Stories for December 2004

Thursday, December 30

New Laws for 2005

Only a few laws affecting business are taking effect, thanks to the veto pen of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Plans for L.A. Port Focus on Pollution, L.A. Times Reports

Port of Los Angeles officials released environmental proposals that could affect ship and rail operators as part of a plan to keep pollution emissions at 2001 levels.

Two Early Events Will Set Year's Tone for Schwarzenegger

As Gov. Schwarzenegger outlines how he intends to deal with an estimated $8 billion budget deficit, will he try to deal with Democrat lawmakers or go directly to the people -- again?

Holiday Schedule

The Business Journal newsroom will be closed on Friday, Dec. 31 for the New Year's holiday. Postings will resume on Monday, Jan. 3. We wish all our readers a Happy New Year.

Computer Sciences Corp. Snags $427 Million in Federal Contracts

The El Segundo-based global IT services company has signed 65 previously unannounced federal sector business contracts worth nearly $427 million during the third quarter.

Update: Farmer John Brand Sold to Hormel for $186 Million

The Dodger Dog will join the product line that includes Spam and Jennie-O Turkey now that Clougherty Packing Co. has been acquired by Hormel Foods Corp. for $186 million.

Stocks Rise on Oil, Jobless Claims

A surprising drop in unemployment claims and retreating oil prices boosted confidence on Wall Street Thursday, sending stocks higher in light trading.

Stocks Mixed in Light Trading

The Dow closed down and the Nasdaq and S & P; gained slightly Thursday as investors collected profits for a second straight day despite an unexpected drop in unemployment claims.

Update: Oil Prices Rebound in Short Session

Oil for February delivery came back from early losses to close above $43 a barrel in Thursday's abbreviated session, the last trading day of 2004, to score a 33.7 percent gain on the year.

Blow Out 2004-2005

There's no cause for concern about a housing bubble. To illustrate the point, KB Home sent out a mug containing a bottle of blowing bubbles as its holiday greeting.

U.S. Jobless Claims Fall Unexpectedly

The number of new people signing up for unemployment benefits dropped last week, a hopeful sign that the recovery in the jobs market is moving forward.

Mountain High Ski Resort Goes on Block

The Mountain High resort in Wrightwood, the top draw of its type in Southern California and among the biggest in the state and nation, is up for sale.

Wednesday, December 29

Existing Home Sales Rise in November

Sales of existing U.S. homes edged up by 2.7 percent in November as low mortgage rates fueled a record pace of home-buying, a National Association of Realtors report said.

Major Winter Storm Expected to Shift Eastward by Afternoon

Forecasters are expecting the powerful storm that caused floods, mudslides and record-breaking rainfall over the last two days to taper off in the L.A. area by Wednesday afternoon.

Dollar Drops to New Low Against Euro

The dollar dipped to a new low Wednesday vs. the euro for the fifth straight business day in light year-end trading.

Time Warner, Sprint Talking About Cellphone Deal

Time Warner Cable is reportedly in talks to offer cellphone service over Sprint Corp.'s network on a trial basis early in 2005.

Stocks Slump on Dollar Weakness, Oil Concerns

U.S. stocks gave back some of their year-end gains Wednesday amid light volume due to continued weakness in the dollar and concerns over crude oil futures.

Stock Buyback, Patent Victory Give Bounce to Amgen Shares

Just a year ago, Amgen Inc. took a beating from analysts and the media -- but a spate of good news in the past few months has restored investor confidence.

Update: Flamemaster Corp. Shares Surge Again Ahead of Stock Split

Shares jumped for the second time in two weeks, rising as much as 42 percent in one day due to what has been called 'short covering' -- before settling down to a 1.9 percent loss at market close.

U.S. Stocks Slip in Light Trading

U.S. stocks gave back some of their year-end gains Wednesday amid light volume due to continued weakness in the dollar and before the release of U.S. oil inventory data.

Tuesday, December 28

Univision to Buy Two Puerto Rican TV Stations for $190 Million

L.A.-based Spanish-language broadcasting giant Univision Communications Inc. exercises its option to purchase the two television stations in San Juan for about $190 million.

Update: Storm Drenches Much of Southern California

While some of L.A. felt a break in the storm as it drifted eastward by mid-afternoon, the rain and winds are expected to resume in much of Southern California throughout the day and into the evening.

Update: Crude Oil Prices Inch Up Slightly

Oil prices bounced higher on Tuesday following Monday's fall of nearly $3 as forecasts for warmer weather eased worries about tight supplies of winter fuel.

Ousted Fannie Mae CEO Could Get $1.3Million Yearly For Life

Franklin Raines, who was forced out by Fannie Mae's board as the CEO, is slated to receive a monthly pension of more than $114,000 for life, according to documents filed with the SEC.

