TANDEM PARKING: Beverly Hills startup CurbStand, which offers on-demand valet parking services through its app, has acquired Santa Monica competitor Curby. CurbStand will integrate Curby’s technology into a future product release. While both companies’ apps let users request the return of their cars and pay valet fees through their smartphones, Curby also built a hardware and software platform that allows valet operators to monitor cars and staff in real time, view historical data and mine customer demographics. The deal, a combination of cash and stock, was for an undisclosed sum.
MOVIE SCAM: Two Los Angeles County men were sentenced to federal prison for leading a scheme to defraud hundreds of investors in a company called Gigapix Studios. Christopher Blauvelt and David Pritchard collected $21 million from investors by promising large returns on movie investments. They claimed to be producing a 3-D animated version of “The Wizard of Oz,” while also touting an imminent and profitable public offering, the Justice Department said. Approximately 730 people lost virtually all of the money they invested in Gigapix and the film, “OZ3D.” A United States district judge sentenced Blauvelt to eight years in prison; Pritchard was sentenced to five years.
HEARING: Responding to pressure from community groups opposed to the acquisition, the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have announced that they will hold a public hearing on the proposed purchase of Pasadena’s OneWest Bank by lending company CIT Group in Livingston, N.J. The hearing will focus on how well the banks are addressing the needs of their communities, and will include a review of their compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act, a law meant to ensure lower-income communities have access to affordable banking services. The meeting will be held Feb. 26 at the downtown L.A. branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
HEIR APPARENT: Studio veteran Thomas Staggs was named chief operating officer at Walt Disney Co., a promotion that puts him in line to succeed Chief Executive Robert Iger as the next leader of the Burbank entertainment giant. Iger’s contract will expire in mid-2018. Staggs, who assumed the position immediately, has been with Disney for almost 25 years, most recently as chairman of the parks and resorts segment. He now serves in a role that has been vacant since Iger left the position in 2005 to become chief executive.
CONGRESSIONAL CRITICISM: A congressional subcommittee has strongly criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs for issuing commercial leases on its West L.A. campus, focusing on a scathing report in September that found the VA had failed to collect rent from commercial leaseholders. A federal judge in 2013 struck down the leases, saying they had nothing to do with medical care for veterans. Members of the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs were particularly perturbed that illegal leaseholders were not immediately evicted.
RENTAL TAX: A spokesman for Airbnb said the San Francisco company is in negotiations with the city of Los Angeles over collecting occupancy taxes for short-term rentals. The city has struggled with how to regulate the short-term rental industry, which has grown dramatically, while the supply of affordable housing for residents has remained stagnant. Many City Council members argue that Los Angeles should be receiving tax revenue from Airbnb rentals, and that more regulations are needed to curb large concentrations of Airbnb hosts in some neighborhoods.
STAKE SWAP: Cable legend John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media Corp., will swap a portion of his Starz shares for a 3.4 percent stake in Santa Monica’s Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and a seat on the company’s board, priming the two media companies for collaboration. Lions Gate will get a 4.5 percent stake in Starz, representing 14.5 percent of total voting power. Malone will remain Starz’s largest voting shareholder. Lions Gate has recently found its money-making niche in movie adaptations of young adult novels such as blockbuster franchises “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight,” while its TV business has benefited from shows such as “Mad Men” and “Orange Is the New Black.”
GREEK DRAMA: The battle for control of the Greek Theatre took a new twist when the Los Angeles City Council rejected a recommendation for Beverly Hills entertainment giant Live Nation to assume control of the iconic venue in Griffith Park. Current operators Nederlander Corp. and bid partner AEG Live, the live entertainment division of Anschutz Entertainment Group of downtown Los Angeles, hope that the vote to send the decision back for further consideration by the Department of Recreation and Parks will lead to them holding on to the Greek. However, the parks department originally sided with Live Nation, so it’s unclear what will happen next. The council’s vote serves only as a recommendation.
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