Explaining Southern California's economy

Shamu goes public: Could SeaWorld's IPO retire a whale of debt?

Baby Killer Whale Born At SeaWorld San Diego

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A mother and baby orcas, also called killer whales, swim at Sea World in San Diego. The company just filed for a $100 million IPO, much of which may go to put a dent in $1.7 billion of debt.

Last week, SeaWorld and its iconic orcas filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. It's fair to call this the "Shamu IPO," even though the original Shamu, who performed at the original SeaWorld in San Diego, died in 1971. SeaWorld has kept the moniker around as a sort of branded stage name for orcas.

SeaWorld also operates marine-based theme parks in Orlando, Florida, and San Antonio, Texas; the parent company, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, runs eight other venues in the U.S. And that parent company is owned by Blackstone, a huge private equity firm that bought SeaWord from Anheuser-Busch in 2009.

(Blackstone, with another aspect of its business, also managed the sale of the Dodgers last year and is currently involved with the sale of sports and entertainment colossus AEG.)

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PHOTOS: Top 10 California business and economics stories of 2012

Apple Introduces iPhone 5

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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

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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

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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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FAQ: Was the General Motors bailout really worth it?

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

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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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Solar City IPO raises $92 million but doesn't deliver Chairman Elon Musk a great year

Tesla Worldwide Debut of Model X

Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Tesla

Elon Musk speaks onstage in Los Angeles. A $1 billion valuation for Solar City after its IPO would have been the perfect way to top off a great year.

Elon Musk almost had a truly great year. The CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX saw Tesla's Model S sedan named Motor Trend's Car of the Year and the Dragon capsule successfully rendezvous with the International Space Station and splash down in the Pacific twice.

And I named the visionary entrepreneur the DeBord Report 2012 L.A. Businessperson of the Year!

Musk is also Chairman of Solar City, the San Mateo-based solar panel installation and leasing startup. Solar City staged an initial public offering Thursday. That should have been icing on Musk's 2012 cake (the company is run by two of his cousins, while he's one of the main investors). But it didn't entirely turn out that way.

The IPO wasn’t a disaster for Musk. Solar City raised $92 million in its Wall Street debut and now has a market cap of nearly $600 million. But the offering was priced lower than initially planned: $8 a share, rather than the $13 to $15 that had been announced in the lead up to the IPO. The higher price would have valued the company at a cool billion.

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FAQ: Why Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be just like TV

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Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a news conference at Facebook headquarters. The company announced third quarter 2012 earnings today.

Facebook's adjusted net income has been on the loss column, but losses have slowed.

Meanwhile, Facebook's headcount has remained modest, even as it's acquired a billion users.


Facebook has announced third quarter earnings, and they beat what Wall Street was expecting. Analysts were looking for 11 cents a share and they got 12. Jump back! That penny is adjusted to a 2-cent loss once proper accounting protocols are followed. But a beat is indeed a beat. And as you can see in the first chart in the slide show above, Facebook lost less - on a GAAP-adjusted basis, a lot less - than it did last quarter. 

The next chart is even more interesting. As you can see, Facebook has acquired a billion users worldwide (not all of them active, however) with a headcount of just 4,331 employees. If you divide Facebook's quarterly revenue of $1.26 billion by total users, you get a per-user worth of $1.26. 

Viewed another way, every employee at Facebook is worth 230,894 users — or $290,926 in revenue. Now, you could argue that a lot of Facebook employees are costing the company more than $291,926, because they're getting stock. But you also have to consider that although Facebook pays its well, not that many of them make nearly $300,000 per quarter, or $1.2 million per year.

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