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Ford Apologizes for Ad Featuring Bound and Gagged Kardashian Sisters, Paris Hilton


Ford Apology - H 2013

The cartoonish ads were meant to demonstrate the "extra-large" trunk space of the company’s Ford Figo.

Ford has apologized for an ad that depicted the Kardashian sisters gagged in the trunk of a car with Paris Hilton smiling and winking from the front seat.

The cartoonish ad — featuring the tagline "Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra-large boot" — spurred protests after it was leaked online. It was actually one in a series of ads, with another featuring disgraced former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi driving with three scantily dressed women in the back, and a third showing Formula One driver Michael Schumacher behind the wheel of the car with rivals Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the trunk.

PHOTOS: Inside Kardashian Inc.

The tongue-in-cheek ads are said to have been created by Indian ad agency JWT India and have since been pulled from the website Ads of the World, where they were posted.

Ford and WPP Group, the ad agency’s parent group, have issued a formal apology.

"We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened," Ford told Business Insider. "The posters are contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford and our agency partners."

Added WPP: "We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group. These were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the Internet."

 

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Beverly Center Evacuated Due to Suspicious Package


Beverly Center - H - 2013

UPDATE: The LAPD bomb squad detonated the suspicious package reported at the mall.

The Beverly Center mall has been evacuated and a bomb squad was called after a suspicious package was reported to police.  

Police were called around 12 p.m. by an owner of a vehicle who stated that there was a briefcase in the back seat of his car that wasn’t there previously, an LAPD spokesperson says to 

When officers arrived, they made the decision to call the bomb squad and evacuate the Beverly Center. 

, which first reported the news, noted that the car was parked in the multilevel garage at the mall.

The bomb squad detonated the package after the Los Angeles Fire Department doused it, a LAPD spokesperson tells , confirming an ABC7 report

The mall is located at 8500 Beverly Boulevard. 

Beverly Center Evacuated Due to Suspicious Package


Beverly Center - H - 2013

UPDATE: The LAPD bomb squad detonated the suspicious package reported at the mall.

The Beverly Center mall has been evacuated and a bomb squad was called after a suspicious package was reported to police.  

Police were called around 12 p.m. by an owner of a vehicle who stated that there was a briefcase in the back seat of his car that wasn’t there previously, an LAPD spokesperson says to 

When officers arrived, they made the decision to call the bomb squad and evacuate the Beverly Center. 

, which first reported the news, noted that the car was parked in the multilevel garage at the mall.

The bomb squad detonated the package after the Los Angeles Fire Department doused it, a LAPD spokesperson tells , confirming an ABC7 report

The mall is located at 8500 Beverly Boulevard. 

Blockbuster U.K. Sold to Investment Firm


Blockbuster

Gordon Brothers will acquire 264 video and game rental stores two months after the company had filed for insolvency protection.

LONDON – Investment firm Gordon Brothers Europe has agreed to acquire the British business of video and video game rental store chain Blockbuster.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

STORY: Blockbuster UK Seeks Insolvency Protection, Buyer

Blockbuster UK had in January filed for bankruptcy protection and hired accounting firm Deloitte as an administrator to look for a potential buyer. The filing came a day after a similar move from British music and film retailer HMV.

Under so-called administration, Blockbuster U.K. continued operating under oversight of Deloitte.

The U.K. business is legally separate from the parent company’s Blockbuster U.S. business, which went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy a few years ago, with Charlie Ergen‘s Dish Network beating out activist investor Carl Icahn in a bankruptcy auction in early 2011.

Blockbuster U.K. told customers in a blog post over the weekend: "We’re delighted to tell you that after several difficult weeks, Blockbuster U.K. has been bought by Gordon Brothers Europe."

Gordon Brothers, known as restructuring specialists, said in a statement that it would continue to operate the firm’s 264 remaining stores in Britain, which have about 2,000 employees.

"Having identified a profitable core portfolio of stores we are pleased to have achieved this sale for creditors," said administrator Lee Manning. "This transaction provides Blockbuster with a future in the U.K."

At the start of the year, the company had owned more than 500 stores with about 4,190 staffers. Deloitte has closed about 200 and sold a few to a supermarket chain.

STORY: Lionsgate Says Dish’s Blockbuster Owes It Money Under Rental Revenue Share Deal

Gordon Brothers said it would invest in Blockbuster and enhance "the customer experience through the use of new product offerings, new technologies and better basic retailing."

Gordon Brothers CEO Frank Morton highlighted continued challenges of the video rental business in the digital age. "We know that we have a challenge ahead, but there is still a market to be served," he said.

Former HMV UK and Ireland commercial director Gary Warren has been appointed as managing director of Blockbuster U.K.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

Panel: Asian Creators Should Embrace ‘Original Perspective’ When Pitching Shows to U.S.


Masi Oka

Hollywood insiders came to Japan to explain how producers of non-scripted shows can exploit America’s changing TV landscape.

