Facing a widening budget deficit and regional unemployment stuck above 12 percent, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has decided to place a vast swath of city government under a former private-sector executive charged with making Los Angeles more business friendly.

Villaraigosa has name Austin Beutner, a former partner at private-equity giant Blackstone Group and co-founder of the boutique investment-banking firm Evercore Partners, as the ailing city's first economy chief.

The 49-year-old Beutner will have broad powers. About half of city government departments -- from the Port of Los Angeles to the city's sprawling Department of Water and Power utility -- will report to him. Beutner will report directly to Villaraigosa.

Southern California's economy has been among the hardest hit in the country. The area's housing market was one of the first to collapse. And in Los Angeles, mainstays such as the film industry have suffered as other states woo productions away with rich tax incentives. Last week, the city was dealt a psychological blow when Northrop Grumman Corp., the last major firm of the region's once-dominant aerospace industry, announced it was moving its headquarters to the Washington, D.C. area.

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