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City Council panel approves three contracts for LAX concessions

The push to overhaul restaurants, beverage stands and gift stores at Los Angeles International Airport took a major step forward Monday when a special City Council panel approved three retail contracts to a joint venture that features former Lakers star Magic Johnson and the widow of attorney Johnnie Cochran.

The five-member Board of Referred Powers voted 4 to 1 to give the contacts to a partnership involving the Hudson Group, Magic Johnson Enterprises and Concourse Ventures, which is headed by Dale Mason Cochran.

In one of the contracts, board members picked the joint venture over Miami-based Areas USA, which had been recommended by LAX officials.

Council members Janice Hahn, Bernard C. Parks, Ed Reyes and Bill Rosendahl voted for the contracts. Councilman Tony Cardenas, the board’s chairman, voted no, saying he believed the panel had rushed into a decision.

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Parks, who was endorsed by Johnson during his unsuccessful 2008 campaign for county supervisor, made the motion to substitute the joint venture for Areas USA.

He said after the vote that he favored Hudson’s bid because it had included two local businesses — Magic Johnson Enterprises and Concourse Ventures — as equity partners. Giving the contract to the Hudson team is in line with the city’s efforts to put greater weight on contracts with local companies, Parks said.

“They didn’t just bring in a minority female to apply for their 10%" share of the bid package, he said. “They made them equity partners.”

Eduardo Uribe, an Areas USA vice president, said company officials were disappointed that the Board of Referred Powers chose “to ignore the airport staff’s recommendation after a lengthy and thorough process.”

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“We look forward to being awarded the food and beverage packages for which we were also recommended in a fair competition,” he said.

The three retail contracts must go to the City Council for final approval. Five other food and beverage contracts will be considered by the Board of Referred Powers on Sept. 20.

Monday’s decisions were greeted favorably by Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that operates LAX, Ontario International Airport and Van Nuys Airport. “I am delighted to have made this much progress,” she said.

Throughout Monday’s meeting, Cardenas voiced dismay over learning that some of the airport’s evaluators had discarded their notes or failed to make comments on bid forms about their reasoning for scoring a company the way they did.

He called the loss of those notes “extremely terrible and odd” and grilled airport officials about the lack of backup documents.

Cardenas also said he was concerned that airport evaluators did not check bidders’ references until after scoring a company. Lindsey told the panel that references were eventually checked and that evaluators decided that what was found would not affect any company’s score.

dan.weikel@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com


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