OKINAWA – A Hollywood panel consisting of Masi Oka (), Pierre Brogan (CAA) and producer Jeff Hasler () advised Japanese, and other Asian content creators, on how to pitch format shows to American networks, at the Okinawa Contents Bazaar on Sunday.

The panelists said shifts in U.S. demographics and TV viewing habits are changing the nature of programming, and explained how Asian producers can tap into this.

“Children born to Caucasian parents are now in the minority in the United States, and so networks are becoming more open to shows with characters from different backgrounds,” said Hasler.

“Don’t think about creating for the American market; the big advantage you have coming from Asia is a different, original perspective and fresh ideas,” added Oka, who has been active as a producer in recent years.

PHOTOS: 10 Hollywood Films Tweaked for International Release

Hasler pointed out how cable shows in the U.S. are now regularly beating the main broadcast networks in the ratings battle, citing the History channel’s series as an example.

“This is really a seismic shift, when cable shows are getting 10 million viewers, while network shows, with triple the potential audience, are getting 2 million,” said Hasler, who suggested the increased pressure on cable executives is making the pitching process more complicated and competitive.

CAA’s Brogan noted that the rise of cable also means there are even more buyers in the U.S. now, and a far greater number than in Japan, where broadcast networks still dominate.

Agents are also central to the pitching process in Hollywood, explained Brogan, partly due to the high staff turnover at networks; another major difference to Japan, where job turnover remains low.

“Agents in Hollywood know who is happy in their job and will be staying at the network, and so worth pitching to, and who is about to leave for another channel because their boss is a giant pain,” said Brogan.

“There’s a huge amount of great content in Asia, but there’s not a lot of knowledge about how to present and sell them in Hollywood, which has a very unique way of doing business,” said Oka. “Understanding how that works and what the zeitgeist is: that’s vital to getting projects picked-up.”

The Okinawa International Movie Festival is running on Japan’s southernmost island March 24 to 31.

Thousands Sign Petition Opposing Potential Koch Brothers L.A. Times Bid


Los Angeles Times Building - H 2013

The petition was created by the liberal website Daily Kos and the L.A.-based progressive non-profit, the Courage Campaign.

Whether billionaires David and Charles Koch may, or officially would like to, acquire the is speculative at this time. But that hasn’t stopped liberal activist groups from promoting a petition that hopes to rouse popular opposition against such a bid. 

STORY: Koch Brothers Mulling L.A. Times Bid

The petition, by the progressive website The Daily Kos and the L.A.-based Courage Campaign organization, has garnered thousands of signatures. (The Kos campaign shows over 35,000 signatures added, while the Courage Campaign’s site sees a more modest total of 11,000 "actions taken.")

"Millions of people count on the for strong and unbiased reporting, including their endorsements for political candidates and ballot initiatives," wrote Rachel Colyer, an associate campaign director at Daily Kos, in an email to the website’s supporters.

"It would be a travesty to the fourth estate if the Koch brothers are allowed to purchase one of the most respected newspapers in the country in order to peddle their discredited ideas and right-wing propaganda," she wrote.

The campaign says it will send the petition to Peter Liguori, the CEO of Tribune Co. The company recently emerged from bankruptcy and has indicated that it may sell off newspaper assets including ,  and the .

The billionaire siblings were first reported in mid-March to be interested in acquiring the newspaper by which asked that the rumor be taken "with a grain of salt if not a whole dollop."

The Kochs have been prominent supporters of conservative causes, notably through their backing of the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Americans for Prosperity, which reportedly spent $130 million during last year’s the election cycle. 

Subsequent reports, including by , have cited sources saying that the brothers may be interested in teaming up with conservative San Diego developer Doug Manchester — who bought the now-renamed  newspaper and acquired its rival, to submit a bid. 

The Kochs, along with Manchester, are only two of the names that have been mentioned as potential suitors of the .

STORY: Tribune Hires Investment Banks to Sell L.A. Times, Newspaper Unit

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation, has been reported to be interested in adding the paper to a stable of assets that includes and . 

 reported that billionaire Eli Broad along with former L.A. Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner are teaming up to submit a bid for the paper and turn it into a non-profit organization. 

Aaron Kushner, who last year purchased the and previously expressed interest in the , has also publicly mulled acquiring Tribune Co. newspapers, including the . 

Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen Made $1.3M in Total Compensation in 2012


Dish Networks CEO Joe Clayton Speaking - H 2013

Executives at the satellite company suffered from no performance-based option awards last year.

Dish Network CEO Joe Clayton didn’t get any option awards this past year, compared with more than $9 million worth the previous year.

That brought his total compensation package in 2012 down from a total of about $9.85 million to $907,000. According to an SEC statement filed Friday, Clayton’s salary nearly doubled from $467,307 to $900,000, still very much behind most chief executives at major entertainment companies.

