $1 a barrel Friday, extending their losses amid signs of weak U.S. gasoline demand.

Thursday, October 13

Stocks Finish Mixed Amid Inflation Fears

U.S. stocks finished mixed after a strong showing by some technology stocks failed to overcome inflation fears. Local movers included Herbalife Ltd., MannKind Corp. and True Religion Apparel Inc.

Ports Handling Holiday Shipments

Local ports appear to be operating smoothly, but tie-ups in Asia have resulted in more holiday goods being shipped to the United States by air.

Tax Set-Aside Cuts Tribune Co. Profits

Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times, said profit fell 80 percent after the company set aside $150 million to pay for a tax claim related to the sale of two former Times-Mirror units.

J & J; Sues Amgen Over Drug Marketing

Johnson & Johnson sued Amgen Inc., claiming that the Thousand Oaks-based biotech giant used its Aranesp anemia drug to drive J & J;'s Procrit from the market, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Google, Comcast in Talks on AOL Stake

Google and Comcast are in discussions with Time Warner Inc. to buy a stake in America Online, Reuters reported, citing sources close to the matter on Thursday.

August Trade Deficit Third-Highest Ever

The nation's trade deficit rose 1.8 percent to $59.03 billion in August, the third highest in history, driven by higher oil prices, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

Tax Dispute Emerges Over Port Leases

Companies have been taking advantage of tax breaks on short-term leases at local ports, even when it's apparent they plan to stay for at least a decade.

Refco Unit Freezes Client Accounts

Refco Inc., the commodities broker mired in an accounting scandal, said Thursday that one of its subsidiaries will freeze customers' accounts for 15 days, the Associated Press reported.

Import Prices Jump Most Since 1990

Prices of goods imported into the U.S. posted their biggest gain since 1990 in September, led by rising oil and natural gas prices after two hurricanes struck the U.S. Gulf Coast, Bloomberg News reported.

Wednesday, October 12

Kerkorian Increases GM Stake

Kirk Kerkorian spent nearly $56.8 million to increase his stake in General Motors Corp. to 9.9 percent, a day after the FTC said it would not oppose his plan to raise his ownership from 9.5 percent.

KB Home, Stewart Building Homes

Martha Stewart has struck a deal with builder KB Home that extends the lifestyle expert's housewares brand into the houses themselves.

Business Briefs: OSI Systems, Kayne Anderson MLP, Orphalese Global Strategies

OSI Systems wins a $6.6 million order from a federal government agency, Orphalese Global Strategies plans to build a cruise ship with 200 permanent residences, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Disney, Apple in TV Show Deal

Walt Disney Co. and Apple Computer Inc. reached an agreement Wednesday to offer ABC and Disney Channel television shows for download from Apple's iTunes 6 program.

Tuesday, October 11

Microsoft, RealNetworks Settle Suit

RealNetworks Inc. announced a legal settlement Tuesday with Microsoft Corp., ending the last major antitrust case against the world's largest software maker.

L.A. Hotel Occupancy, Rates Up in August

Los Angeles County hotel occupancy and room rates rose in August compared to a year earlier, reflecting robust tourist business during the summer season, according to data released Tuesday.

Consumer Confidence Up in October

Consumers were slightly less pessimistic about the U.S. economy in October, with rising interest rates and high gasoline prices as the main worries.

Inco to Buy Falconbridge for $11 Billion

Inco Ltd. has agreed to pay nearly $11 billion in cash and stock for Falconbridge Ltd. in a deal that will form the world's largest nickel producer.

Business Briefs: Countrywide, California Pizza Kitchen, True Religion

Countrywide Financial Corp., California Pizza Kitchen Inc. and True Religion Apparel Inc. release preliminary third-quarter operational data and earnings estimates.

L.A. Gas Prices Down Again

The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in the L.A. area began slipping again after a moderate rise last week, falling 1.3 cents to $2.961 for the week ended Oct. 10.

Appeal by Former Gemstar Executives Rejected

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of two former executives of Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. who are seeking access to $37.6 million in severance payments.

FTC Allows Kerkorian to Up GM Stake

The FTC said on Tuesday it would not oppose a plan by billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian to increase his stake in General Motors Corp. and possibly seek a seat on GM's board, Reuters reported.

