Phil Jackson Back in Lakers Catbird Seat

Former coach Phil Jackson will take up team owner Jerry Buss on an offer extended before the season and attend the Lakers' game against the Houston Rockets, feeding speculation that somehow, some way, he might come back to a team that, without him, failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Whether Jackson decides to return as Lakers coach this summer, the scene will be rich in symbolism: Jerry Buss and Jackson seated side by side, especially with the Lakers having been eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported.

Redondo Beach Council Members Vote for a Salary Hike
After shelving discussions about cutting salaries for Redondo Beach's elected treasurer and city clerk, City Council members opted to increase their own paychecks by about $135 a month, keeping them among the highest paid in the South Bay, the Daily Breeze reported. The hike, approved Wednesday, increases the council and mayor's $792.67 monthly salary to about $927 per month, a roughly 16.9 percent increase effective in April 2007. The increase amounts to a 4 percent hike every year since 2001, the last time the council's pay was adjusted. The council's 3-1 vote came just after 1 a.m., by the time most members of the public had dispersed and gone to bed.

San Fernando to Put Hold on Liquor Licenses
With a controversy swirling over the number of liquor outlets in town, a divided City Council plans to place a moratorium on new liquor permits while it revamps its issuance policy, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. The council voted 3-2 late Tuesday to have its staff draft a 12-month moratorium, which could take effect April 18. Only the downtown area where the city established new issuing guidelines will be excluded. While opponents fear the ban will slow development of new restaurants and stores, others say the city needs to create a plan for issuing liquor licenses.

DirecTV Cancels Sale of Bonds
DirecTV Group Inc. canceled a planned $500-million junk bond sale rather than pay the higher interest rates investors have demanded on lower-quality bonds since early March, Bloomberg News reported. The company said it would instead borrow more under a planned loan arrangement with its banks. The proceeds would be used to refinance existing debt. El Segundo-based DirecTV said on March 11 that it would borrow $2 billion from banks and issue $500 million of junk bonds. But the junk market has been riled over the last month by concerns about the economy.

Telescope Manufacturer Acquired
Celestron International Corp., a privately owned telescope maker, said Wednesday it had been acquired by an affiliate of Taiwan-based optics maker Synta Technology Corp. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. No layoffs are planned at Celestron's headquarters and manufacturing facility in Torrance, where the company employs about 100 people. Industry leader Meade Instruments Corp. of Irvine twice had sought to acquire Celestron but was blocked by the Federal Trade Commission, which reportedly feared the deal would eliminate competition in the market.

Pinault Denies Bank Pull in Deal
Billionaire Francois Pinault insisted in an L.A. court Wednesday that a French bank had no control over any of his companies when he acquired a California insurer that inherited much of the business of the failed Executive Life Insurance Co., the Los Angeles Times reported. The state Department of Insurance alleges that Pinault's purchase of about $2 billion in high-risk corporate bonds once held by Executive Life was part of a scheme to conceal a deal that allegedly gave the bank, Credit Lyonnais, control of Executive Life in 1991. Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi contends he never would have approved the complex arrangement had he been aware of the alleged fraud.

Ingram CEO to Retire; Successor Is Named
Ingram Micro Inc., the world's largest distributor of computers and related parts, said Kent B. Foster would retire as chief executive and become nonexecutive chairman, effective June 1. Co-President Gregory M.E. Spierkel will replace Foster. Kevin M. Murai, also a co-president, takes the added title of chief operating officer at the Santa Ana-based company, Bloomberg News reported.

Divided SEC OKs Overhaul of Markets
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday approved an overhaul of rules governing the nation's stock markets, forcing the New York Stock Exchange to modernize, but giving the Big Board a reprieve from plans that threatened its future, the Los Angeles Times reported. The 3-2 vote capped a battle over how to regulate the increasingly complex web of stock markets that don't follow the same rules or execute trades at the same speed. The approach taken by the SEC, expanding on a rule that mandates that investors receive the best price on stock trades, sparked criticism from Congress, institutional investors and the markets themselves long before the vote.

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