Update: Dollar Recovers from New Low Against Euro

The dollar rebounded after sliding to a new low Tuesday against the euro, which peaked at $1.3643 in light post-holiday trading.

Consumer Confidence Highest in 5 Months

Consumer confidence jumped in December to a five-month high as consumers reacted positively to job growth and economic expansion.

Topanga Couple Brings Product Liability Lawsuit Against Johnson & Johnson

The parents of a 7-year-old Topanga girl have filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn consumers about the dangerous side effects of Children's Motrin.

Stocks Surge on Strengthening Consumer Sentiment

U.S. stocks traded sharply higher Tuesday afternoon as investors were encouraged by strong consumer confidence data that led to a positive outlook on the economy's health.

Added Regulations on Business Get Schwarzenegger Treatment

It's gotten to be a familiar refrain every Jan. 1: Employers hit with a slew of costly laws, from minimum wage hikes to paid family leave.

Diagnostic Products Corp. Ups COO to President

Diagnostic Products Corp. promotes Sidney Aroesty, the company's senior vice president of operations and chief operating officer, to the additional post of president.

Monday, December 27

L.A. Looking Up

The Los Angeles economy is expected to grow at a solid pace in 2005, far better than the national average.

Region's Retail Sector Experiences Strong Holiday Wrap

As the 2004 holiday shopping season ended, L.A.-area retailers were projected to have fared better than those in other parts of the country, thanks in part to a strong local economy.

After Slow Start, Retailers Hope to Meet Sales Goals

Defying earlier projections of less-than-cheery holiday sales, retailers are beginning to report solid results, helped by a last-minute surge in buying and by a pick-up in sales of holiday gift cards.

Update: Oil Prices Lower Amid U.S. Weather Forecast

Oil prices fell more than 6 percent on Monday as forecasts of a return to unseasonably mild winter weather eased fears that thin heating fuel stockpiles could prove inadequate.

Kobe-Shaq Matchup Boosts ABC Ratings

The Lakers/Miami Heat matchup that reunited former teammates Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal gave ABC the highest ratings for a regular-season NBA game since 1998.

New Year's Eve Looks Bright for Local Hotels

Los Angeles County hotels and restaurants have reason to celebrate this New Year's Eve, with many reporting bookings anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent higher than last year.

Update: Dollar Falls to New Low Against Euro

The dollar settled off 0.7 percent vs. the euro at $1.3615 Monday, after setting a new record low of $1.3638 in earlier trades.

Sempra Energy Fails to Dismiss $24 Billion Class Action Lawsuit

A final attempt by Sempra Energy to stop the antitrust class action lawsuit from going to trial has failed, following the denial of a writ of mandate by the 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego.

L.A. Crowne Plaza Hotels Sold in Package Deal

The Crowne Plaza Hotel Los Angeles Airport and the Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach, both on the list of 50 largest hotels in L.A. County, will be sold as part of a $331 million, 12-property deal.

Stocks Slip on Tsunami Worries

U.S. stocks ended lower on Monday in light trading as Wall Street grappled with uninspiring holiday sales reports and waited to see the extent of the damage in Asia.

Gas Prices Continue Inching Downward

Gas prices kept up their slow descent in the week ended Dec. 27, continuing a slide that started in mid-October.

L.A. Times: Plan to Cut Port Smog to Be Released

Plans to reduce pollution at the Los Angeles port complex, including fuel restrictions for ships and trucks, will be released this week.

Asian Shares, Currencies Slide on Tsunami

Asian stocks and currencies fell on Monday as a result of the weekend's devastating tsunami triggered by the world's worst earthquake in 40 years.

Thursday, December 23

Home Sales Weaken in November

Sales of new U.S. homes fell at the sharpest rate in more than a decade last month, the government said on Thursday.

Tenet to Pay $31 Million to Settle Florida Suits

The second-largest U.S. hospital chain agreed to pay $31 million to settle 106 individual lawsuits over complications from heart surgery against a hospital in Palm Beach, Fla.

L.A. Daily News: Los Angeles Seals May Cost More to Change

L.A. County officials worry it may cost more than $700,000 to replace official county seals because new decals don't cover the Christian cross on the old design.

Political Consultancy Rose & Kindel Acquired by U.K. Firm

Rose & Kindel Inc., one of L.A.'s top political lobbying and consulting firms, has been acquired by the U.S. unit of London-based public affairs consultancy Huntsworth PLC.

Macerich Keeps Moving Upscale by Acquiring Wilmorite for $2.3 Billion

Macerich Co., a real estate investment trust that owns stakes in 63 U.S. malls, continues its quest for posh malls by agreeing to buy Wilmorite Properties Inc. for nearly $2.3 billion.

