BURKLE SHOPS: L.A. billionaire supermarket mogul Ronald Burkle's Yucaipa Cos. has accumulated 7 percent of Whole Foods Markets Inc. shares over the past two months, and said in a regulatory filing that it intends to become an activist shareholder. Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods is facing a Federal Trade Commission challenge to its 2007 purchase of Wild Oats Markets Inc., of which Yucaipa had been a significant owner. Yucaipa said in the Securities and Exchange Commission filing that Burkle believes shares of the upscale natural and organic foods grocery chain are undervalued, and there are substantial opportunities for the company to improve operations and "pricing image." The filing did not rule out a possible push for a sale of the company.
INDYMAC SOLD: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said a consortium of private equity and hedge fund firms has agreed to buy the assets of IndyMac Federal Bank in a deal valued at $13.9 billion. The FDIC, which took over the failed Pasadena mortgage lender in July, is selling the bank's assets to IMB Management Holdings LP. The group's leaders include buyout specialist Christopher Flowers; hedge fund operator John Paulson; and Steve Mnuchin, the chairman of Dune Capital and a former Goldman Sachs executive. The Office of Thrift Supervision has granted preliminary clearance to IMB's application to operate IndyMac as a federal savings association under the office's supervision.
MGA UPDATE: U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson issued an order allowing MGA Entertainment Inc. to continue to manufacture and sell the popular Bratz doll line at least through the end of the 2009 retail season. Larson last month imposed a permanent injunction on MGA after a jury found that the Bratz line infringed on Mattel patents. A delay in enforcing the ban is a partial victory for MGA, which originally asked the Riverside judge to delay enforcing the injunction until the Van Nuys toymaker could appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Larson's decision gives retailers some certainty that the dolls will be available this year.
COURTROOM DRAMA: In a high-profile trial that opened last week in a Los Angeles court, Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa accused longtime television partner Univision Communications Inc. of heavy-handed tactics as Televisa sought better terms for its popular Spanish-language soap operas, plus more than $100 million in royalties it believes it is owed. New York-based Univision, which was based in Los Angeles before being taken private in a 2007 buyout, is the nation's top Spanish-language TV broadcaster. Televisa's "telenovelas" account for the bulk of Univision's top-rated shows.
SUIT DROPPED: After a four-year battle with the city of Los Angeles and community activists, Home Depot Inc. decided to pull its plans for a store in Sunland-Tujunga. The big-box retailer dropped its lawsuit against the city and no longer plans to pursue its application to open a store in an empty Kmart building. Home Depot acquired the lease from Kmart in 2004 and had already spent $2 million in renovations when its permit was revoked by the City Council. Residents successfully complained about the potential for increased traffic, parking problems and loitering by day laborers.
GLENDALE SETTLEMENT: General Growth Properties Inc. said it reached a $48 million settlement with Caruso Affiliated Holdings LLC over unfair business practices related to competition for tenants at competing mall sites in Glendale. The settlement is considerably less than the $89.2 million a jury awarded L.A.-based Caruso Affiliated more than a year ago. In the original 2004 lawsuit, Caruso Affiliated alleged that General Growth, which owns and manages more than 200 malls, attempted to intimidate Cheesecake Factory Inc. as the chain was considering opening a restaurant at Caruso's new Americana at Brand shopping center across the street from General Growth's Glendale Galleria. The award was appealed by Chicago-based General Growth.
SELLER'S REMORSE: Just three weeks after it was announced that TV Guide Channel and TVGuide.com would be sold to TV producer Allen Shapiro's private equity firm, owner Macrovision said Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. would buy the media properties instead. The Santa Monica-based film and TV studio will acquire the combined properties for an estimated $255 million. Macrovision terminated the Dec. 18 sale of TV Guide to Shapiro's firm prior to the Lions Gate deal. The price tag is less than the $300 million Shapiro's One Equity Partners was to have paid. OpenGate Capital bought TV Guide magazine from Macrovision in October.
NORTHROP RESTRUCTURES: Northrop Grumman Corp. said it is reducing its business units from seven to five as part of a larger corporate restructuring to streamline the business and cut costs. The new Aerospace Systems unit will be made up of El Segundo-based Integrated Systems, which makes aircraft such as the Global Hawk, and Redondo Beach-based Space Technology, which builds government satellites and develops military lasers. Separately, the company's Information Technology and Mission Systems units will merge into a new Information Systems unit.
BAN UPHELD: The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld L.A.'s citywide billboard ban, handing a victory to the city in its battle to regulate outdoor signs. Reversing a lower court ruling, the 9th Circuit Court said the city's 2002 outdoor advertising ban does not violate a sign company's First Amendment right to free speech. Outdoor advertising company Metro Lights LLC had argued that the city could not prohibit new "off-site" signs, defined as images that advertise products not sold on the immediate property, while at the same time selling advertising space on city-owned bus benches and kiosks.
The law column in the Jan. 5 edition headlined "Glaser Weil Veterans Together Again at New Firm" gave the wrong year that Barak Lurie left the law firm Glaser Weil. He left in 2003. The article also incorrectly stated that Daniel Park brought Korean grocery store Assi Super to the firm. Lurie brought Assi Super to the firm and represents the store.
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