International Rectifier Slumps on Warning

Shares of International Rectifier Corp. sank as much as 19 percent to a new one-year low Tuesday after the company warned that first-quarter results would come up short of previous guidance.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

JPL Plans Layoffs as NASA Cuts Loom

Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory plans to lay off about 300 employees and contractors this month because of expected cuts in NASA's budget.

Oil Prices Rise More Than $1

Oil prices rose Tuesday after the International Energy Agency forecast that last month's drop in energy demand would moderate and some analysts predicted a very cold winter in the northeastern U.S.

Stocks Mixed on Inflation Worries

Stocks ended mixed Tuesday as gains were limited by investors' anxiety over corporate profits, inflation and rising crude prices.

U.S. Chain Store Sales Rise

Chain store sales rose in the first week of October, as consumers started shopping for fall apparel, a report said on Tuesday.

Monday, October 10

Coffee Bean Hit With $200,000 Penalties in Overtime Suit

The parent of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain agreed to pay $100,000 to 350 current and former California employees who allege they were forced to work off the clock and denied overtime pay.

Call of the Mall

If all goes well at the newly christened Westfield Century City, the Australian-based chain will take its hybrid lifestyle-entertainment concept to its 10 other malls throughout Southern California.

Sports Club Stockholders' Buyout Plan Gets Struck Out

A proposal by Sports Club Co. Inc.'s four principal stockholders and their affiliates to take the Los Angeles-based chain private has been shelved.

True Colors

L.A.'s dyeing industry has seen much of its business move overseas.

L.A. Homebuyers Continue Driving Prices to Records

For all the suspicions that home sales are peaking out, September's numbers for Los Angeles County show robust appreciation.

Device Threat

Companies are banning digital music players, portable memory sticks and camera cell phones.

Meridien Changes Hands in $90 Million Deal

Budding nightlife impresario Sam Nazarian is buying the 297-room Le Meridien for more than $90 million, or $303,000 per room.

Newsmakers

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

Santa Monica Broker Fined by NASD

Santa Monica-based broker-dealer National Planning Corp. Inc. has been fined $1.3 million by the NASD for receiving improper payments to push certain mutual funds to investors.

Adman Notes the Expanding Buying Power of Latinos

Carlos Mendez says his secret to effective advertising is a two-punch strategy helping clients promote an overarching vision with their products as well as executing logistics.

Let There Be Movies

It's out with the old name Miramax and in with the new the Weinstein Co. in a major re-branding campaign for the independent film concern.

Nissan's Departure Not an Idle Threat

Carlos Ghosn has cut costs and improved sales since taking the helm at Nissan. But the future of the U.S. division's headquarters in Gardena is in question.

Oil Falls on Waning Demand

Crude oil fell slightly Monday as traders weighed the approach of the Northern Hemisphere cold season against the drag of continued low demand.

Padilla Elected President of League of California Cities

Padilla, 32, becomes the first Latino and one of the youngest ever to head the League of California Cities, the powerful umbrella group that represents 478 cities throughout the state.

U.S. Growth Outlook Cut

Forecasters cut their outlook for U.S. growth and ramped up inflation expectations for the second half of 2005, a survey released on Monday showed.

Martha Stewart Set for KB Home Decorations

What better way to kick off a new column about people in business than to find a new venture cooked up by Martha Stewart?

Storms to Cut Northrop's Profit

Northrop Grumman Corp. on Monday said that damage and work delays caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita would cause it to take a third-quarter charge and cut into its profit this year.

Controversial Technique Provides Benefits for Investors

A variation in longstanding 1031 rules is benefiting real estate investors

Record Industry Sings Blues Over Satellite Downloads

Satellite companies are offering downloadable programs, but the recording industry doesn't think that's such a great idea.

Bit by Bit Departure as Switch Maker Leaves L.A. Without Fanfare

With little fanfare, telecom equipment maker Tekelec has been pulling out of L.A., bit by bit.

What's Next for LAX?

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa envisions a scaled-down expansion that would reduce the cost of improving LAX by about one-third.

Ports Weren't Overwhelmed by Holiday Shipments This Year

Local ports appear to be operating smoothly, but tie-ups in Asia have resulted in more holiday goods being shipped to the United States by air.

Delphi Filing Raises Risks for GM

General Motors Corp. shares fell sharply on Monday on worries about heightened risks for the company after Delphi Corp. filed for bankruptcy over the weekend.

