Explaining Southern California's economy

Hostess bankruptcy: It's the trouble with Twinkies

Hostess Twinkies Celebrate 75th Anniversary

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Four of the Twinkies that (ahem) drove Hostess Brands into a second bankruptcy since 2004.

Don't worry: the Twinkie supply won't dry up. Hostess Brands, however, is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time in the past decade. Last time around, it set a record for languishing in restructuring. And even though a bankruptcy double-dip is never a good thing, Hostess' investors have enough confidence in the ongoing strength of the Twinkie-and-Wonder Bread market to produce additional financing.

Hostess, like a lot of companies that have been around for a while, has both a debt and a legacy cost/union problem. Total debt is "more than $860 million," according the Wall Street Journal. The pension plan is underfunded by $2 billion and fairly complicated, to boot, covering far more than employees than actually work for Hostess. And the union contracts...well, Chapter 11 will provide the excuse to renegotiate them.

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Caruso and Torre: An LA dream team wants to buy the Dodgers

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Manager Joe Torre of the Los Angeles Dodgers watches from the dugout during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 24, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Joe Torre won four World Series with the New York Yankees before moving to the Dodgers and clinching a pair of National League West titles. Rick Caruso has created the closest thing LA has to beloved public spaces, with his Grove and Americana shopping complexes.

Now the two men have joined forces to buy the Dodgers. The team has to be sold out of bankruptcy by April 30.

The LA Times Opinion L.A. blog sums up the state of the potential bidding war:

They join a growing list of heavy-hitting potential buyers including billionaire hedge-fund executive Steven Cohen, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, former Dodgers stars Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey, basketball legend and businessman Magic Johnson, and respected former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley. As the so-called bid book went out last month from owner Frank McCourt to provide prospective bidders with information on the team's worth,  more people were announcing their interest in buying the iconic team.

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Who is Steven Cohen? The lowdown on the hedge-fund legend who wants to buy the Dodgers

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Harry How/Getty Images

Clayton Kershaw and teammates of the Dodgers celebrate a two run homerun of Matt Kemp for a 2-1 win over the St Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium on April 17, 2011.

As KPCC's Corey Moore reported yesterday, billionaire hedge fund king Steven Cohen wants to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. You'll recall that owner Frank McCourt, mired in an acrimonious divorce proceeding and dueling with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, put the team into bankruptcy in June. That desperate gambit failed and McCourt has given up the fight. The team now has to find a new owner by April 2012.

Enter Cohen, with an estimated net worth of $8 billion, but more importantly, a reputation as Wall Street's most successful — and controversial — trader. In fact, few men more perfectly represent the ascent of the swashbuckling trader on the Street than Cohen, who started his hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, in 1992. It's now worth $12-$14 billion.

With coin like that, Cohen could easily afford to bid for the Dodgers, whose value has been pegged at around $1 billion.

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Why public education finances in California are in bad shape

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Students may have trouble getting to class once federal trigger cuts slash $38 million from California's school transportation budget.

KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reports today on the effect that anticipated "trigger cuts" to spending, due to a looming budget deficit in California, could have on funding to both K-12 and higher education:

The governor’s office may announce $2 billion in midyear cuts to state-funded agencies on Thursday. That’s likely to reduce state support for public education at every level from kindergarten through college.

The cuts are likely because the revenues state lawmakers had predicted never materialized. That means $100 million in cuts to the University of California and the Cal State systems. Student fees for community college would go up $10 a unit. School districts are figuring out how much money they’ll lose.

Charles Kerchner, an education researcher at Claremont Graduate University, says some public schools are better prepared than others. "It tends to be the case that school districts that have quieter politics tend to have bigger budget reserves."

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What the MF Global bankruptcy means to you

MF Global Holdings Ltd Files For Bankruptcy

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MF Global: Lehman all over again? First victim of the European debt crisis? Or something even worse?

You may have heard by now that MF Global, a somewhat obscure Wall Street investment firm run by former Goldman Sacher and former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, imploded on Monday, declaring bankruptcy after failing to find someone to buy it. MF Global might also have illegally diverted money from client accounts to its own trading operations.

The firm is now being looked at as either (1) a sort of junior Lehman Brothers — which makes sense, as Corzine was trying to move MF Global into a spot in the much-reduced-by-the-financial-crisis firmament of investment banks — or (2) the first victim of the European debt crisis. 

At MarketWatch, Brett Arends goes a bit farther, pointing out that MF Global's abrupt meltdown will directly affect average investors, because those investors' mutual funds and pension funds were mixed up with Corzine's wannbe Goldman and its risky bet on European sovereign debt. 

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