Explaining Southern California's economy

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

2010 Winter TCA Tour - Day 6

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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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Ross Levinsohn used to work for Yahoo, now he works for the guys who own the Dodgers

2011 Families Matter Benefit And Celebration

Michael Buckner/Getty Images For Friends of the

Ross Levinsohn at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2011. The former Yahoo interim CEO was just named non-interim CEO of Guggenheim Digital Media.

Ross Levinsohn now works for the guys who own the Dodgers. The former interim CEO of Yahoo — he was at the shaky helm between the controversial exit of Scott Thompson and the potentially game-changing hire of Marissa Mayer from Google — has been named CEO of Guggenheim  Digital Media.

He replaces Dottie Mattison, who had only been on the job since last July, and will oversee a suite of properties that includes the Hollywood Reporter, AdWeek, and Billboard (all of which, it should be noted, are not purely digital publications). These used to operate under the aegis of Prometheus Global Media, but Guggenheim Partners has taken the opportunity of a marquee hire to rename the company.

Guggenheim Partners did something similar when it bought the Los Angeles Dodgers last year for more than $2 billion, creating an entity called Guggenheim Baseball Management in the process.

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CalPERS strikes fear in the hearts of private equity firms

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A sign stands in front of California Public Employees' Retirement System building in Sacramento.

Yesterday, CalPERS, the huge California public employees pension fund, announced some good news: the $248 billion colossus made a 13.26 percent return on its investments in calendar year 2012. They're dancing with their spread sheets in Sacramento, because that's a vast improvement over the 2012 fiscal year performance, which ended on June 30.

How bad was the fiscal year performance? One percent.

Yep, one percent. It was bad.

CalPERS has targeted a rate of return for its investments of 7.5 percent — a target that it reduced from 7.75 percent last year. So that 13.26 percent return, if it holds up through the fiscal year, will go a long way toward helping CalPERS make up what it lost last year.

However, as CalPERS Chief Investment Officer John Dear pointed out and Pensions & Investments reported, that 13.26 percent wasn't as thrilling as it sounds. It was "117 basis points below the retirement system's custom benchmark for the calendar year."

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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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Why was CalSTRS investing in gun company linked to Newtown massacre?

California State Teachers Retirement System

CalSTRS

The headquarters of the California State Teachers Retirement System in Sacramento. Like many big pension funds, it's increasingly invested in a riskier manner to meet return targets. This led to its investment with Cerberus Capital Management and the gunmaker that built the weapon used in the Newtown massacre.

Just to lay it out for you:

• Adam Lanza, a disturbed young man, killed 20 children, his mother, and six other adults in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday before killing himself

• He used a "Bushmaster" automatic rifle, a civilian variation of the AR-15, a military rifle that traces its heritage to the M-16

• The company that owns Bushmaster, Freedom Group, is owned by Cerberus Capital Management, a prominent private equity fund that...

• Raised at least $500 million from the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) for a fund that invested in Freedom Group.

It's one of those gruesome loops – the serpent eating its own tail – that can only result from the intersection of private-equity, the huge pension funds that provide private-equity with money, and the imperative for funds like CalSTRS to hit their annual return targets.

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