Business Briefs: DirecTV, Image Entertainment, Yeahronimo Media, CKE

DirecTV Group Inc.'s Latin America unit cuts jobs as it consolidates operations, Yeahronimo Media Ventures Inc. changes its name to Commodore International Corp., and other briefs about L.A. companies.

You Still Shouldn't Ask Him for a California Roll

Was it Nozawa's not-always-charming attitude that caused his renowned sushi restaurant to take a steep fall in the new Zagat survey?

Reliance Steel Forms Joint Venture

Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. announced Monday that it is forming a joint venture with two Singapore-based companies to serve the semiconductor and electronics industries in China.

Tax Dispute Emerges Over Leases at Ports

Companies have been taking advantage of tax breaks on short-term leases at local ports, even when it's apparent they plan to stay for at least a decade.

Liquid Gas Report Due Amid High Sensitivities

A long-awaited environmental impact report concerning a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal at the Port of Long Beach is due out next week.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Herbalife in Talks for Construction of New Headquarters

A blockbuster of a deal is developing at the Howard Hughes Center, the office complex just off the San Diego (405) freeway in West Los Angeles.

Budgeting Trend Sweeps World of Contracting With Law Firms

In-house attorneys are increasingly asking the firms they hire to submit estimated budgets so they can reduce costs and accurately report expenses in SEC filings.

Way to Pay

The owner of a real estate agency has tried to break the industry mold by paying salaries to his sales staff instead of commissions.

Nightlife Is the Right Life for Club Operator

People across L.A. tell us how they do what they do.

Hotel Tax Deal Offering Dollars and Uncertainty

The tax break granted to the developers of a downtown entertainment project may help prop up the city's white elephant of a convention center. But it's a pretty tall bet.

One 'Brands' for Mattel, Fisher-Price

Mattel Inc. said on Monday it was consolidating its Mattel Brands and Fisher-Price Brands divisions into one division called "Brands."

Stuff

Inventive, new products from Los Angeles-area companies.

Fires Inspire KABC to Send Viewers to Added Channel

KABC's digital channels are offering more program flexibility, most recently seen with coverage of the local brush fires.

Holding True

Richard Weiss has to convince investors that City National can do a better job managing their money.

Lincoln National Buying Jefferson-Pilot

Insurance provider Lincoln National Corp. agreed Monday to acquire Jefferson-Pilot Corp. for about $7.5 billion in cash and stock.

Debatable Point Are Incentive Plans Fair and Effective?

Recent proposals have rekindled a debate over whether the government should be in the business of granting tax breaks to specific industries and companies.

Radio Revenues Trending Up as TV and Newspaper Ads Decline

Local data shows that total radio revenue for the L.A. metro area was 3.2 percent higher for the first eight months of the year than for the like period a year earlier.

Stocks Down on Delphi Bankruptcy

Stocks fell Monday as Delphi Corp.'s bankruptcy filing and a lowered outlook at Northrop set a gloomy tone ahead of the upcoming earnings season.

Friday, October 7

Stocks Advance on Jobs Report

Stocks advanced Friday but finished the week lower after a better-than-expected employment report raised hopes about the economy despite the recent hurricanes.

Inside Track: Martha Stewart Set for KB Home Decorations

KB Home, the big L.A.-based home builder, is expected to ink a deal next week that will have Martha Stewart bringing her home design expertise to the national builder.

Adelphia Founder, Son Indicted

The founder of Adelphia Communications Corp. and his son were indicted on charges they didn't pay $300 million in taxes.

Weinsteins to Raise $1.8 Billion by 2010

Harvey and Bob Weinstein expect to generate about $1.8 billion by 2010 from their new film production company, Weinstein Co., the New York Post reported.

Oil Prices Bounce Back

Oil prices rose Friday after a five-day decline, as traders shrugged off signs of faltering U.S. fuel consumption and expected demand to rise as winter kicks in.

Update: Audit Faults L.A. Treasurer's Office

A new audit from Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick found serious lapses at the city Treasurer's office, including accounts overdrawn by more than $50 million on two occasions.

