WHISPER: Santa Monica’s Whisper suspended its editor-in-chief Neetzan Zimmerman and other editorial staffers who were involved with the Guardian’s visit to the startup’s offices – in light of the damning articles that followed. Accusing the anonymous message app of breaching user privacy, the British news outlet reported that members of Whisper’s team showed the Guardian how its database could locate users within 1,600 feet of their location, including those who had asked not to be tracked. A U.S. Senate committee has since requested a briefing with Whisper Chief Executive Michael Heyward to address the reportage. Heyward defended the startup’s privacy practices during an interview at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJD Live tech conference in Laguna Beach, claiming that the Guardian’s reporters visited under false pretenses and misrepresented facts.
CALL SANTA: The toy industry is suffering the effects of congestion at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles as shipments take two to three times as long to get through as they did last year, leaving companies scrambling as the holidays near. The delays are caused by a shortage of trailers, called chassis, used to haul containers, as well as long truck wait times and labor talks between longshore workers and their employers. Because of those bottlenecks, the Port of Long Beach gave cargo owners three extra days, up until the last day of October, to move their goods out of the terminal without paying extra fees.
MUÑECAS: El Segundo toymaker Mattel Inc. is bringing its American Girl doll brand to Mexico. The company will open three American Girl boutiques through a partnership with El Palacio de Hierro, a high-end Mexican retailer. The first two shops will open in the summer in Mexico City and a third location will open in fall 2015. The stores will carry the company’s 18-inch doll line, American Doll books translated into Spanish and a Doll Hair Salon. The brand first expanded outside the United States last year into Canada.
SCHEME: Glendale resident Angela Avetisyan, co-owner of L.A. home health agency Fifth Avenue Home Health, has been indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly aiding in a $33 million scheme to defraud Medicare. Avetisyan is accused of billing Medicare for goods, such as power wheelchairs, and services, such as hospice care, that were either medically unnecessary or never actually provided to patients. Avetisyan was also the office manager at a local medical clinic owned by physician Robert A. Glazer, who is accused of billing Medicare for more than $33 million in fraudulent prescriptions and certificates.
REBOUND: Three days after Chivas USA shut down, Major League Soccer announced that a new team had been awarded to an ownership group led by venture capitalist Henry Nguyen, Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Peter Guber and former National Basketball Association executive Tom Penn. The new team, which has a working name of Los Angeles Football Club, is scheduled to begin play in 2017 at a stadium that will be built somewhere in Los Angeles County. The 22-person ownership group of the new franchise includes Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Mia Hamm and motivational speaker Tony Robbins.
TABLED: The Los Angeles City Council’s economic development committee has ordered an independent economic study of two proposals to raise the minimum wage in the city, delaying consideration of a wage hike until at least early next year. The study will examine the potential effects of both Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $13.25 an hour by 2017, as well as a proposal from six council members to further hike the wage to $15.25 an hour by 2019.
LIVE AT THE GREEK: The Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission has voted to recommend Live Nation to run the Greek Theatre. The Beverly Hills concert giant beat out a bid from the venue’s longtime operator, Nederlander Corp. Live Nation also won out in another area: earnings. The company reported net income of $105.2 million (49 cents a share) for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up from $43.8 million in the same period a year earlier.
ACTION: A new joint venture among Hollywood heavy hitters will operate a studio in Glendale that will produce animated and hybrid animated-live action feature films. Billionaire investor Haim Saban, film director Chris Columbus, producer Michael Barnathan and ZAG Entertainment’s Jeremy Zag will launch ZAG Animation Studios. The studio will begin releasing two films a year starting in 2017 and already has a slate of 10 films in development. The first release from ZAG will be “Melody,” a computer-animated film co-directed by Columbus and Zag.
RIGHT SWIPE: Venice startup Tinder has announced that Silicon Valley venture capital firm Benchmark has taken an equity stake in the dating app and General Partner Matt Cohler will join its board. The size of the stake was not disclosed, though Re/Code reported Benchmark didn’t invest any money, trading instead on Cohler’s time and expertise. Cohler was a top lieutenant to Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook Inc. and a founding employee at LinkedIn Corp.
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