Explaining Southern California's economy

Mark Cuban doesn't like smartphones

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Robyn Beck/AFP

Joel Anthony (R) of the Miami Heat defends against Dirk Nowitzki (L) of the Dallas Mavericks during Game 4 of the NBA Finals on June 7, 2011 at the AmericanAirlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

At Dallas Mavericks games, anyhow. The somewhat hyperactive Mavs owners and semi-regular blogger writes about how he's always getting pitched about ways to bring smartphones into the Mavs game experience — and why he wants no part of it:

We in the sports business don’t sell the game, we sell unique, emotional experiences.We are not in the business of selling basketball. We are in the business of selling fun. We are in the business of letting you escape. We are in the business of giving you a chance to create shared experiences. I say it to our people at the Mavs at all time, I want a Mavs game to be more like a great wedding than anything else.

Bottom line is that he wants you looking up, not down, at almost all times. And he goes on to describe a pretty wild wedding. You wouldn't have time to do some appy smartphone things at such a wedding...er, Mavs game even if you wanted to.

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Aurelius Capital Management: The hedge fund that's keeping Tribune in bankruptcy

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Jeremyiah/flickr/cc

Tribune Company, which owns the Los Angeles Times, has been in bankruptcy for...well, years. And according to recent reports, it won't be coming out of Chapter 11 any time soon. So what's the holdup?

Basically, it's two very large lenders versus an incredibly tenacious hedge fund. On one side, we have Oaktree Capital Management and JPMorgan Chase. Oaktree invests heavily in "distressed debt" — it has close to $30 billion of it's more than $80 billion under management tied up in defaulted or defaulting securities. According to Bloomberg, Oaktree along with Tribune's other "senior creditors" hold around $3.4 billion on a total of $8 billion that Sam Zell borrowed to buy Tribune in 2007.

For the record, Zell's buyout took Tribune's total debt to a staggering $13 billion.

When Tribune finally exits bankruptcy, Oaktree will exchange its debt for equity — an ownership stake — in the new company. To do this, they want Tribune's bondholders to effectively take a $500 million payoff, then fight it out in court over whatever is left of the "bad" company while a "good" company can emerge from Chapter 11.

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Where will new Yahoo CEO take the company?

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A Yahoo! billboard is visible through trees in San Francisco, California.

Yahoo, the most confused company in media and technology — and more in a second on why "media" and "technology" are why Yahoo is so confused — has named a new CEO. He's Scott Thompson, who comes to Yahoo from PayPal. The big question is, after the disastrous reign of Carol Bartz, a tough-as-nails Silicon Valley leader, does Yahoo need yet another CEO from the land of tech?

Here's the New York Times:

Analysts said one of the first tasks for a new Yahoo C.E.O. would likely be to oversee the sale of its Asian assets.

"If a CEO who’s respected in the Internet industry takes control and gives it a unified vision, that will be very helpful," said Jordan Rohan, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. "The sale of the Asian assets is what happens first and what happens afterwards is just a question of how they deploy the cash they get from the sale."

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The Fed: No longer a temple of secrets

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Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner (L) and William C. Dudley (R), President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, listen to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke (C) speak during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill March 24, 2009 in Washington, D.C.

As Bloomberg reports, the Federal Reserve is trying to change its image. And the chief image-changer is none other than Chairman Ben Bernanke:

Bernanke, who took office in February 2006, has pushed the Fed toward greater openness at a faster pace than any of his predecessors. He holds press conferences four times a year and has aired his views on monetary policy and the financial crisis in television interviews.

The 58-year former Princeton University professor has also traveled to town hall meetings in locales such as El Paso, Texas. In addition, the FOMC publishes its forecasts four times a year, compared with two under former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan.

This is absolutely the right thing to do. Most Americans have no earthly idea what the Fed does, so Bernanke's new push for transparency isn't just good for the institution, it's good for the public. 

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Starbucks price hike: You will pay 10 cents more for your latte!

But only if you live in the Northeast or the "Sunbelt." Southern California will be spared. For now.

I hate to admit this, but I missed the spike in coffee bean prices in 2011. The commodity is now up 42 percent on the five-year average, according to Bloomberg (which also provided the video report on Starbucks that I've embedded above).

Why do I hate to admit this? Because I can't live without coffee. I guess the issue here is that I've been drinking such el cheapo coffee for the past year that I didn't notice. I certainly wasn't closely following the coffee futures market.

Now, I suppose you could take the 10-cent Starbucks price increase, on beverages like lattes and brewed java, as the perfect opportunity to do what those pop personal-finance folks are always counseling you to do, particularly at the beginning of a new year: Quit buying lattes at Starbucks and start investing your savings. 

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