Deloitte & Touche Drops Merisel

Deloitte & Touche LLP has dropped Merisel Inc. from its auditing roster after the common stock of the former high flyer in the technology distribution industry was delisted by the Nasdaq.

Computer Sciences Wins Up to $1.6 Billion Order Extension

Computer Sciences Corp. won an extension of its information technology outsourcing contracts with General Dynamics Corp. said to be worth as much as $1.6 billion.

Wall Street Finishes Holiday Week on High

Investors sent major indexes to new multi-year highs Thursday, keeping the Santa Claus rally going for a third day despite a plummeting dollar and signs of weaker consumer spending. Shares Surge on Deal to Offer Expanded Horse Race Wagering

Shares of the Woodland Hills-based online wagering company jumped 13 percent after it announced a deal to offer live video and wagering for horse races at 10 U.S. racetracks.

Wednesday, December 22

Cushman Expands With Russian Acquisition

L.A.-based commercial real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield Inc. acquired its Russian partner, Moscow-based Stiles & Riabokobylko, for an undisclosed amount.

Oil Drops Nearly $2 After U.S. Stocks Swell

Oil prices have their biggest decline in two weeks Wednesday after the Energy Department reports an unexpected rise in inventories, calming fears of winter fuel shortages.

Challengers Attack Hahn's Record on Traffic, Pollution

The five major candidates for L.A. mayor took the stage Tuesday night stinging Mayor James Hahn on a number of issues in the second debate leading up to the March 8 primary.

Stocks Jump on Sharp Drop in Oil Prices

U.S. stocks climbed on Wednesday as oil prices fell sharply prompted by strong government inventory reports and investors cheered an unexpected jump in the GDP.

99 Cents Only Stores Avoids Strike With Unionized Drivers

The shelves at 99 Cents Only Stores Inc. will be fully stocked for Christmas now that it has reached an agreement with unionized drivers to prevent a strike.

Homeland Security Funding Increased for L.A.

Los Angeles is in line for a much larger share of the $3.5 billion in annual anti-terrorism grants from the federal Department of Homeland Security.

The LA Weekly to Stretch Out Online With Daily Online Show

The alternative paper will soon start making its online act a daily live show to respond to breaking news faster.

Daily Breeze, N.Y. Times Shift Press Run to Outside Contractor

After printing its 73,000-circulation paper in-house for more than a century, the Daily Breeze has contracted with Southwest Offset Printing Co. to take its press run.

L.A. County Home Prices Jump 24.2 Percent in November

The median home price reached $474,570, a 3.6 percent increase from October and a 24.2 percent rise from year earlier, according to the California Association of Realtors.

San Diego Remains Mired in Pension Fund Squabble

Newly elected San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre is wasting no time in shaking things up as the city's pension fund mess becomes the focus of national attention.

L.A. Planning Chief Con Howe to Retire; Played Key Downtown Role

Con Howe, the longtime city planning director who oversaw major civic improvements to downtown and Playa Vista, will retire next year, L.A. Mayor James Hahn announced.

Economy Grows Faster Than Thought in 3rd Quarter

The economy grew at a 4 percent annual rate July through September according to government figures that suggest expansion may continue at a similar pace into 2005.

Stocks Rise Fueled by Oil

U.S. stocks ended higher on Wednesday as oil prices fell more than $1 and the economy accelerated more than previously thought in the third quarter.

Monday, December 20

Tekelec Shares Swoon as CFO Resigns to Join Digital Insight

It just wasn't Tekelec's week. Has the Calabasas-based company lost its way?

Stock Buyback, Patent Victory Give Bounce to Amgen Shares

A spate of good news in the past few months has restored investor confidence in Thousand Oaks-based biotech giant Amgen Inc.

'Pay-to-Play' Taints Political Scene

Investigations into the administration of Mayor James Hahn have exposed weaknesses in the city's citizen commissions and the lack of oversight of multi-million dollar contracts.

Major Condo Plan Filed for Century City

JMB Realty Corp. has filed plans for two condo towers Century City, bringing residences into an area that has been dominated by offices, a few hotels and some retail.

Retailers Appealing to the Male Shopper's Basic Instinct

With men showing a willingness to shop, retailers are providing more "male" amenities to encourage them to stay a while.

L.A. City Council Clears Long-Stalled Condo Project

The L.A. City Council last week unanimously approved a plan by California Landmark to build a $75 million condominium tower at the corner of Barrington Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.

It's Tough to Compete, But Manufacturers Can Still Find Success Here

Sure, it's tough to compete with companies in low-wage nations but it's still possible.

Year in Review

Labor conflicts, takeover talks, Disney's Eisner crisis and soaring home prices made 2004 the year that it was.

Buyers Cast Spotlight On Film Studios; See Growth in Set Pieces

Film studios are becoming the real estate play of the moment as entertainment firms sell out.

