GRAND AVENUE: New York developer Related Cos. has broken ground on the first building of its long-delayed Grand Avenue project in downtown Los Angeles. A $120 million, 19-story apartment tower is slated to offer 271 market-rate and affordable apartments as well as 5,000 square feet of ground-floor space for restaurants. It will share a plaza with Eli and Edythe Broad’s museum, the Broad, now under construction. The tower is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
CORPORATE DRAMA: Herbalife Ltd. is defending its business model and financials after an attack by Pershing Square Capital’s William Ackman, who is shorting the downtown L.A. nutritional supplement company’s stock. Herbalife President Desmond Walsh noted during an investor presentation that in its 32-year history, only one court had ruled that his company runs an illegal pyramid scheme, and that ruling – in Belgium – is under appeal. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reportedly has launched an inquiry into the ongoing controversy. Meanwhile, another investor, Daniel Loeb of Third Point LLC, disclosed that he purchased a stake in the company.
NEW CEO: Cadiz Inc. has announced that its board has named President Scott Slater chief executive, succeeding longtime CEO and co-founder Keith Brackpool. The L.A. renewable resources company, which plans to store and pipe water from aquifers under its land in the Mojave Desert to serve urban Southern California, said Slater, who has been with Cadiz since 2008, will start in his new position Feb. 1. The change comes as the company’s water storage project faces federal government regulatory approvals and likely court challenges.
PISTACHIO STYLE: Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s L.A.-based almond and pistachio manufacturing and marketing company, Paramount Farms, has booked South Korean YouTube sensation Psy to star in its first-ever Super Bowl ad for Wonderful Pistachios. Psy reportedly will wear a pistachio green suit and demonstrate a way to crack nuts to the beat of his hit “Gangnam Style.”
CONTRACTOR AID: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has announced the creation of a city contracting office designed to ensure all businesses have equal access to city contracts. The new Office of Contractor Relations will function as a one-stop shop where businesses can go to find out about city contracts available for bidding. It also is supposed to make sure that small businesses, locally based-businesses and veteran-, minority- and women-owned businesses have equal opportunity to bid on city contracts.
DISNEY MOVES: Walt Disney Co.’s $12.9 billion parks and resorts division is shuffling leadership at its two top resorts starting Feb. 1. Meg Crofton, Walt Disney World Resort president, will become president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations for the United States and France. George Kalogridis, who has been running Anaheim’s Disneyland, will take over as president of the larger Disney World Resort in Florida. Michael Colglazier, who has been running Disney World’s Animal Kingdom park, will take over as Disneyland’s president.
PATENT BATTLE: Walt Disney Co. was granted a temporary stay halting Digital Domain Media Group’s pending $5.4 million sale of 3-D conversion patents. Disney claims that In-Three Inc., prior owner of the patents, granted Disney a license for converting 2-D films to 3-D that remains in force. Digital Domain, based in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and co-founded by “Avatar” director James Cameron, filed for Chapter 11 protection in September and plans to sell the patents to Beverly Hills’ RealD Inc.
NEW FUND: Clearlake Capital Group LP has announced that it closed fundraising for its third private-equity fund with more than $785 million in equity commitments. The Santa Monica investment firm, which specializes in special situation buyouts and other acquisitions of companies in a range of industries, said that its initial target for the fund was $600 million. Contributors include pension funds, foundations and insurance companies. Clearlake now has $1.4 billion in capital under management, with a 16-company portfolio that includes hot tub maker Jacuzzi and software developer Mformation.
NAME CHANGE: PC Mall Inc. has changed its corporate name to PCM Inc. The El Segundo technology company said that its primary commercial subsidiaries – PC Mall Sales Inc., Sarcom Inc. and PC Mall Services Inc. – have been combined into one subsidiary operating under the commercial brand PCM. The company’s ticker symbol on the Nasdaq also has changed, from MALL to PCMI.
NEW BRIDGE: The Port of Long Beach last week broke ground on a long-awaited replacement for the aging Gerald Desmond Bridge. Built in 1968, the current bridge links Terminal Island and the 710 freeway. An estimated 15 percent of the nation’s waterborne cargo travels on the bridge. The $1 billion replacement is expected to be completed in 2016.
INSURANCE DEAL: Pasadena insurance brokerage Bolton & Co. has purchased Preferred Specialty Insurance Services of Glendora. As part of the transaction that closed on Dec. 31, Todd Jackson, Preferred Specialty Insurance Services president, will join Bolton as vice president. Jackson and his team will move to Bolton’s Pasadena office. “Preferred Specialty’s employees and philosophy mirror ours and we are pleased to add their highly regarded reputation to our organization,” Steve Brockmeyer, Bolton chief executive, said in a statement. Bolton, an employee-owned insurance brokerage founded in 1931, has 125 insurance professionals and placed more than $250 million in insurance policies with clients last year. The company has made several acquisitions over the past year.
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