Cash-strapped California is under new management. Real estate kingpin Sam Zell took the state private this week in a deal that bears eerie similarities to his purchase of Tribune Co. and the Los Angeles Times.
In his first act as CEO, Zell replaced the state Legislature with a Magic 8 Ball, a widely hailed move that could save $1 billion a year.
He also ordered a 15% cut in the number of state residents. Millions of unlucky citizens were then called into their local mayor's office and told they were being let go.
Some received a personal note from the new state Legislature: "Outlook not so good."
"I can't believe it," said Sally
Stone, a longtime Fresno resident who was given an hour to pack her belongings before being escorted out of California by burly security guards.
Zell's other key move was hiring former XM radio executive Lee Abrams as state innovation chief. Abrams promptly issued lengthy memos outlining ideas to boost state revenue. "I hear there's GOLD near Sutter's Mill," he wrote. "If we can find the mother lode, boom, deficit GONE."
When asked to comment on Abrams' memo, the Legislature said, "Reply hazy, try again."