Inflation Gauge Climbs

U.S. inflation pressures climbed in September to their highest in over five years, suggesting the Fed was right to remain vigilant over price increases.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Business Briefs: Northrop, 99 Cents Only, Tracinda

Northrop is part of a Lockheed Martin-led team that received a $6.5 billion addition to its Joint Strike Fighter contract, 99 Cents Only says its same-store sales fell, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Thin Supplies Fuel L.A. Gas Price Rise

Gas prices in L.A. increased this week in response to thin national supplies as the Gulf Coast continues to suffer in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Wholesale Inventories Rise

Inventories at U.S. wholesalers rose by 0.5 percent in August, the Commerce Department said, as stockpiles of petroleum, alcohol and paper climbed.

Ares Buys Stake in OSH Stores

Ares Management LLC is buying a 19.9 percent stake in Orchard Supply Hardware Stores Corp. for $58.7 million in cash from Sears Holdings Corp.

General RE Ex-CEO Facing SEC Action

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said on Friday the former CEO of its General Re Corp. unit could face action from the SEC as part of an investigation into insurance products.

Katrina Hits Unemployment Rate

The economy lost jobs in September as the convulsions of recent hurricanes rattled the labor market, pushing the unemployment rate up to 5.1 percent.

Thursday, October 6

Housing Market Has Peaked, Mozilo Says

The housing market appears to have peaked and some regions may see a "substantial reduction" in condominium values, Countrywide's CEO Angelo Mozilo said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

Hurricanes Drive Jobless Claims Higher

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose by 21,000 last week as the scale of hurricane-related applications increased.

Eisner Resigns Early From Disney Board

Michael Eisner, whose last day as Walt Disney Co. chief executive was Sept. 30, resigned from the board that same day, according to a new regulatory filing from Disney.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Oil Drops to Two-Month Lows

Oil prices dropped for the fifth day in a row Thursday to two-month lows, as traders exited what they say is a market trending lower on weakening consumer demand.

GE Raises Third-Quarter, 2005 Outlook

General Electric Co. said Thursday it expects earnings to meet the high end of earlier projections for the third quarter, and raised its outlook for full-year profit.

New York on Alert for Subway Attack

The city's subway system is under its most specific threat of a terrorist attack ever, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Thursday, saying the threat came from overseas.

Retail Sales Tepid on Gas Prices

Consumers struggling with gasoline prices and the fallout from Katrina shopped at discounters and avoided malls in September, delivering retailers tepid sales results.

Weinsteins Raise $230 Million for Post-Miramax Venture

Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein said they have raised $230 million in equity for their new film production company, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Mayor Overhauls Planning Commission

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday overhauled the city's planning commission, naming former City Councilman Mike Woo and eight others to the commission.

Stocks Fall on Economic Worries

Cautionary comments on inflation from a Federal Reserve official sent stocks lower Thursday, as investors continued worrying about more interest-rate hikes.

Guess Shares Soar on Same-Store Sales

Shares of Guess Inc. soared as much as 21 percent after the L.A.-based apparel company reported Thursday that its September same-store sales surged 14.2 percent, beating analysts' estimates.

L.A.'s Home Affordability Drops in August

The number of people who could afford to purchase median-priced homes in the L.A. region dropped sharply in August from the year-earlier period, the California Association of Realtors said.

Wednesday, October 5

Oil Slides on Supply Report

Oil and gasoline futures fell Wednesday after U.S. government data showed growing evidence of falling demand and traders shrugged off a decline in supplies.

Executive Life Penalty Overturned

A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a $700 million verdict awarded over the 1992 acquisition of Executive Life Insurance Co. An L.A. jury had issued the verdict in July against Paris-based holding company Artemis S.A.

Leases at Highest Since Dot-Com Days

Fox Interactive Media and Edmunds.com Inc. are inking large Westside leases at some of the highest rents since the dot-com days.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Update: DaVita Closes Gambro Acquisition

Kidney dialysis center owner DaVita Inc. said Wednesday that it has closed its $3.1 billion acquisition of the U.S. health-care unit of Sweden's Gambro AB.

Firms Planned More Layoffs in September

Firms planned more layoffs in September compared to August, led by the struggling airline sector and a consolidating retail industry, a report said Wednesday.

Viacom Details Terms of Company's Split

Shareholders of Viacom Inc. will get half a share of the new Viacom and half a share of CBS Corp. for each share they currently hold when the conglomerate splits into two companies, the company said Wednesday.

Stocks Drop on Weak Economic Report

Stocks fell for a second day Wednesday, as a drop in crude futures was overshadowed by a weak reading on the service sector of the economy that raised investor concerns about inflation.