In Their Own Words

Ferrari buyers don't quibble over the price, and other insights from prominent figures on the L.A. scene.

Court Says Blood Storage Claims Don't Strike Wrong Cord

A Fullerton attorney who claims parents have been misled by businesses that store blood from umbilical cords as a potential source of cures to future illnesses is appealing his courtroom loss.

Bowl-Bound Visitors to Boost Hotels' New Year's Bookings

The area's hotels and restaurants have reason to celebrate this New Year's Eve, with many reporting bookings anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent higher than last year.

L.A. Stories

A collection of stories based on the events, people and businesses of Southern California.

L.A. Lobby/P.R. Firm Rose & Kindel Near Deal to Be Acquired

Rose & Kindel, one of L.A.'s premier lobbying and public affairs firms, is in negotiations to be acquired by a major international public relations company.

By Thinnest of Margins, Winnick Avoids Sanction

The investigation of Global Crossing Ltd. lacked enough evidence to pierce a legal shield put up by Gary Winnick's lawyers.

Grind Takes Its Toll as Workload Gets Spread Among Fewer Bodies

What happens when a roomful of knowledge workers finally hits a wall of fatigue? Productivity falls and burnout increases.

Is It Still Fun?

With increased regulation, the higher cost of benefits and competition from foreign countries with rock-bottom wages, why would anyone want to go into business these days?

Valley Business Group Vowing To Take On Health Care Reform

After successfully pushing for reform of the city's business tax, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association is taking on the state's health care mess a much bigger ssue.

Added Regulations on Business Get Schwarzenegger Treatment

New restrictions on business were staved off due to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's willingness to use his veto power.

Mixed Messages

A sector-by-sector look at the prospects for 2005.

L.A. Looking Up

The diverse Los Angeles economy is expected to grow at a steady, if unspectacular, pace in 2005.

As the Trends Turn

The cosmopolitan is a thing of the past and so is the dollar. Ring in 2005 with a Negroni that you paid for with euros and you'll be up to date already.

What's the Biggest Change?

The Business Journal asked a handful of business veterans about some of the biggest changes that filtered down to businesses large and small.

Rare Gains, Big Setbacks Highlight Shifting Fortunes of Labor Unions

Organized labor finished the year in a quandary as the rise of the global economy and an influx of eager immigrants have completed the transformation of work into a commodity.

And the Oscar Goes to: The Movies Chosen in Golden Globe Balloting

For more than a decade, winners of the Golden Globe Awards have been practically a sure thing for the Oscars.

Daily Breeze, N.Y. Times Shift Press Run to Outside Contractor

The Daily Breeze stops its presses, joining The New York Times at an off-site printing plant.

Wednesday, December 15

Major Newhall Pass-Area Home Project Blocked

Opposition to a sprawling development in the Newhall Pass area has led Santa Clarita and L.A. officials to block the project by splitting jurisdiction of the 555-acre site, the Daily News reported.

Stocks See Little Change After Recent Rise

U.S. stocks moved slightly higher as earnings from Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. provided a lift, even as crude oil prices rose to a 2-week high and triggered worry about high energy costs.

Dollar Down, Dealers Focus on Deficits

The dollar fell versus the euro and the yen, its recent rebound fizzling as dealers refocused attention on the U.S. external deficits and the ability to finance them.

Flamemaster Shares Surge After Company Sets Stock Split

Shares of the Sun Valley-based company surged as much as 122 percent Wednesday after it set plans for a 7-for-1 stock split to avoid being delisted by the Nasdaq SmallCap Market.

CBS Snags Four of 10 Spots in Top-Rated Shows List

CBS was the most-watched TV network for the week ended Dec. 10 among households and younger viewers, Nielsen Media Research said Wednesday.

Oil Prices Up on Decline in U.S. Supplies

Oil futures prices rose for the third straight day after government data showed a decline in U.S. supplies of crude and heating oil and as cold weather gripped the U.S. Northeast.

L.A. Times: Supermarkets Still Feel Pain of Strike and Lockout

Ten months after the grocery strike and lockout, profits at Albertsons Inc., Safeway Inc.'s Vons and Pavilions stores and Kroger Co.'s Ralphs are being squeezed by price cuts made to attract shoppers.

L.A. City Council Bill Targets Hotels Going Condo

Council members will consider a proposal today supported by organized labor to block developers from converting hotels to condominiums for the next six months.

County Leaders Fight to Block State Raid on Traffic Funds

A coalition has called on Sacramento to stop using transportation funds to balance the state budget, and warned L.A. County could lose millions in state monies earmarked for traffic-easing projects.

Bush Tax, Social Security Plans Compete With Deficits

President George W. Bush's bid to restructure Social Security and make tax cuts permanent competed with budget and trade deficit concerns during a two-day conference in Washington.

