Explaining Southern California's economy

Dodgers sale: It's all about the money!

Pittsburgh Pirates v Los Angeles Dodgers

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

It's getting close to decision time for Frank McCourt on choosing a winning Dodgers bidder.

We're getting down to the wire in the bidding for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Owner Frank McCourt is expected to conduct a final auction in time to announce a winning bidder by the first week in April, with the money changing hands and the team officially emerging from bankruptcy by April 30.

Right now, with the bids all in, the various parties who want to buy the team are being vetted by Major League Baseball. Some of the final bidders have fallen by the wayside — notably surprise late entry Jared Kushner, who owns the New York Observer and is Donald Trump's son-in-law. Grant Brisbee has the most recent lowdown. Seems that five bidder-groups are likely to pass MLB muster.

I was a bit stunned to learn that Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten — the local favorites after Rick Caruso and Joe Torre dropped their bid — have put up the highest dollar figure at $1.6 billion. I didn't think anyone would outbid Steven Cohen, the hedge fund guy who's reportedly worth $8 billion on his own. Cohen's bid is evidently $1.4 billion, according to Brisbee. But Forbes thinks — as I do — that Cohen is the only bidder with enough money essentially already in the bank to write Frank McCourt a big check. That's the way Forbes' Mike Ozanian is spinning it, anyway.

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Quote of the Week: Greek debt crisis edition

Greece Faces Economic Collapse As Parties Dispute EU Finance Package

Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

He might not be worried about Greece's recent default and payout of credit default swaps. But some other people are.

I just discovered Tony Alfidi's blog and have been enjoying his uncensored views on a variety of tech and finance subjects. I agreed with him on Apple's mastery of planned obsolescence and now I'm tempted to agree with his verdict on credit default swaps (CDS) — a number of which just kicked in as Greece "defaulted" on some of its privately held sovereign dealt. 

Some people think that CDS, despite their role in the financial crisis (they brought down AIG), remain useful, as a means of hedging risk and as a relatively recent example of financial innovation that was sadly misused. 

Alfidi says un-uh:

I've always believed that credit default swaps are meaningless and even dangerous. [There's your Quote of the Week!] Banks and hedge funds use them to place directional bets with no regard for a counterparty's solvency. The European versions of AIG, whoever they are, can now breathe easier for a few weeks knowing they can get away with more uncapitalized CDS writing.

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Expanding payday loans make case for banking the unbanked

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Bank of America is too big to do payday loans, but credit unions and small, regional banks are getting in on the action.

The L.A. Times ran a piece a few days ago about how banks and credit unions are getting into the lucrative but ethically dicey business of payday loans — short-term, high-interest loans that, until recently, were aimed at customers who don't have typical relationships with banks or credit-card issuers. This morning, KPCC's "AirTalk" with Larry Mantle did a segment on the issue.

Payday lending is rife with problems — and the potential for big returns. Here's the LAT:

[M]any people can't repay the loans when they come due. Instead, they simply roll the loans over from payday to payday, or take out new loans to cover the old ones, piling on additional costs that can result in interest charges of 300% or more over the course of a year.

The move by banks into payday lending — or direct deposit advances, as many of them call it — led about 200 fair-lending, consumer, religious and labor groups to write federal regulators last month and call for prompt action to stop "this inherently dangerous product."

"There are people who wouldn't walk into a payday loan store but think that if a bank is doing it, it must be safe," said Lauren K. Saunders, managing attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. "If you take a look at these products from a consumer protection standpoint, they raise serious red flags."

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In Silicon Valley, nice guys aren't for real

Paul Sakuma/AP

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg poses at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Feb. 5, 2007. This was long before he became a modern-day robber baron.

At Breakingviews, Rob Cox lays into our presumptions about the virtues of Silicon Valley startup founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Pincus, and (by implication) Steve Jobs. Here's a salient paragraph:

Though Silicon Valley’s newest billionaires may anoint themselves the saints of American capitalism, they’re beginning to resemble something else entirely: robber barons. Behind the hoodies and flip-flops lurk businesspeople as rapacious as the black-suited and top-hatted industrialists of the late 19th century. Like their predecessors in railroads, steel, banking, and oil a century ago, Silicon Valley’s new entrepreneurs are harnessing technology to make the world more efficient. But along the way, that process is bringing great economic and labor dislocation, as well as an unequal share of the spoils. Just last week, the Justice Department warned Apple that it planned to sue the company along with several U.S. publishers for colluding to raise the price of electronic books - monopolistic behavior that would have made John Rockefeller proud. 

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Mashable: Not bought by CNN yet

14th Annual Webby Awards

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

CEO/founder of Mashable Pete Cashmore attends the 14th Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on June 14, 2010 in New York City.

Just a quick follow up on yesterday's rumor that CNN is buying Mashable for $200 million. Nobody has bought anybody yet. But at Phillymag, Brian Howard provides some useful speculation on what a sale could ultimately mean:

CNN’s interest is, ultimately, a nod to the future—a tacit acknowledgment that social media may finally be the panacea that allows the robots and algorithms that search the Internet for us to give us exactly what we want: the best content available. It could signal a return to the concept of content as king (rather than the content on the first page of search results, regardless of quality, as king).

Mashable is, by most objective standards, one of the best blogs on the Internet for coverage of social media and technology issues. How ironic indeed if this were to lead to its compromised relevance.

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