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Review/Preview

Review

March 14-20

Tenet Consolidates: Troubled Tenet Healthcare Corp. plans to save $100 million by selling or closing as many as 14 hospitals, cutting jobs, lowering travel costs and selling two of the company’s three corporate jets. None of the 14 hospitals is in L.A. County. The moves come after a government probe forced the Santa Barbara-based company to rein in prices involving Medicare.

Pump Update: Gasoline prices rose again in California to an average of $2.145 a gallon for regular, but the 2.9 percent increase was less than in previous weeks. Meanwhile, the sharp drop in oil prices in the days preceding a war with Iraq led some analysts to project an easing in gasoline prices, although refinery issues specific to California make a sharp drop unlikely anytime soon.

Rates Unchanged: As expected, the Federal Reserve left rates unchanged from the benchmark short-term level of just 1.25 percent, a four-decade low. In a statement, the Fed said the uncertain global climate makes it too difficult to assess the “current balance of risks.”




Universal Decision: Barry Diller resigned as chairman and chief executive of Vivendi Universal SA’s U.S. media group, signaling he may have lost interest in buying part of the French company and will concentrate on running his USA Interactive Internet commerce business. On the day of Diller’s announcement, USA, whose interests include the Home Shopping Network and Hotels.com, said it would purchase the shares of online travel company Expedia Inc. that it doesn’t own in a stock swap valued at $3.3 billion.

Disney Expectations: Walt Disney Co. executives told shareholders at its annual meeting in Denver that it expects more moderate growth this year than previously expected because the potential for war is hurting tourism at its Florida resort. The Burbank-based company also said declines in retail sales have hurt results at Disney Stores, although merchandise-licensing income this year will mitigate any drop. Tourism has declined at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, but Disneyland has gained visitors compared with last year. Separately, Chief Executive Michael Eisner said the company may be close to buying Jim Henson Co., owner of the Muppets characters, from Germany’s EM.TV & Merchandising. EM.TV earlier this month canceled an agreement to sell half of Henson to a group led by media executive Dean Valentine.

DirectTV Filing: A Hughes Electronics Corp. unit that provides satellite-television service in Latin America filed for bankruptcy protection and its chairman has resigned. DirecTV Latin America won U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval to tap a $300 million loan from Hughes to continue operations. The unit, about 75 percent-owned by El Segundo-based Hughes (the largest unsecured creditor), had a loss of $202 million last year before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

He’s Back: “Sopranos” fans can relax actor James Gandolfini has agreed to drop his lawsuit against HBO and return to the hit series for the fifth season. HBO, in turn, will drop its countersuit against the actor. News reports have Gandolfini backing down from the litigation after a talk with Brad Grey, one of the show’s executive producers.

Record Month: The median home price in L.A. County reached a record $284,000 in February, a nearly 20 percent jump from the like period a year ago, according to DataQuick Information Systems. Sales in L.A. did slip 4 percent from a year ago, although the February 2002 numbers were especially strong.

Preview

March 24-30

War News: The hostilities in Iraq and any possible terrorist retaliation are certain to dominate the news this week and there’s a good chance that various events around town, along with some of the broadcast schedule, might be postponed or cancelled. Best to check beforehand.




Transit Talk: How the state budget crisis will affect transportation funding will be the subject of a luncheon panel on Wednesday (26th), which is being sponsored by the L.A. chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar. For information: 213-403-1045.

Economic Reports: Lots of numbers due out this week, starting with the two monthly consumer confidence surveys by the Conference Board on Tuesday (25th) and the University of Michigan on Friday (28th). Also coming out are February home sales on Tuesday, final fourth-quarter gross domestic product on Thursday (27th) and February personal income and personal spending on Friday.

Film Festival: Dozens of films will be showcased this week at the fifth annual Hollywood Black Film Festival at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The films include shorts, documentaries, animation and full-length features. Festival will run from Tuesday through Sunday (25th-30th). For information: 310-712-3998.

Sports Beat: Michael Jordan will probably make his last appearance against the Lakers in L.A. on Friday (28th) as the Washington Wizards take on the home team. The Clippers are home on Monday (24th) against Houston, Wednesday (19th) against Dallas and Sunday (30th) against Memphis. The Kings are home on Tuesday (25th) against Columbus and Saturday (29th) against Vancouver. And believe it or not, the Freeway Series gets going on Friday (28th) at Dodger Stadium as the Boys in Blue take on the World Champion Anaheim Angels. The next night, the series moves to Edison Field.

Hot Talk: Some big names are scheduled to appear during breakfasts this week at Town Hall. On Wednesday (26th), EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman will be at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel, and on Friday (28th), it’s Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins at the Millennium Biltmore. For information: 213-628-8141.

Green Laws: The Los Angeles Bar Association is hosting its 17th annual Environmental Law Super Symposium on Thursday (27th) at the Omni Hotel downtown. The symposium, which starts at 8:45 a.m., will focus on issues unique to environmental regulators, consultants and legal practitioners in Southern California, and speakers range from federal and state regulators to lawyers and policy makers. For information, call 213-896-6560.

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