As for Dish chairman Charlie Ergen, his salary was up a bit from $750,000 in 2011 to $900,000, bringing his overall compensation to about $1.3 million. The co-founder of the company, Ergen now possesses 88 percent of total voting power at the firm.

The salaries for COO Bernard Han, executive vp corporate development Thomas Cullen and CFO Robert Olson were mostly unchanged, though all three suffered less overall compensation in 2012 because of the absence of option awards.

"Generally, Dish Network’s overall executive compensation trails that of its competitors in the areas of base pay, severance packages and short-term incentives and may be competitive over time in equity compensation," the company said.

Regal CEO Amy Miles Compensation Up 31 Percent in 2012


Regal Cinemas

Following a strong financial year, Regal executives were rewarded under the company’s incentive program.

Top executives at Regal Entertainment Group all got pay increases in 2012.

Regal CEO Amy Miles led the way with $4,454,225 in total compensation, up nearly 31 percent from the previous year. She benefited from a salary increase up $50,000 to $800,000, but mostly had a great compensation year thanks to $1.2 million in a non-equity incentive pay-out.

STORY: Regal CEO Amy Miles to Receive Top Honors at CinemaCon

CFO David Ownby‘s overall compensation was up from $1,226,599 in 2011 to $1,584,353 in 2012. His increases came in roughly equal measure from salary, stock awards and under the company’s non-equity incentive plan.

COO Gregory Dunn took home $2,282,648, up about half a million from the previous year. He, too, benefited from a strong increase in the non-equity incentive plan.

Peter Brandow, the company’s general counsel, earned $1,576,736 in total compensation.

Regal’s stock was up more than 20 percent last year.

An Ashley Judd Senate Run Splits Democrats, Even Clintons


Ashley Judd Paley - P 2013

The actress, who is rumored to be mulling a run for a senate seat in Kentucky, has the encouragement of the former president, but some in the party are wary.

There is some Hollywood drama going down in Kentucky.

Actress and liberal activist Ashley Judd is said to be mulling a run for the senate seat currently held by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the news of her interest is being greeted with mixed reactions on both the right and left.

ABC News reports that former President Bill Clinton, a close friend of Judd, encouraged the 44-year old actress to run during a conversation sometime between last November’s election and President Barack Obama‘s inauguration in January. wrote earlier last week that Clinton had more recently advised Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, to run for the seat, as well; she’s considering doing so, or running for governor or a congressional seat.

Grimes’ father is a former state party chairman in Kentucky, and also a friend of the Clintons’. While reported that the former first couple’s support had shifted to Grimes, ABC notes that they will support either as Democratic nominee.

As an environmental activist who has opposed mountaintop removal for coal extraction, some Democrats fear that Judd is too liberal for the state, which has a long history of backing Democrats but has more recently elected Republicans, including Tea Party darling Rand Paul. Yet others believe that she brings starpower and fundraising ability, and that McConnell is weak in the state.

Republicans, on the other hand, have already attacked Judd, with a Karl Rove-backed Super Pac slamming her in TV advertisements, and Fox News’ Sean Hannity facetiously begging her to run during a segment Thursday night.

Incidentally, Judd plays a small role in this weekend’s , portraying the first lady of the United States.

FCC Head Julius Genachowski Confirms Departure to Staffers


Julius Genachowski

The departure won’t happen for weeks, but the Obama appointee earns praise from a fellow Republican commissioner at the agency.

Julius Genachowski confirmed on Friday that he will step down as head of the Federal Communications Commission.

At the agency that regulates cable, broadcast and telephone companies, Genachowski addressed staffers. According to Reuters, he didn’t indicate exactly when he would be leaving.

"We’ll be working together a little while longer," Genachowski told a room filled with more than a hundred agency staffers. "As far as we’ve come, and I know we all feel this, our agency can’t rest on its laurels. We can’t let up on the gas pedal."

Genachowski, a Democrat, was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. Among his activities at the agency, he’s promoted broadband access, focused on auctions of the wireless spectrum, oversaw the agency in an effort to block the 2011 merger bid between AT&T Inc and T-Mobile USA and moved the agency away from aggressive indecency policing of broadcast television.

FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican appointed in 2006, has also said he is leaving the agency.

In a statement today, McDowell commented about the departure of Genachowski.

"Although occasionally we disagreed, sometimes profoundly, he leaves office with my utmost respect," said McDowell. "He proved that through hard work, persistence and creativity, bipartisanship and compromise in policymaking can occur in Washington, even in these days of sharp divisions and gridlock."

McDowell also addressed the agency’s plans to auction off airwaves from TV stations for wireless use and mobile data services."

He said that Genachowski "has been an eloquent and effective advocate for repurposing valuable spectrum to meet the needs and demands of American consumers.  The results may not come to fruition for years, but many of his efforts in the wireless sector will help spur investment, innovation and economic growth.

Twitter: @eriqgardner