Economy Gets Inflation Warning

The economy received another inflation warning on Wednesday when a survey of industry executives showed energy costs drove prices higher in September while the services sector slowed.

Business Briefs: Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, Hot Topic, CKE, CSC

Investors sue to stop the buyout of Fox & Hound Restaurant Group by L.A.-based Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, Hot Topic reports lower comparable-store sales, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Services Sector Sees Slower Growth

The economy's services sector grew in September, but at a much slower pace than in August, amid a sharp rise in energy costs.

Tuesday, October 4

Chain Store Sales Bounce

Chain store sales bounced higher in the latest week following softness in previous weeks related to economic fallout from hurricanes and higher gas prices.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

Google, Sun Challenge Microsoft's Office

Google took a step toward challenging Microsoft's Office suite by announcing Tuesday a software collaboration agreement with Sun Microsystems.

Lexmark Slashes Profit Outlook

Lexmark International Inc. on Tuesday slashed its profit outlook and its shares plummeted, as the computer printer-maker took a hit from aggressive pricing by its rival Hewlett-Packard Co.

Update: Former Gemstar CEO Pleads Guilty

Henry Yuen, the former CEO of Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc., on Tuesday pleaded guilty to criminal charges of obstructing an SEC investigation into accounting irregularities at the company.

Orders to Factories Post Rebound

Orders to factories posted the best increase in three months in August as the manufacturing sector showed strength in the face of surging energy prices.

Oil Prices Slip Below $65

Oil prices dipped below $65 a barrel Tuesday after the government indicated it might release emergency stockpiles of heating oil to combat supply disruptions from recent hurricanes.

Katrina Costs Farmers at Least $200 Million

The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies on Tuesday said it expects pre-tax losses, after reinsurance, from Hurricane Katrina to be between $200 million and $220 million.

Universal Music to Offer Catalog on Motorola's iRadio

Motorola Inc. on Tuesday said Universal Music Group has become the first company to make its music catalog available on a planned service that will run on cell phones, computers and car stereos.

Stocks Slip on Fed Comments

Stocks dropped Tuesday after comments by a Federal Reserve official about inflation signaled more interest rate increases in the near future.

L.A. Chamber Taps Ex-MWD Chief for Post

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday named Ronald Gastelum, former chief executive of the Metropolitan Water District, to the new post executive vice president.

Monday, October 3

Boosting Sales by Getting Personal During Web Visits

After years of brainstorming in the worlds of retail and online ventures, Bernard Louvat found a way to bring it all together.

Hybrid Time

Toyota's Mary Nickerson finds herself at the center of the industry's change-of-mindset toward greater fuel efficiency.

Leases Hit the Highs of Dot-Com Days

Fox Interactive Media has found a prime piece of Beverly Hills real estate.

Jeans Makers Sew Up $24 Million Stock Deal

The founders of True Religion have turned jeans into gold, thanks to a $24 million stock deal.

...And Attorney Pay Climbs to New Heights, Too

Two mid-size law firms have to stay competitive, so they offer first-year salaries of $135,000.

L.A. Foreclosures Lowest Among Large Metro Areas

Foreclosures surged 19 percent in August, but L.A. still managed to boast the lowest foreclosure rate among the nation's five largest metropolitan areas for the fifth consecutive month, said RealtyTrac.

Oil Retreats as Refinery Reopens

Energy futures fell Monday after power was restored to a Texas refinery and the Bush administration said it was prepared to tap an emergency supply of heating oil in the Northeast.

Valley Buses Aren't Leading to a Rapid Boom in Development

The new Orange Line busway across the San Fernando Valley may speed commutes, but it hasn't sparked significant new construction or development.

In the Swim

Enthusiasm for collecting aquatic creatures has fueled a significant business in Los Angeles that's comprised of importers, retailers and installers of large aquariums.

The Cost Of Disaster

California may be better prepared than most states to deal with a major catastrophe. But there are trouble spots.

Firm Bulks Up to Handle Real Estate Boom

In a sign of the ongoing real estate pickup in West L.A., a group of Santa Monica attorneys has formed a boutique firm to handle financing deals, litigation and estate issues.

Intermix Ex-CEO Battles News Corp. Sale to the Finish

The former chief executive and largest shareholder of Intermix Media, along with two other shareholders, filed last-minute lawsuits in an attempt to delay News Corp.'s $580 million acquisition.

