Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.
I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.
On the home front, we learned Friday that the California economy cooled somewhat in May as employers added just 5,500 net jobs, though the unemployment rate held steady at a record low of 4.2%. The numbers reflect a slowdown from April, when the state added a downwardly revised 25,600 jobs.
Historic purchase: Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong will take control of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune on Monday. The biotech billionaire is spending $500 million to acquire the news organizations, along with Spanish-language Hoy and a handful of community newspapers, from Tronc Inc. The deal, announced Feb. 7, returns The Times to local ownership after 18 turbulent years under Chicago control.
Jobless claims: Weekly jobless claims will be announced Thursday. Last week, new applications for unemployment benefits declined and the number of Americans on jobless rolls fell to a 44-year low, pointing to a rapidly tightening labor market.
Blast off: Huntington Beach-based Rocket Lab will open its first commercial launch window Friday at 5:30 p.m. The company has done two previous test launches, but this will be the first commercial launch. The rocket will be carrying three commercial satellites and one payload made by Irvine high school students.
Chomp: Hollywood’s summer rampage continues with more dinosaurs eating people in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” The sequel to the 2015 Universal Pictures reboot is expected to open with about $140 million in the U.S. and Canada, with even more to come from overseas.
Incredible fun: At Disney California Adventure, the theme park’s old-timey Paradise Pier boardwalk, closed since January, is scheduled to reopen Saturday as Pixar Pier. The overhauled area will incorporate characters from Disney’s animated movie studio of the same name and feature a roller coaster remade with characters from “The Incredibles.” A sequel to the original film is now in theaters.
Monday’s Business section takes flight with winning designs for personal aircraft as part of Boeing’s GoFly contest. Each winner gets $20,000 to help build a working, flying prototype before a second phase of the competition. Then four finalists will be granted an additional $50,000 each. There will be a $1-million top prize, as well as separate prizes for the quietest and most compact designs.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Mega merger: A federal judge Tuesday cleared the way for AT&T Inc.’s $85.4-billion purchase of Time Warner Inc., creating an entertainment colossus that promises to reshape the media business. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’s ruling in the biggest antitrust case of the century is expected to pave the way for more mega-mergers and was a stinging defeat for the Trump administration, which opposed it.
Bidding war: Comcast Corp. offered $65 billion in cash for much of 21st Century Fox, a 19% premium over an offer from Walt Disney Co., which Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch had already accepted. The offer sets the stage for a potential bidding war with Disney, which views the combination with Fox as key to the Burbank company’s growth. Comcast’s move was widely expected after the AT&T decision.
Bank abuses: The nation’s top bank regulator told members of Congress that his agency found about 20,000 accounts that were possibly opened without customers’ authorization or had other problems during a review of the nation’s largest financial institutions prompted by the Wells Fargo scandal. But Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting would not name the banks, saying the results of such exams are private.
Tesla layoffs: Tesla Inc. is cutting about 9% of its workers as it burns through cash in an effort to meet production goals for its crucial Model 3 sedan. The layoffs, which total about 3,600 mainly salaried employees, were called “difficult, but necessary” by Chairman and Chief Executive Elon Musk as the Palo Alto electric car maker tries to become profitable.
Presidential pardon: L.A.’s Gary Winnick, who worked with Michael Milken at the now-defunct investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci are among those seeking a pardon for the “junk bond” king of the 1980s. Milken went to jail for securities fraud but has since become a high-profile philanthropist and cancer crusader.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Bundle of no joy: The New York Times looks at how pregnancy discrimination is commonplace at many top companies. “Many pregnant women have been systematically sidelined in the workplace. They’re passed over for promotions and raises. They’re fired when they complain.”
Slow lane: We may live in an e-commerce world, but, as the Wall Street Journal reports, delivery giant UPS is struggling to keep pace. “The company still relies on some outdated equipment and manual processes of the type rival FedEx Corp. discarded or that newer entrants, including Amazon.com Inc., never had.”
To boldly go: Space has become the playground of billionaires. But as the New Yorker observes, Elon Musk and other self-styled visionaries aren’t showing much imagination in their cosmic ambitions. “Musk and his fellow ‘astropreneurs’ have tapped into our idealism about space travel. But to what end?”
Texas tea: Bloomberg notes that as other energy conglomerates are expanding into renewables, Exxon Mobil is doubling down on oil. “The way the Exxon chief sees it, the world’s energy consumption is growing at such a fast rate that even in the unlikely scenario that all cars are electric in 2040, oil demand would be the same then as it was in 2013.”
Like the song says, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you. As this Bloomberg video shows, America’s obsession with straight, pearly white teeth is having a global impact, prompting massive spending on the pursuit of pretty teeth. Cosmetic dentistry is now a multibillion-dollar industry, with its roots, of course, in Hollywood.
For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Mad props to Laurence Darmiento and Scott J. Wilson for helping put this thing together.
Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.