BRAND SAVVY: L.A. media billionaire Haim Saban has started a brand acquisition company, Saban Brands, and plans to commit $500 million in capital to acquire established entertainment and consumer names. President of the new venture is Elie Dekel, who most recently was head of licensing and merchandising for 20th Century Fox. Dekel also worked with Saban before at Saban Entertainment and as president of Fox Family Worldwide.

NEW HEADQUARTERS: State and local officials announced that Chinese hybrid electric automaker BYD Co. will open its U.S. headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. China’s fourth largest automaker expects to create at least 150 local jobs by 2011 as it rolls out its fleet of vehicles to California markets before expanding throughout the country.

POT SHOT: L.A. city prosecutors have sent letters to 439 medical marijuana dispensaries warning them that they must shut down by June 7, when an ordinance to control medical marijuana clinics will take effect. Under the ordinance, only those dispensaries that registered with the clerk in 2007, when the City Council adopted its moratorium on any new stores, can remain open. City officials estimate that between 130 and 140 of the original 186 registered dispensaries are still operating.

MERGER APPROVED: Stockholders of Zenith National Insurance Corp. voted in favor of the company’s acquisition by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. in a deal valued at $1.4 billion. The merger, which must be approved by the California Department of Insurance, is expected to close in the current quarter. Fairfax, a Toronto, Ontario, insurance holding company, is Zenith’s second largest shareholder with an 8 percent stake as of Jan 25. It will pay $38 per share in cash to acquire the remaining outstanding shares.

NO CONTRACT: Workers at Boeing Co.’s Long Beach C-17 plant overwhelmingly rejected a new labor contract. Nearly 80 percent of workers voted against a proposed 46-month contract. The contract included pay raises and a signing bonus but increased health care and pension costs for the 1,700 workers represented by United Aerospace Workers Local 148. The UAW said it hopes talks with management can resume in coming days so a strike can be avoided.

JOB SWITCH: Guess Inc. Chief Operating Officer Carlos Alberini is resigning to become co-chief executive of Northern California-based Restoration Hardware. The L.A. apparel and accessories company said that the resignation of Alberini, who also holds the title of president, will be effective June 1. The company said that he will remain on the board of directors after leaving the company. Prior to joining Guess in 2000, Alberini, 53, was chief financial officer of Footstar Inc. Guess Chief Executive Paul Marciano said the company will launch a search to replace him.

CONSTRUCTION SUIT: The owners of an office tower under construction in Beverly Hills have filed a lawsuit seeking $40 million in damages for the city’s rejection of a request to convert the building to medical office space. Kobor Family Trust, the owners of the building on Wilshire and Robertson boulevards, lost its financing in the financial meltdown of late 2008. The lender said it would only consider financing the project if it were converted to medical office space. The City Council rejected the conversion proposal.

LOAN APPROVED: The Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a $600,000 loan to Cal Worthington’s Ford dealership to keep the business from leaving town. One of Long Beach’s 10 largest sales tax revenue generators, Worthington Ford threatened to leave the city in March after Ford Motor Co. offered it incentives to move farther away from another Ford dealership. The dealership asked the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to broker a deal with the city to help it stay.

POST FILLED: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has selected Christine Essel, a former entertainment industry executive who recently lost a bruising campaign for City Council, to serve as his top executive at the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency. Essel was senior vice president of government and community affairs for Paramount Pictures and has served in recent years as one of Villaraigosa’s appointed airport commissioners. She also chaired the Central City Association’s board of directors in 2007 and 2008.

NEW CFO: Response Genetics Inc. said that David D. O’Toole was appointed chief financial officer. The L.A. developer of molecular diagnostic tests for cancer said that O’Toole, former CFO of Abraxis BioScience Inc., will also hold the title of vice president. He replaces Thomas Stankovich, who resigned in March.

BURKLE NEWS: Billionaire investor Ron Burkle’s Americold Realty Trust postponed what would have been the largest U.S. initial public offering of 2010. Americold, an Atlanta warehouse operator owned by Burkle’s L.A.-based Yucaipa Cos., canceled the $660 million sale; it had previously cut the size of the offering in the midst of an increasingly unfriendly market for offerings. Also, Burkle’s Yucaipa filed a lawsuit in Delaware court against Barnes & Noble Inc., saying the bookseller’s shareholder rights plan was unfair. Yucaipa owns about 19 percent of the company’s shares and woud like to accumulate more.

EARNINGS ROUNDUP: Activision Blizzard Inc. reported net income of $381 million compared with $189 million a year earlier. Revenue jumped 33 percent to $1.31 billion. … Abraxis BioScience Inc. reported a net loss of $3 million, compared with $22.9 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 53 percent to nearly $111 million. … DirecTV Inc. reported net income of $558 million, compared with $201 million a year ago. Revenue rose 14 percent to $5.6 billion.

CORRECTION

In an article headlined “Stars of a Different Sort Come Out for Indie Movies” in the May 3 issue, Naseeb Saliba’s first name was misspelled. Also, the article should have said that Tutor-Saliba Corp. was formed in 1972 and incorporated in 1981.

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