L.A. County Hospital Janitors Vow to Strike

More than 250 janitors working at two Los Angeles County hospitals vowed to walk off their jobs today in a dispute over wages and increased employee-paid health care costs.

Tuesday, December 14

Dollar Holding Steady Against Euro

The dollar held its own against the euro Tuesday as the market looked ahead to the Federal Reserve's meeting at which it was expected to raise interest rates by a quarter point.

Oil Prices Up on Worries of Cold Snap

Oil prices edged up Tuesday, spurred on by worries of a cold snap in the U.S., but weakened by traders unconvinced OPEC's cuts in production would be enough to restore market balance.

AAA: L.A. Gas Prices Drop 17 Cents in Past Month

The average price for regular unleaded gasoline in the city of Los Angeles plunged more than 17 cents a gallon from mid-November to mid-December,

Update: L.A. City Council Passes LAX Overhaul Package

The Los Angeles City Council passed a landmark $500 million package of community benefits intended to mitigate the impact of the massive $10 billion overhaul proposed for Los Angeles International Airport.

Fed Raises Interest Rate to 2.25 Percent

The Federal Reserve, encouraged by the economy's performance, raised U.S. interest rates on Tuesday by a quarter-percentage point for the fifth time this year.

Trade Gap Swells More Than Expected

The U.S. trade deficit widened nearly 9 percent in October to a record $55.5 billion as imports surged to the loftiest levels on record and high oil prices contributed to the widening trade gap.

Trade Deficit Reaches All-Time High

The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly rose to an all-time high in October as oil shipments soared and the United States set deficit records with China, Europe, Canada and Mexico.

Disney Moves Closer to Cutting Miramax Co-Founders

Walt Disney Co., in the middle of a messy public divorce from Miramax co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein, said it expects a new direction from the art house filmmaker next year.

Computer Sciences Corp. Sells DynCorp to Veritas Capital for $850 million

Computer Sciences Corp. will sell its DynCorp International, DynMarine units and certain DynCorp Technical Services contracts to private equity firm Veritas Capital for $850 million.

Unite HERE Local 11 Waits, Considers Management Proposal

Unite HERE Local 11 postponed today's scheduled negotiations with the Los Angeles Hotel Employer's Council while it mulls over a proposal it received from management on Monday.

Monday, December 13

Bloom Off the Rose

After two-and-a-half hot-and-heavy years, America's love affair with online dating is on the decline.

Yahoo Consolidating Local Office Space in Colorado Center

Yahoo Inc. is negotiating to lease about a quarter-million square feet in Santa Monica's Colorado Center, according to several sources with knowledge of the discussions.

Japanese Automotive Firms Set November Sales Records

While overall sales for the automotive industry were down in November, Honda, Toyota and Nissan continued to fare well, especially on the Coasts where they are the preferred brands.

Model Seller Preserves A Tradition of Building

Chuck Wilkinson built his first model plane out of tissue and balsa wood at his grandfather's knee in 1949. Fifty years later, Wilkinson opened Mod-L-Mania, a Long Beach hobby shop.

PeopleSoft Relents, Accepts Oracle's $10.3 Billion Offer

After an 18-month dance of offer and rejection, PeopleSoft Inc. finally agreed to be acquired by rival software maker Oracle Corp. for $10.3 billion.

First Year of Positive Growth in Venture Capital Since the Bubble

Venture-capital activity in 2004 is expected to end on a positive note, based on investments recorded through the end of the third quarter by Ernst & Young LLP and VentureOne.

City Picks Developers for Site Along Hollywood at Western

A massive mixed-use project at Hollywood and Western could signal an end to CRA efforts in the area, as officials hope the private sector will pick up the baton.

Workers' Comp Probes on the Increase As Instances of Fraud Continue

A crackdown on workers' compensation insurance fraud yields results as local employers, contractors, insurance agents and medical providers are targeted for investigation and prosecution.

Intermix, Unit Attract Funding

Intermix Media Inc. last week landed a $4 million equity investment from venture capital firm Redpoint Ventures, which will also invest $11 million in one of Intermix's subsidiaries.

Tenet: 2005 Operating Results Fall Short

Tenet Healthcare Corp. said fourth-quarter charges could exceed $1 billion and it doesn't expect 2005 operating results to exceed breakeven, as the hospital chain struggles with fewer patients and bad debt.

U.S. Dollar Falls Against the Euro, Yen

The euro rose to $1.3297 on Monday morning, up from $1.3242 late Friday. The currency had dropped as low as $ 1.3139 last week in European trading. The

Holiday Cheer on South Beverly Dimmed by Spat Over Lighting

South Beverly Drive merchants feel like they're getting Scrooged by city officials, who have said bah humbug to their hopes for Christmas decorations.

