SPACE CONTRACT: Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk's Hawthorne startup, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, is one of two recipients of NASA contracts to ship cargo to the International Space Station in a historic commercial outsourcing agreement valued at up to $3.5 billion. Instead of operating as a traditional NASA program, where the agency determines what will be built, pays for it and then operates the systems, the contractors will develop and largely pay for a new generation of rockets and cargo modules to service the station. The contractors are scheduled to start operating their rockets by late 2010.

VOTE DELAYED: Facing growing internal dissent, leaders of the Screen Actors Guild postponed a potentially divisive strike authorization vote for two weeks. The vote, which had been set to go out Jan. 2 and be tabulated Jan. 23, will be delayed until after an emergency board meeting Jan. 12 and 13, during which supporters of a strike authorization hope to present a united front before sending out ballots. High-profile stars such as George Clooney, Sally Fields and Tom Hanks are against the measure because they said a strike during the economic downturn doesn't make sense. An authorization vote requires a 75 percent approval from members who cast ballots.

LAYOFFS RISE: Nine employers laid off at least 2,744 employees in Los Angeles County in December. Bankrupt department store chain Mervyns accounted for more than 60 percent of the job losses, according to state data. Hayward-based Mervyns told the state Employment Development Department that it would lay off 1,742 workers at 16 of its Los Angeles County locations. Other employers laying off 50 or more workers in December included beverage distributor Haralambos Beverage Co. in City of Industry, which sent notices to 250 workers that they would be laid off as of Dec. 4. In a separate report, the state said the county's unemployment rate jumped to 8.9 percent in November, its highest level in 14 years and up from a revised 8.3 percent in October.

TAKING LOSS: Beverly Hills concert promoter Live Nation Inc. bought back 1.6 million of its shares from Irish rock band U2 for $25 million, taking a $19 million loss on the deal, according to a regulatory filing. As part of a wide-ranging 12-year promotion deal with Live Nation, the rock group in March received 1.6 million Live Nation shares, which were guaranteed to be worth $25 million. The company's share price has fallen roughly 64 percent since then.

ACQUISITION MADE: Ducommun Inc. said it has acquired competitor DynaBil Industries Inc., which makes titanium and aluminum structural components for commercial and military aerospace craft, for $46.5 million. Coxsackie, N.Y.-based DynaBil supplies parts for military aircraft manufactured by companies that include Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., which makes Black Hawk and Seahawk military helicopters. DynaBil, which will become part of subsidiary Ducommun AeroStructures Inc., also supplies parts to Ducommun client Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliner airplane project. The acquisition will help Carson-based Ducommun compete for larger contracts, executives said.

MOCA DEAL: The board of Los Angeles' financially strapped Museum of Contemporary Art voted to accept a $30 million bailout offer from billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, a founder and life trustee of the museum. MOCA's director, Jeremy Strick, resigned and the museum appointed UCLA Chancellor Emeritus Charles E. Young as the museum's first chief executive. The Broad deal ends speculation that the museum might accept a merger offer from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Under the agreement, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation will match contributions to MOCA's endowment up to $15 million and provide $3 million a year for exhibition support for five years.

CASH INFUSION: Merrill Lynch said it loaned $1 million to the Valley Economic Development Center that will be used to help small businesses throughout Southern California. The Merrill Lynch loan comes about two weeks after the Los Angeles City Council approved a $15 million loan to the non-profit VEDC, a small business incubator based in Van Nuys. The agency's loan fund now totals about $25 million, said President Roberto Barragan, who estimates that the Merrill Lynch cash infusion will save about 100 jobs. VEDC lending has quadrupled to about $1 million a month over the past four months as tight credit markets have made it more difficult for businesses to get bank loans.

MGA RELIEF: The judge who barred MGA Entertainment Inc. from selling or manufacturing its Bratz doll line agreed to consider changing his order, allowing the toys to be sold through the end of 2009. The tentative decision by U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson gives retailers certainty they will be able to order the trendy fashion dolls next year as MGA prepares to appeal the ban, said Tom Nolan, an attorney for Van Nuys-based MGA. Larson's decision, which has yet to be filed, also staves off a potential layoff of up to 1,500 MGA employees involved with the Bratz line, Nolan said. El Segundo-based Mattel Inc. won a permanent injunction banning MGA from making and selling Bratz dolls, which were found to infringe on Mattel's copyrights. Larson ordered MGA to turn over all Bratz materials to Mattel. He was scheduled to decide on Monday.

FORD EXIT: Kirk Kerkorian sold all his Ford Motor Co. shares, freeing the billionaire investor's Tracinda Corp. to focus on investments in energy, gambling and hotels. Kerkorian, 91, had started selling the shares in October.

DOUBLE BUY: Teledyne Technologies Inc. announced two acquisitions. The Thousand Oaks maker of components and systems for aerospace, energy and power generation uses acquired the assets of Moorpark-based Demo Systems LLC, which makes aircraft-data software. The company also bought Odom Hydrographic Systems Inc., a Louisiana maker of hydrographic survey instruments used in port surveys, dredging and offshore energy exploration. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.


CORRECTION

The interview published in the Dec. 15 edition, "No Insurance," should have stated that Andy Funk funded his Internet startups with a line of credit that was granted to him because of his family's prominent name in Germany and the insurance company the family owned. Funk did not use the family credit card.

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