Explaining Southern California's economy

San Bernardino is not having a very good week

 bankrupt pensions

Steven Cuevas / KPCC

As if bankruptcy weren't enough to deal with, San Bernardino is home to some of the highest unemployment and home foreclosure rates in the country, recent surveys say.

The Inland Empire city of San Bernardino declared bankruptcy last year. Now it's slogging through the Chapter 9 process, taking on CalPERS, the giant California pension fund, at the same time. 

Sound like enough to keep one struggling municipality busy? Not quite. Two new reports indicate that the city's problems run deeper than just being broke.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that what it calls the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario "metropolitan area" had the highest unemployment rate of all large U.S. cities in December: 10.9 percent. That’s down from more than 12 percent in December 2011.

Meanwhile, real estate analytics firm RealtyTrac says the San Bernardino area had the second highest foreclosure rate in the U.S. last year: nearly 4 percent of homes there had a filing in 20-12.

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Peter Liguori becomes new Tribune CEO, calls the company a startup

2010 Winter TCA Tour - Day 6

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Meet the new CEO of Tribune Co., owner — and possible soon a seller — of the L.A. Times.

Tribune Co. emerged from bankruptcy last year owned by a bank, JP Morgan, and private equity investors from Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management. Now it's going to be run by an executive whose most recent job was at the giant private equity firm the Carlyle Group. Peter Liguori landed there for a stint after serving as the Chief Operating Officer at Discovery Communications.

Last year, the bankers and private-equity guys who now control the company started to talking to yet more bankers about possibly selling Tribune Co.'s newspapers, which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, as well as local TV station KTLA.

In an interview with the L.A. Times published Thursday, Liguori said that he's isn't interested in selling, say...the L.A. Times for a "fire sale" price. And then he said some other things:

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PHOTOS: Top 10 California business and economics stories of 2012

Apple Introduces iPhone 5

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple introduces the iPhone 5 in San Francisco. It was the first time that the technology juggernaut, the most valuable California company by far, introduced a new device since Steve Jobs' death. Will it be enough to make Apple the world's first $1 trillion company in 2013?

Rupert Murdoch

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times along with dozens of other media properties, finally exited bankruptcy on New Year's Eve. Now the real fun can begin in the City of Angels: Who will buy the hometown paper? Could it be...Rupert Murdoch?

elon musk

Photo Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk watches Dragon's progress inside of SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne in May. The former PayPal founder whose other company in electric carmaker Tesla Motors put California's space business back on the map — and ushered in a new era of private voyages to the stars. But will he really be able to retire on Mars?

George Lucas Poses With A Group Of "Star Wars" Inspired Disney Characters At Disney's Hollywood Studios

Handout/Getty Images

Disney CEO Bob Iger completes a trip of high-profile acquisitions, beginning with Pixar, then moving on to Marvel, culminating with a purchase of Lucasfilm from George Lucas. "Star Wars" now belongs to the Mighty Mouse — and Episode 7 is on the way! But will Disney be able to inject new life into one of pop cultures iconic entertainment franchises?

Reed Saxon

California was crushed by the housing downturn. But fours years after the bottom fell out, the state's real estate market at last began to show signs of life, as the foreclosure crisis fades and a price bubble even began to form in Southern California. Will the market return to normal in 2013?

FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Dinner New York City

Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Time Inc.

Former Google superstar Marissa Mayer took the helm at troubled Yahoo, after a ugly battle between the board of directors and activist shareholder Dan Loeb. Mayer began to make immediate management changes, brought back free food, became one of the most powerful female CEOs on the U.S. — and had a baby! Can she live up to the hype in 2013?

CinemaCon 2011 - Day 2

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The battle for the future of online content heated up. In early 2012, Silicon Valley and Hollywood dueled in Washington, D.C., over anti-piracy legislation. Hollywood had the lobbying power, embodied by former senator Chris Dodd and the MPAA. But Silicon Valley won a critical skirmish in the eleventh hour by blacking out Wikipedia for a day. Will the combatants be able to strike a truce in 2013?