Morning Headlines

An overview of today's top business stories.

L.A. Gas Prices Back on Rise

The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in the L.A. area began climbing again, rising 4.1 cents to $2.974 for the week ended Oct. 3.

Business Briefs: Tetra Tech, DaVita, Bell Industries, First Consulting Group

Tetra Tech wins a $50 million contract from the EPA, DaVita expects to receive regulatory approval shortly for its acquisition of the U.S. health-care unit of Gambro AB, and other briefs about L.A. companies.

Hollywood & Highland Turns Corner With Shift of Emphasis to Angelenos

Hollywood & Highland has turned around, thanks in part to an upswing in the economy, but mostly because the new owners took the emphasis off tourists and put it on Angelenos

Airplane Wheels Askew Meant a Big Story

People across L.A. tell us how they do what they do.

Construction Spending Climbs

Construction spending rose to a record high in August, helped by a renewed boom in housing. Even bigger gains are expected in coming months.

Conventions Have Yet to Move From Big Easy to Los Angeles

Conventions and meetings knocked out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina have skipped L.A. so far, but local officials remain optimistic that several could land here.

Doing the Math

Figuring out how much economic damage results from a major disaster is a tricky business that involves considerable guesswork.

Factories Boom in September

Factories ran at their strongest pace for over a year in September, registering large increases in new orders despite a rise in the price of raw materials.

Debatable Point: How to Get to the Best Level of Preparedness

To protect every major American city from disasters would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Does it make sense to spend that kind of money?

Farmers' Bitter Dispute Grinding Toward New Chapter

Outside shareholders are attempting to line up a sale of Farmer Bros., with the goal of ousting current management.

Stuff

Inventive, new products from Los Angeles-area companies.

Donnelley to Buy Dex Media

Phone-book publisher RH Donnelley Corp. said Monday it has agreed to buy its larger counterpart Dex Media Inc. for $4.2 billion in stock and cash.

Shhhhh The Next Governor of California Is...

It's looking like Schwarzenegger vs. the no-names, with the house money going heavily to the former bodybuilder. As it often goes these days in politics, better glitz than good.

Prices for Key Raw Materials Soar

A surge in raw materials prices is hitting the construction and manufacturing sectors, propelled by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Need for Sunday Best Is Clothiers' Blessing

Sancor and Brasseur are among the nation's leading producers of church clothes aimed at African-American women.

Homebuilders Wait for Signal to Launch Gulf Coast Projects

Though federal officials are trying to expedite the process of rebuilding homes in New Orleans, the nation's largest homebuilders are waiting on the sidelines, trying to assess how to take part in the reconstruction.

Local Searches Breaking Down Resistance to Internet Ad Sales

Local businesses that long have been skeptical of advertising on the Internet seem to be changing their minds with the advent of paid online search.

The Billion Dollar Bite

The $1 billion tax ruling against the parent of the Los Angeles Times presents a cautionary tale in the world of corporate takeovers.

Forum Backs Family Programs With Bucks

Advertisers have been funding development of family-friendly programming. The money comes back when the pilots are picked up.

Stocks End Mixed on Factory Report

Stocks ended the session mixed on Monday after investors' anxiety about inflation was raised by a report showing the U.S. manufacturing sector is expanding but facing higher costs for raw materials.

UCLA Report Doesn't Record Rising Gas Price Impact Yet

UCLA economists say prices aren't really that high when adjusted for inflation and compared with the amount of income it cost to fill a tank in the 1980s.

Debtor Better

Two bankruptcy attorneys used their expertise to develop a database that law firms can use to streamline filings and other paperwork related to restructurings.

Kennard Returns to Run L.A. Airport Agency

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners named Lydia Kennard executive director of the airport department, choosing a seasoned veteran to oversee changes in a planned overhaul of LAX.

In Case of Emergency

Some Los Angeles managers and executives believe their workplaces are ready for the next disaster, but others aren't that optimistic.

Newsmakers

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

Jeans Makers Sew Up Major Stock Deal

The founders of True Religion have turned jeans into gold, thanks to a $24 million stock trading plan adopted last month.

Winnick Makes His Comeback to Beverly Hills With Lease

Gary Winnick's private equity firm and its wholly-owned Rubin Chambers Dunhill Insurance Services unit are taking half the office space in J.H. Snyder Co. LLP's $50 million development, the Crescent.