Review and Preview

The NBA on ABC, et al: The National Basketball Association signed off on a 6-year $4.6 billion broadcast rights agreements with Walt Disney Co., parent of ABC and ESPN, and AOL Time Warner Inc., parent of Turner Sports. Under the deal, ABC will air 15 Sunday afternoon games, as many as five playoff games and the NBA finals. ESPN will show games on Wednesdays and Fridays and Turner on Thursdays. The $765 million average annual rights fee eclipses what the NBA was getting from expiring agreements with Turner and NBC.

Fraud Plea: A financial analyst who made $76,000 using inside information to buy and sell shares in advance of Tribune Co.'s purchase of Times Mirror Co. agreed to plead guilty to securities fraud. Daniel J. Wooten III, former comptroller of a venture capital company that participated in the deal, purchased more than 2,000 shares of Times Mirror stock within days of receiving confidential information that Tribune planned to make the purchase, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Kid Stuff: Fox Broadcasting will lease its Saturday morning programming block to 4Kids Entertainment Inc. for $101.2 million over four years. Under terms of the deal, 4Kids will get 32 minutes of advertising time each Saturday and local stations affiliated with Fox will get the rest. Last month, NBC agreed to lease two-and- a-half hours of Saturday morning time to Discovery Communications Inc.

Deep Red: State Controller Kathleen Connell said California faces a cash shortfall next year under a budget proposed by Gov. Gray Davis and might have to borrow $5 billion in short-term notes. The amount could jump to $8 billion if the state Department of Water Resources can't sell as much as $12.5 billion in bonds needed to pay the state on behalf of insolvent utilities. Efforts to sell the bonds have been delayed by squabbling among state officials.

Up, Up and Away: Helping contain the national recession, L.A. County home prices jumped 13.7 percent last month to an all-time high of $233,000 from the like period a year earlier. A shortage of homes, combined with low interest rates, accounted for the price spurt. Mortgage rates have risen significantly in recent weeks, leading to expectations that home sales and prices are likely to slow in the coming months.

SAG Talks: The existing agreement between talent agents and the Screen Actors Guild will remain in effect as both sides negotiate a new contract. The agents want to loosen current restrictions on who is allowed to own agencies and what kind of financial investments agents are permitted to make. Talent agents are barred from investing in TV and movie productions.

Sad Song: Mariah Carey was expected to be dropped by EMI Group, the Los Angeles Times reported. Termination of the pact, which could cost up to $30 million in exit fees, according to the Times, would come less than a year after she signed a four-album contract. Carey's "Glitter" CD, released in conjunction with the much-panned movie of the same name, sold badly (as did the film).

Venture Blues: Shareholders in San Vicente Group, whose internal battle was reported in the Jan. 14 issue, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the dissident board's plan to dissolve the venture fund. Of the votes cast, representing 85 percent of outstanding shares, 97 percent voted for the new board's proposal, said Peter Fuhrman, interim chief executive. Meanwhile, another of the fund's wayward investments declared bankruptcy, Fuhrman said.

Re-Zoned: Zone Communications Inc., publisher of the defunct booster-rag Zone News, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, as expected stiffing its chief sponsor, Zone Ventures, for $809,800 in unpaid loans. Zone Ventures, an arm of the Silicon Valley venture firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, must now wait in line behind higher-priority creditors such as the Internal Revenue Service (owed $140,000), former employees and the states of California and Washington, which are owed an unknown amount of taxes.


Job News: National jobless figures released by the Labor Department on Friday morning could provide more clues on where the economy is headed. In December, unemployment hit a near seven-year high of 5.8 percent. The January numbers for California and L.A. County numbers are due out Friday, Feb. 8.

Well-Earned RBI: Duke Snider will be honored Wednesday at the Hall of Fame Dinner for the organization RBI (Reviving Baseball in Innercities). RBI provides programs for young people and is supported by a roster of heavyweight sports and business types, including Peter O"Malley, Bob Daly, Bob Graziano and Ed Goren. Carl Reiner will be master of ceremonies for the event at the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Super Sunday: Expect the hype this year to be toned down a bit, both because of post-Sept. 11 restraint and because the usual two-week interregnum will be foregone. That said, there will be the usual hoopla at bars and restaurants around town including the Hollywood Entertainment Museum's novel idea of using the set from "Cheers" as a centerpiece for its Super Party. Doors open at 2 p.m.

L.A. on Ice: While most of the weekend sports focus will be on the Super Bowl, Saturday's National Hockey League's All Star game will get short shrift too bad because the nationally televised event on ABC is being played at Staples Center. Tourism dollars from the game are suspect, though the league will set up a public show at the Los Angeles Convention Center Wednesday through Saturday complete with interactive games, autograph signings, the real Stanley Cup, live entertainment and hockey clinics.

Taking Stock: It's earnings season, and in the coming week a number of local companies will be reporting how well (or badly) they did in 2001. Among those rolling out reports: Ticketmaster/Citysearch, California Pizza Kitchen Inc., Kilroy Realty Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., Mattel Inc., Computer Sciences Corp. and Dole Food Co.

Runaway 101: Century City law firm Katten Muchin Zavis hosts a breakfast discussion Feb. 1 on what runaway production means to the local economy and what is being done to reverse the trend. Panelists will include a producer, a union representative and a political advisor. The event is part of an ongoing series by the firm on variety of L.A.-centric business subjects. Call (310) 788-4400 for details.

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