DODGERS DEAL: Owner Frank McCourt of the Los Angeles Dodgers team, which is in Chapter 11 reorganization, reached an agreement with a group including former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson to sell the troubled Major League Baseball franchise. The deal is valued at $2.15 billion. Controlling partner of Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC is Mark R. Walter, chief executive of Chicago investment firm Guggenheim Partners. In addition to Johnson, the group also includes former Atlanta Braves President Stan Kasten and Mandalay Entertainment Chief Executive Peter Guber. The agreement calls for McCourt and affiliates of the purchasers to form a joint venture to acquire the Chavez Ravine property on which Dodgers Stadium and the parking lots are located for $150 million. The deal must still be approved in bankruptcy court.
EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK: Los Angeles County’s jobs picture continued its gradual improvement in February, according to state figures. The county’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 11.8 percent in February compared with January. However, tens of thousands more people entered the work force in February looking for work, and the county’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high, drifting down only 0.5 of a percentage point from 12.3 percent a year ago. The news was more encouraging for February’s payroll jobs figures, which are derived from a separate survey of employers. The county added 29,000 payroll jobs in February, with the most gains in entertainment, private education and professional services.
JOB CUTS: THQ Inc. announced that it will lay off 114 employees, all of them out of state, in order to cut costs as it converts one of its franchise video games into what it hopes will be a more profitable format. The Agoura Hills game developer said that it is transitioning “Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium” from a massively multiplayer online game into both a single-player and online multiplayer experience. THQ said the layoff decision was due to the additional investment necessary, and the company’s inability to find a strategic partner to finance development. The cuts come at THQ development studios in Austin, Texas, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
ON THE BLOCK: Hollywood trade publication Variety is up for sale by parent company Reed Business Information. Sale of the newspaper, headquartered on the Miracle Mile, is part of an effort by Reed to sell off print assets and focus on data services. Variety was previously placed on the market in 2008, along with other trade publications owned by the company, but failed to sell. Variety has been covering show business news for more than 100 years but has faced pressure from an industrywide downturn in print advertising and rising competition from Internet startups.
NEW COMPETITION: The Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug called Omontys, which is poised to break Amgen Inc.’s near monopoly in the U.S. anemia treatment market. Omontys, developed by Affymax Inc. of Palo Alto, was approved for use by adult dialysis patients with anemia caused by chronic kidney disease. There are about 400,000 U.S. kidney disease patients on dialysis. Omontys is injected monthly, which gives it an advantage over Amgen’s anemia drug for chronic kidney disease, Epogen, which generally is administered three times a week. Epogen, approved in 1989, is Thousand Oaks-based Amgen’s oldest product and had sales of about $2 billion last year.
SUITS DISMISSED: A U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles granted summary judgment in two decade-old antitrust lawsuits against Live Nation Entertainment Inc., effectively dismissing the class-action cases. The lawsuits against the Beverly Hills concert promoter and ticketing service date from when the now-public company was the live entertainment division of Clear Channel Communications. Plaintiffs alleged that Clear Channel’s promotion policies were monopolistic and anticompetitive. The dismissed suits targeted only the L.A. and Denver markets.
TEXAS CONTRACT: Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. was awarded a contract to provide project management consulting services for construction of a large pipe-rolling mill near Corpus Christi, Texas. The Pasadena company did not disclose the value of its contract with Tianjin Pipe Corp., but said the total project would cost nearly $1 billion. Jacobs said it would assist TPCO with the coordination and management of engineering, procurement and construction for the mill, which is scheduled to be completed in stages beginning this December and ending in December 2014.
INVESTMENT: NantWorks invested $30 million in Strand Diagnostics, an Indianapolis developer of a testing service for diagnosing cancer. The West L.A. business investment and development firm, founded by biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, said that the money will be invested over the next three years. Strand’s Know Error system is designed to improve patient safety and accuracy in the testing process. It employs bar coding, forensic principles and DNA matching to ensure that surgical biopsy samples belong exclusively to the patient being diagnosed.
ENERGY PROJECT: The California Public Utility Commission approved the $294 million sale of Southern California Edison’s share of a coal-fired power plant in New Mexico to SCE, a unit of Rosemead-based Edison International, owns a 48 percent Arizona Public Service Co. share of two generating units at the Four Corners Generating Station. Facing a regulatory deadline under California’s greenhouse gas emission reduction law to sell all of its coal-fired generating assets by 2016, the utility reached an agreement in November 2010 to sell its share to Arizona’s largest electric utility, subject to regulatory approvals.
RECEIPT LAUNCH: Avita Medical Ltd., which recently moved operations from the United Kingdom to Northridge, has begun trading American depositary receipts tied to overseas stock. The receipts had an opening bid price of $3.50.The company, which is seeking U.S. regulatory approval to market a spray-on treatment that helps regenerate skin over wounds, scars and defects, said its regular shares will continue to trade on the Australian Securities Exchange. American depositary receipts represent the underlying securities of a non-U.S. company, and each of Avita’s receipts contains 20 ordinary shares.
EARNINGS: KB Home reported a fiscal first quarter net loss of $45.8 million, less than the loss in the same period a year earlier. The L.A. homebuilder said orders declined 8 percent. … Response Genetics Inc. reported a fourth quarter net loss of $3.9 million, 255 percent higher than in the same period a year earlier. The L.A. developer of genetic diagnostic test kits said revenue fell 23 percent to $6.4 million.
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