Explaining Southern California's economy

DeBord Report LA Businessperson of the Year Award goes to...Elon Musk!

elon musk

Photo Credit: SpaceX

Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO is the DeBord Report's 2012 L.A. Businessperson of the Year!

On Tuesday, I announced that today (Thursday) the DeBord Report would be naming its 2012 L.A. Businessperson of the Year. To bring readers into the discussion, we also launched a poll, so that you good folks  could vote for the two candidates:

Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who bought the team for $430 million and sold it for...$2 billion!

Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who has created a market for high-end electric cars, opened the era of private space flight, and has declared his intention to retire on Mars.

First the results of the voting: It's Musk by a landslide: 91 percent versus only about 8 percent for McCourt. BUT that's still 8 percent for McCourt! So maybe he isn't as widely loathed as some thought.

One percent chose, as far as I can tell, Mickey Mouse. Someone always has to vote for Mickey Mouse...

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Pandit steps down as Citigroup CEO after navigating bank through 'Too big to fail' crisis

Congressional Oversight Panel Holds Hearing TARP Assistance To Citigroup

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit testifies during a hearing before the Congress. He just stepped down, ending a story that stretches back to the financial crisis.

Vikram Pandit steps down as CEO of Citigroup: "...a surprise to Wall Street that comes a day after the country's third-largest bank announced stronger-than-expected earnings." (LAT)

Son of Solyndra? A123 files for bankruptcy: "The bankruptcy filing may fuel further political debate over government financing of alternative-energy and transportation businesses." (Bloomberg)

Yahoo CEO and former Googler Marissa Mayer makes the incredibly tricky decision to...hire an Henrique de Castro, an executive from Google, as COO: "'This is a pivotal point in Yahoo!'s history, and I believe strongly in the opportunity ahead. I can't wait to join Marissa and the team and get started.'" (VatorNews

Oh please, oh please, oh please... The Tata Nano Americano: "So the owner of some of the world's most opulent vehicles wants to bring to the U.S. a car with fewer amenities and horsepower than your average lawn mower." (LAT)

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Is Tesla Motors running out of money — again?

Tesla Worldwide Debut of Model X

Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Tesla

Tesla's recently revealed Model X crossover electric vehicle. The company has just announced a new sale of shares to raise money — and avoid payment problems with a Department of Energy loan.

Tesla Motors, the startup electric carmaker whose CEO, Elon Musk, also runs private space-exploration firm SpaceX, is having another one of its periodic financial near-heart attacks. The latest news is that the company, which staged a $226-million IPO in 2010, wants to sell additional stock. A second offering of 6.9 million shares would bring in close to $150 million. [UPDATE: As a commenter notes, the offering was rather less than 40 million shares. Don't know where I got that... Also, this is Tesla's second secondary offering. So really, it's the third offering, including the IPO.]

Why? Yet another cash crunch for the company, which was pretty close to checking out in 2008, before Musk managed to find additional funding and do a deal with Daimler. The critical issue this time around involves the Department of Energy and it controversial loan program for greentech companies. Who can forget Solyndra? But electric cars are also a substantial part of the program, with both Tesla and Fisker Automotive — the two biggest names in alt.transportation — winning loans.

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Amonix: More woes for government-supported solar startups

Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) River Mountains Water Treatment Facility, Henderson, NV, USA

Carlos Alejandro

Amonix panels at the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Amonix has hit serious financial troubles and will be closing a Las Vegas manufacturing facility.

Solyndra, a solar startup that went bankrupt last year, has become a poster child for what many conservatives think is a failed effort by the Obama Administration to support the U.S. cleantech industry. The story isn't as simple or straightforward as that, but it does bring up the debate anytime another green energy company with government funding gets into trouble.

That's what appears to be happening now with Amonix, a Seal Beach-based solar company that's been struggling in the tragic aftermath of the death of CEO Brian Robertson in a plane crash last year. The startup has laid off workers in California and is now shutting down a manufacturing facility in Las Vegas, according to the company. Some kind of "restructuring" looms, but it's unclear whether that means Chapter 11 bankruptcy or Chapter 7 liquidation. 

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Solyndra: Why the Washington Post gets it wrong

Mercer 21115

Paul Chinn-Pool/Getty Images

Ben Bierman (left) and Chris Gronet (right) explain solar technology to U.S. President Barack Obama on a tour of the Solyndra solar panel company May 26, 2010 in Fremont, California.

This Steven Mufson piece from the Washington Post is a solid summary of how the government has long supported, as the headline says, "failed energy projects." Mufson argues that the feds have done a lousy job of making industrial policy work and peppers his account with all manner of money losers, going back decades.

He also holds Energy Secretary Steven Chu's feet to the fire of some flawed historical examples of the government investing in projects that we think were big successes but actually weren't — or that didn't involve any government money at all!

However, Mufson also follows a line of reasoning that has, since the controversial bankruptcy of solar startup Solyndra, become widely echoed by critics of the Department of Energy's loan-guarantee program for green energy and transportation, as well as the Obama administration's support of it. 

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