Explaining Southern California's economy

Who is Revolution Capital, and what does it want with the Tampa Tribune?

Kevork Djansezian/AP

The Los Angeles Times building. The sale of a paper in Florida should remind Angelenos that the hometown paper could soon be for sale. Again.

It's the one paper that billionaire investor Warren Buffett didn't want: the Tampa Tribune. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway made a counterintuitive deal back earlier this year — counterintuitive because observers tend to believe the newspaper business is not very good — shelling out $146 million for pretty much everything else that Tampa Trib owner Media General prints on paper.

Other investors couldn't help but notice Buffett's interest in newspapers. One of them, Boston greeting-card tycoon Aaron Kushner, bought the Orange Country Register and the remaining assets of Freedom Communications, for an as-yet undisclosed sum, in June. 

Now a private-equity firm based in Los Angeles has paid a fire-sale price of $9.5 million for the Tampa Trib. It's been on the losing end of a circulation battle with the Tampa Bay Times (daily circ for the Trib has declined by double digits since 2011). Revolution Capital appears to be something of a spinoff from Platinum Equity, the L.A. shop run by Tom Gores (number 15 on the L.A. Business Journal's ranking of the 50 Wealthiest Angelenos). Revolution's founder and managing director, Robert Loring, labored for a time at Platinum, in the M&A division. 

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Can we expect to see more of the Winklevoss twins in LA?

America's Tyler Winklevoss and Cameron W

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Tyler Winklevoss and Cameron Winklevoss at the start of the men's pair final during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing. The twins have started a venture capital fund and are looking to establish an office in L.A.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss — the Harvard-grad Olympic-rowing twins who infamously jousted in court with Mark Zuckerberg over who really had the core idea for Facebook — have begun the post-Facebook lives. Sort of. Their post-Facebook lives are being funded by an estimated $65-million cash-and-stock settlement the received from suing Zuckerberg and Facebook. 

With that dough, they're started a venture-capital fund, Winklevoss Capital, and as the Wall Street Journal reports, joined forces with their old Harvard classmate Divya Narendra on an initial $1-million investment in an semi-exclusive stock research site called SumZero

But they might also be spending some time apart. The Winklevii just bought a house in Hollywood last month for $18 million, reported Canyon News:

Tyler Winklevoss will remain in the 8,000 square foot home as they launch the West Wing of their venture capital company.... Cameron will remain mainly in New York City, where they have signed a five-year lease for their company's office.  

The two-story modern home with a jetliner view of Los Angeles was recently constructed as the house that had been on the lot before was bulldozed and modified. It is reported that the Winklevoss twins are in Los Angeles because they believe it is currently a great place for techies instead of Silicon Valley, where many firms are located. 

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Romney's turnaround plan for America and the GT Bikes story

Mitt-Business-Online

Romney/Ryan 2012

The Romney/Ryan campaign has rolled a new website that promotes Romney's business achievements.

The Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan campaign has added an entire subsection to its website: business.mittromney.com. It's essentially a shrine to Romney's record — the successful part — at Bain Capital, the buyout/private-equity firm he started out of Bain & Co., a consultancy. 

The sub-site features a number of turnaround and investment tales (more turnaround than investment, actually), including Staples — which obviously has a strong L.A. presence — and Santa Ana-based GT Bicycles

The GT Bikes part of the story is interesting. On the Romney campaign's website, former CEO Mike Haynes appears in a video (see below) explaining how much good Bain Capital did for the business. Haynes, then the company's CFO, ascended to the CEO chair after GT's co-founder, Richard Long, was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1996. He was joined by Geoffrey Rehnert, who took on the Chairman's job. Rehnert was a co-founder, with Romney, at Bain.

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CalPERS just struck fear in the hearts of venture capitalists everywhere

Max Whittaker/Getty Images

The California Public Employees' Retirement System in Sacramento, California. The fund may severely cut back its venture capital investments.

CalPERS, the gigantic California public workers' pension fund, has announced that it's going to to review the venture-capital component of alternative investments in its $230-billion overall portfolio. This follows on the heels of a much-discussed paper put out by the Kauffman Foundation earlier this year, in which the organization — which is devoted to promoting entrepreneurship — revealed that its VC investments has seriously underperformed in the past decade.

I wrote a feature about this in May. In January, CalPERS announced that it made only a 1.1-percent return on its investments, missing its target return of 7.75 percent by a wide margin. One of the reasons it in alternative asset classes like VC in the first place is that it can't meet its return objectives otherwise.

The fundraising aspect of being a VC has gotten pretty challenging. Some VCs seem to be adapting to this "new normal," while others appear content to live at the top of the pile and uses their brand-name status to vacuum up most of the available money. But they all rely on large funds like CalPERS to fuel their efforts to find the next Google or Facebook.

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San Diego Padres could be sold for $800 million by the All-Star break

San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Starting pitcher Anthony Bass of the San Diego Padres. The team could be nearing a sale for $800 million.

That's what being reported, anyway. CBS Sports says that current owner John Moores has entered an "exclusive negotiating window" to sell the team for about twice its current (depressed) value of $406 million — and a lot more than Moores paid to buy the team in 1994, and to start selling it in 2009.

The sticker price is rumored to be $800 million. If the sale — to a group led by the family of former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, brewing tycoon Ron Fowler, and other investors including pro golfer and San Diego native Phil Mickelson — goes through, it would make the Padres the third costliest Major League Baseball team acquisition, behind the Chicago Cubs $845 and of course the recent Dodgers sale of more than $2 billion.

It would also mean that the two other potential owners — communications mogul Gary Jabara; and private-equity titan Steve Kaplan of Los Angeles' Oaktree Capital — are out of the running. 

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