Prosecutors Turning Up Heat on Workers' Comp Fraud

A crackdown on workers' compensation fraud has resulted in an increase in the number of local employers, contractors, insurance agents and medical providers targeted for investigation and prosecution.

Booker for Comedians Sees Black by Not Working Blue

"It doesn't have to be filthy to be funny," says Adam Christing, whose Clean Comedians booking service delights event organizers who don't want to offend anyone in their audience.

Treatment Probe Clouds Outlook As DaVita Gains

DaVita Inc. and other dialysis operators are under investigation regarding the prescription of intravenous drugs given to patients.

Insurer Blocked From Passing Buck on Fees For Jenny Jones Case

Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. will have to foot the bill for the legal costs associated with defending Time Warner Inc. in the case involving a man killed after appearing on "The Jenny Jones Show."

SEC Won't Charge, Fine Global Crossing Founder

After a two-year investigation, U.S. regulators won't fine or file civil securities charges against former Global Crossing Ltd. Chairman Gary Winnick over disclosure violations.

Unocal Agrees to Settle Suits Over Myanmar Human Rights Claims

Oil giant Unocal Corp. has reached a preliminary agreement to settle lawsuits concerning the violations committed during the construction of a Myanmar pipeline in the 1990s.

Tarrant Gets $10 Million in Convertible Financing

Tarrant Apparel Group issued $10 million of convertible debentures to finance the development of its private brands and manage increased sales volume in the coming year.

Increased M & A; Activity Appears on Horizon

Investment banks are back in hiring mode, anticipating an upswing in merger activity in 2005 after three dismal years of layoffs and cost-cutting efforts.

Smart & Final Contests Award Given to Woman Who Tripped

An insurer doesn't get to pass the buck in the Jenny Jones case.

Game Makers Slowly Shift to Year-Round Sales Emphasis

Manufacturers are eyeing a year-round selling season to spread the joy of their traditional holiday sales boom.

Plans for USC Biotech Park Accelerated

A long-stalled plan to build a biotech park next to USC's Health Science Campus has been revived, spurred by the $3 billion set aside by Proposition 71 for stem cell research.

L.A. Investment Bankers Starting to Hire Again As Business Picks Up

Investment banks are finally back in a hiring mode, anticipating an upswing in merger activity in 2005 after three dismal years of layoffs and cost cutting.

Start-Up Trucking Firm Files for Bankruptcy as Bills Go Unpaid

A start-up trucking company that raised at least $3 million this year by selling stock directly to unionized longshoremen now claims it is insolvent.

Film Forum

As president of the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., Steve MacDonald has had several months to re-establish an agency that had been beset by scandal.

Increased Momentum for Holiday Spending

Shoppers came out in droves over the weekend, with Friday and Saturday ranking as the first- and second-busiest shopping days of the 2004 holiday season, surpassing Black Friday,

Party's Over for Hahn's Holiday Get-Together With Media

Since its launch by Richard Riordan seven years ago, the mayor's holiday party for the media had become something of a tradition for reporters covering L.A. City Hall.

Pac-10 Scores on Trojans' National Championship Play

The Trojans conclude a spectacular season at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4, but the real payoff will come in an echo-effect next year.

Cherokee Shares on the Rise as Clothes Fly Off Target Shelves

Apparel licensor Cherokee Inc. continues to defy the odds.

Albertson's Plans Upscale Push With Bristol Farms Expansion

Albertson's Inc. is planning an aggressive expansion of its recently acquired Bristol Farms chain, potentially tripling the number of stores under the upscale banner.

Outlook Brightens As Hotel Workers Yield on Key Issue

A settlement in the dispute between unionized hotel workers and their Los Angeles employers appeared more likely as negotiations were set to resume this week.

Gas Prices Continue Creeping Downward

Gas prices kept up their slow downward descent in the week ended Dec. 13, continuing a sluggish slide that started in mid-October.

New Weekly Seeks to Elbow In On Market for Black Readership

Our Weekly joins the fray in serving South L.A.'s black community, as it looks to home-delivery as a way of standing out.

"Sideways" and "The Aviator" Lead Golden Globe Nominations

"Sideways" led Golden Globe contenders Monday with seven nominations and "The Aviator" was second with six nominations, including best dramatic feature and best director.

Friday, December 10

Tenet's Move to Dallas Official on Jan. 3

Tenet Healthcare Corp. will move its corporate headquarters to Dallas on Jan. 3.

Lakers Top Forbes' NBA Franchise Value List for 2004

The team tops Forbes' National Basketball Association Franchise Value List for 2004 with a current value of $510 million for the 2003 to 2004 season, a 14 percent gain over last season.

Ford Escape, Honda CR-V Get Top SUV Crash Marks, Safety Group Says

The small SUVs won the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top rating in side crash tests when equipped with head-protecting air bags.

