Forever 21 to Acquire Retailer Gadzooks

Forever 21 Inc., a fast-expanding L.A. apparel retailer that targets teen girls and young women, is planning to buy competitor Gadzooks Inc. out of bankruptcy for about $33 million, the Los Angeles Times reported. That would dramatically increase the size of Forever 21, a 200-store chain. Executives said Thursday that the retailer had agreed to assume the leases of at least 150 Gadzooks stores. Texas-based Gadzooks, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection a year ago, has no stores in California.

Complaint Against American Funds Puts Financial Advisors in a Bind
Allegations that American Funds had improper marketing deals with brokerages are posing a quandary for independent financial advisors, many of whom have helped make the Los Angeles firm the bestselling mutual fund company in recent years, the Los Angeles Times reported. After 17 months of scandal revelations that have rocked the fund industry, some advisors say it's difficult to find high-quality companies that haven't had their reputations sullied.

Man Pleads No Contest in ChoicePoint ID Theft
A North Hollywood man accused of infiltrating the databases of one of the nation's largest collectors of consumer information pleaded no contest Thursday to felony identity theft. Olatunji Oluwatosin was sentenced to 16 months in state prison for his role in a fraud ring that illegally accessed the credit reports, Social Security numbers and other personal information of tens of thousands of people. Oluwatosin, a Nigerian national, could be deported after his sentence is served, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Staples Center Bond Ratings May Be Revised
Nearly $500 million of municipal bonds used for L.A.'s Staples Center and arenas in four other cities that are home to National Hockey League teams may have their credit ratings reviewed by Fitch Ratings because of the canceled season, Bloomberg News reported. The NHL ended the season Wednesday after locking out players for 154 days. Fitch analyst Chad Lewis said Thursday that the ratings might hinge on whether the league could avoid having to cancel next season. Staples Center bonds are rated A, sixth-highest of 10 investment grades.

French Insurer Defaults in Executive Life Suit
French insurer MAAF defaulted in a civil lawsuit in which it was accused of defrauding the state of California of billions of dollars in the purchase of Executive Life Insurance Co., Reuters reported. The state planned to ask a jury to order MAAF to pay a share of $3.7 billion in damages claimed in the suit, which also targets the French government and French bank Credit Lyonnais. MAAF voluntarily entered the default judgment because it has no U.S. assets and believes French courts would not enforce any damages levied against it by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Stan Lee Expects to Settle Royalty Suit
Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, who spent two years in court fighting Marvel Enterprises Inc. for royalties from the characters he invented, said he expected to settle the case before a judge decided how much the company owed him, Bloomberg News reported. The ruling last month entitled Lee to 10 percent of Marvel's profit from films, TV shows and other products based on Lee's inventions. Marvel said it would appeal.

Foreclosures in State Fall to a 13-Year Low
Foreclosure activity in California dropped to its lowest level in more than 13 years in 2004, thanks to robust home sales and rising prices, DataQuick Information Services reported. Lending institutions sent default notices to 56,125 homeowners last year, down 33 percent from 83,600 in 2003, the Los Angeles Times reported. The decline in foreclosure activity was strongest in Los Angeles County, where the rate of default notices dropped 48.5 percent.

L.A. Candidate Wants Data on Sex Offenders on TV
Los Angeles City Councilman and mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa called Thursday for the city to broadcast the names, photographs and addresses of high-risk sex offenders on Channel 35, the city's local government channel, the Daily Breeze reported. Villaraigosa said the city-owned station should add neighborhood-level information on the city's 4,020 sex offenders to its existing programming. Although the sex-offender information is already available on state- and local-government Web sites, Villaraigosa argued that parents without computers also need to know who lives near them.

LAPD Can't Afford Moving-Vehicle Training Program
Already strapped for resources, the Los Angeles Police Department does not have the money to provide the extensive training required by its new policy barring officers from shooting at moving vehicles, officials said Thursday. In adopting the policy Wednesday in response to the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Devin Brown, the Police Commission said the success of the new policy rests on training, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. The LAPD had no estimate of how much it will cost for staffing and capital expenditures for the training program. A final plan could be developed within six weeks.

MTA to Use Unions on Orange Line
Although the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could save $2.5 million by hiring private bus drivers and mechanics for the Orange Line, agency officials said Thursday that union agreements make it difficult to contract with outside workers, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. While private firms could shave one-third off the bus's $6 million operating cost for fiscal 2005-2006, MTA board member John Fasana, who initially suggested hiring private contractors, said the proposal was unworkable. The MTA may seek out ways to save money by privatizing other agency operations.

Nine Firms Pay to Settle Unlicensed Software Claims
Nine Southern California companies will pay the Business Software Alliance a combined $826,270 to settle claims that they were using unlicensed programs on office computers, the trade group said Thursday. Locally, the companies include Ascent Media Group Inc., a technical services provider with offices in Burbank, and CallSource, a performance management company in Westlake Village, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. Both companies are paying more than $100,000 each to settle the claims.

Will Disney Ever Find Its Big Cheese?
Who's on first? That's the question surrounding the secret "search" for a possible replacement for Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Variety reported. Though directors have hired an executive search firm and numerous names have been dropped as possible candidates, none of them has apparently been interviewed. Officially, the search is so secret that not even the candidates know they're being considered. Disney President Bob Iger has been the only acknowledged candidate so far.

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