Job Seekers  Meet With Recruiters At Job Fair

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At the tail end of 2013, California's unemployment rate dropped into single digits for the first time since 2009. And compared with the rest of the U.S., the state spent 2012 adding jobs at a brisk clip. But will the recovery be able to sustain its momentum in 2013?

 bankrupt pensions

Steven Cuevas / KPCC

San Bernardino fell off its own fiscal cliff in 2012 — and fell fast, declaring bankruptcy quicker than anyone expected. The broke Inland Empire city joined Stockton and Mammoth Lakes in a minor bankruptcy boom in California and set the stage for the municipal bond market's worst nightmare: a long-anticipated wave of defaults in the Golden State. Could that scary event come to pass in 2013?

A sign announcing Facebook IPO is flashe

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

It was supposed to be the initial public offering of the century, enriching Facebook employees and investors and reviving a moribund IPO market for high-tech startups. But Facebook flopped in first-day trading and kept on falling in subsequent days. Facebook's lead banker, Morgan Stanley, was blamed for botching the offering. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on the defensive. And by year end, Facebook still hadn't recovered it $100 billion valuation. But it topped 1 billion active users before the ball dropped in Times Square to ring on 2013. Will 2013 be the year it bounces back?


This is one in a series of year-end stories that look back at the most memorable pieces KPCC reporters worked on in 2012 and look ahead at a key issue that will be the focus of coverage in the coming year.

How much happened in the Golden State in 2012 when it comes to business? Lots. Lots and lots. The DeBord Report covered most of it. 

The slide show above serves up the business year in pictures for the state with the largest economy and two of America's most storied industries: Hollywood and high-tech.

And if you want to review the business year in links to the original posts...well, I've got that covered, too.

10. Apple introduces the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini — the first all-new gadgets rolled out by Cupertino since the death of Steve Jobs

9. The long, long, LONG Tribune Co. bankruptcy comes to and end. So who will buy the Los Angeles Times?

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San Bernardino v. CalPERS — and now maybe the bankruptcy court

 bankrupt pensions

Steven Cuevas / KPCC

The Inland Empire city filed for bankruptcy protection last summer.

The Economist provides a crisp assessment of the simmering battle between bankrupt San Bernardino and and CalPERS, the biggest public pension fund in the U.S. I've written a lot about San Bernardino's troubles and the Very Big Question of how hard the broke city will fight CalPERS. But The Economist article is well-worth reading as a summary of the risks of tangling with the money managers in Sacramento. 

Here's a taste:

As part of their bankruptcy arrangements, Vallejo, an old port town near San Francisco, and Stockton, in the Central Valley, slashed workers’ pay and stiffed bondholders but made good on their CalPERS payments. In September Compton, a struggling city south of Los Angeles, did fall behind on its obligations; it was quickly brought into line by a lawsuit.

San Bernardino has proved less of a pushover. An unlovely, crime-ridden city at the heart of the Inland Empire, the suburban sprawl east of Los Angeles, it followed Stockton into bankruptcy this summer. The city’s particular troubles go back decades, but much of its story followed familiar contours: overbearing unions, political dysfunction and financial commitments made during good times that could not be met in bad. In one respect, though, its behaviour has been strikingly original. Since its declaration in August, San Bernardino has not paid CalPERS its full dues.

[...]

The problem is simply that CalPERS is, by some distance, San Bernardino’s biggest creditor, and the city cannot cut services any further without jeopardising basic safety. The fund, like all creditors, will eventually receive what it is owed, the mayor adds, but the city needs breathing space. (It wants to resume payments in 2013-14.) On November 30th it filed a proposed emergency budget with a bankruptcy court. Among the cuts and deferrals were $13m-worth of payments to CalPERS.

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FAQ: Was the General Motors bailout really worth it?

General Motors Offers Stocks At $33 A Share For Initial Public Offering

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Signs stand in front of the General Motors world headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. The U.S. Treasury will sell its remaining stake in the company over the next year or so.

The day has finally arrived. The U.S. Treasury will sell off its stake in General Motors, the automaker that, along with Chrysler, was bailed out in 2009 before it declared bankruptcy and  returned to the public markets via a massive $20 billion IPO in 2010.

The government put $50 million into GM and has gotten back about $30 billion. That figure includes a pre-loaded GM buyback of 200 million of its own shares from the Treasury at $27.50 a pop, a modest premium on Tuesday's closing price that amounts to $5.5 billion.

The remaining $2o billion (more or less) and the government's 300 remaining shares will be dealt with in slow motion fashion over the next 15 months, to avert a big dump of shares on the market. To make back the $20 billion, GM's stock price would have to rise to $72, a highly unlikely event. So the Treasury is admitting that it will "lose" money on the deal.

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