L.A. Times: Gemstar-TV Guide's Shell May Join Comcast

Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Shell, who resigned Thursday, may join Comcast Corp. to oversee the cable-television operator's channels,.

Thursday, December 9

California's Housing Affordability Index Mostly Unchanged from September

October's California Housing Affordability Index remained unchanged from September, and the number of people who could afford to purchase homes in L.A. decreased sharply from 2003

Worldwide Restaurant Concepts Looking Into Sale, Merger

Worldwide Restaurant Concepts Inc. has hired investment banker Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin to weigh options including a complete or partial sale of the company.

Disney Backs Blu-Ray Format

Walt Disney Co. said it would support Sony Corp.'s Blu-Ray standard for next-generation DVDs, though it left the door open for the adoption of a rival format being developed by Toshiba Corp.

Wednesday, December 8

L.A. Times: Union Drivers at 99 Cents Only Vote to Strike

Teamsters truck drivers at 99 Cents Only Stores voted Tuesday night to authorize a strike after negotiations on an initial contract fell through, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Reinhold Industries Stock Surges on News of Special Dividend

Reinhold Industries Inc. shares surged on Wednesday after the Santa Fe Springs-based company declared a special cash dividend of $11.75 a share.

Tribune to Give Away Hoy in Los Angeles and Chicago

Tribune Co. has plans to distribute its Spanish- language publication Hoy for free in Los Angeles and Chicago starting next year.

Universal's Def Jam Buys Rest of Rapper Jay-Z's Label for $10 Million

Universal Music's Island Def Jam bought the other 50 percent of rap label Roc-A- Fella Records it doesn't already own for $10 million.

UCLA Economists: Home Construction Likely to Slow in 2005

Economists at the UCLA Anderson Forecast said the pace of new home construction will slip in 2005 due to price increases, causing the U.S. economic recovery to slow.

Tuesday, December 7

DirecTV Names Haim Saban to Board, Increasing Directors to 11

DirecTV Group Inc., the biggest U.S. satellite-television service, named Haim Saban to its board, increasing the number of directors to 11.

Amgen Sets $5 Billion Stock Buyback

The biotechnology company said it will buy back nearly $5 billion of its common stock, building on a previous $5 billion buyback that still has about $968 million to go.

Colgate to Slash 12 Percent of Jobs to Increase Profit

Colgate-Palmolive Co. will cut about 4,440 jobs and close a third of its factories to reduce costs amid rising competition with Procter & Gamble Co.

DaVita to Buy Gambro's U.S. Clinics for $3.1 Billion

DaVita Inc. will buy Gambro AB's U.S. clinics for $3.1 billion in cash to become the kidney-treatment leader in the world's biggest healthcare market.

Employers Planned More Layoffs in November

A report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas said planned job cuts at U.S. companies climbed during November, another sign of sluggishness in the labor market.

Northrop's Global Hawk Aircraft Costs Rise, Wash. Post Reports

An Air Force program to build unmanned surveillance aircraft, made by Northrop Grumman Corp. and called Global Hawks, has increased in cost by $900 million since 2001, the Washington Post reported.

Spitzer to Run for New York Governor

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who gained celebrity status by focusing on malfeasance in the financial world, will announce he is running for governor in 2006.

L.A. Times: Albertson's, Safeway to Settle With Janitors

Albertson's Inc., Safeway Inc. and Ralphs Grocery Co. will pay $22.4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by janitors who claimed they were improperly classified as subcontractors.

Andrew Card Is Among Treasury Candidates, Journal Reports

Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, budget director Josh Bolten and Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia University Business School, are being considered for U.S. Treasury secretary, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Dollar Drops to Another Low Against Euro

The U.S. dollar sank to a new all-time low against the euro Tuesday.

Yahoo Working on $90 Million Lease Deal at Santa Monica's Colorado Center

Yahoo Inc. is negotiating to lease about 250,000 square feet in Santa Monica's Colorado Center, according to several sources familiar with the deal

Cherokee Announces Record Third-Quarter Sales, Earnings

The Van Nuys-based company reported net income of $3.3 million ($0.38 per diluted share) for the third quarter ended Oct. 30, compared to $2.5 million one year ago.

Productivity of U.S. Workers Slowest in Two Years

The productivity of U.S. workers grew at a 1.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the slowest pace in nearly two years, the government reported Tuesday.

Monday, December 6

Iffy Holiday Season No Gift to Retailers, Clothing Firms

Retailers are under pressure as the holiday season begins, but some apparel makers appear to be bucking the trend.

Developer, City Agree on Plan To Fund Staples Hotel Project

Developers of a proposed convention center hotel have lined up a $150 million public assistance package.

L.A.'s Rare Cold Snap Causing Natural Gas Prices to Surge Up

Los Angeles area residents who moved out West to escape cold winters may feel like they never left home.

New Chief Finds Many Bumps In Keystone Automotive's Path

In the past four months, Wall Street has bludgeoned Keystone Automotive Industries Inc. not once, but twice as investors staged a hasty retreat.

Expansion of 710 Gets Needed Regional Boost

A plan to widen the Long Beach Freeway in order to accommodate truck traffic from the ports has gotten the green light from neighboring communities.

Anchor Man

Bruce Seaton, interim director of the Port of Los Angeles, has set out to keep neighboring communities abreast of port programs, including a greater emphasis on using alternative power sources.

Downtown Hospitality Business Gains On Marketing Efforts and Weak Dollar

The hotel business in downtown Los Angeles has staged a strong comeback, far outpacing the region-wide rebound.

Galaxy Seeks to Score With Mexican Team's L.A. Affiliate

As Chivas USA prepares for its first season in L.A., the soccer community and especially the local Galaxy franchise will be watching intently.

Court Hands Cyclist New Headache in Suit Over Injury

A former Loyola basketball player will get his day in court on allegations the school's coach wrongly forced him off the team.

Governor to Face Push and Pull on 2005 Special Election

With the increasing likelihood that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will call a special statewide election for late next year to put a state government reform package before voters, the battle now begins among interest groups and politicians over just what ref

SEC Threatens Former Brobeck Lawyer Over Client Accounting Probe

The SEC could bring its first-ever lawsuit against a former Brobeck Phleger & Harrison lawyer who helped with a company's internal accounting probe.

C.C. Brown's Has Hollywood Meltdown

The ice cream shop at Sunset & Vine shut down ahead of a liquidation procedure.

Special Districts Get Stuck With Bigger Tax Losses Than Planned

Special districts are taking a bigger hit than expected under terms of Proposition 1A and some will be forced to hike rates.

Desperate Dolls

Barbie continues to wrestle for shelf space, and it appears her main competitor, Bratz, is running out of steam, too.

Dart Pinpoints Commerce in Deal

Dart, one of the region's oldest warehouse and distribution operations, is planning a $28 million expansion in the City of Commerce that would create 700 new jobs.

Rail Line Has Inside Track on Port Facility

The L.A. Harbor Commission has approved plans for a container transfer facility on a port site, paving the way for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. to establish a dockside presence.

Residential Boom Set to Trigger Sprucing Up of Shopping Area

The San Gabriel Valley city of Azusa has worked hard to clean up its industrial image and promote residential development efforts that have largely paid off.

Rebound Revives Tradition of High Bonuses for Some

Los Angeles professionals in banking and law are likely to see bonuses 5 percent to 10 percent higher than a year ago.

DaVita Takeover Speculation Halts Shares of Rival Gambro

Shares of Gambro AB were suspended after they rose on speculation that U.S. rival DaVita may buy the Swedish company's dialysis unit.

Auto Focus

The demand for digital cameras is so great that Red Peacock imports them from Asian manufacturers and then sells them all over the world even back to Asian retailers.

DirecTV Sells Major Stake in Unit to Skyterra for $251 Million

DirecTV sells a 50 percent stake in a new company unit to Skyterra Communications Inc. for nearly $251 million in cash.

Bill to Brobeck Partners Hits $284 Million

The trustee representing creditors of defunct law firm Brobeck Phleger & Harrison LLP is seeking to collect $284 million from its former partners to settle outstanding claims.

Global Crossing's Winnick to be Fined to End SEC Probe

Global Crossing founder Gary Winnick likely be fined under an agreement that will end an SEC probe into the company's accounting practices.

Sappy Holidays: Seasons Greetings Sent From Clients -- and Total Strangers

Here's a holiday greeting for our marketing manager -- except she died last year. Bet she would've liked it, though.

Panel Orders Loyola To Trial on Flagrant Foul of Hoops Player

Loyola Marymount University may go to trial against a former student who claims his $35,000-per-year financial aid package was terminated in order to kick him off the school's basketball team.

Major Mixed-Use Project Planned for Pantages Area

Nederlander Producing Co. of America Inc. has a deal in the works for a $300 million mixed-use project surrounding the Pantages Theatre.

Consumer-Driven Health Plans Face Some Resistance Due to Complexity

In a California market that's dominated by low-cost HMO plans, health savings accounts and other "consumer-driven" products are off to a slow start.

California Landmark Secures Marina Site, Palisades Nod

California Landmark Development is about to close escrow on two Marina del Rey-adjacent properties where the residential developer intends to build more than 100 units of housing.

Crude Oil Rises After Attack on U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia

Crude oil rose from a three-month low after an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia, boosted concern that a revival of terrorist attacks might threaten oil shipments from the world's biggest oil exporter.