VEDC BANKRUPTCY Ever since longtime chief executive Roberto Barragan left in 2016, the Sherman Oaks lending and business training organization grappled with a revolving door of leadership. Four chief executives tried to run the nonprofit Valley Economic Development Center until it entered Chapter 11 in July. “Expenses to continue the national lending programs were outpacing financial returns from providing small business loans,” Chairman Scott Aney said in a written response to the Business Journal. “Our hope is that the VEDC will continue to provide important business services to small business owners.” The organization continues to operate with a skeleton crew pending a January court date on its future. CREDIT UNION NON-MERGER In August, Ventura County Credit Union planned to merge with Pasadena-based L.A. Financial Credit Union, creating an institution with $1.3 billion in assets and serving 120,000 members in California and Arizona. But two months later both financial institutions backed out of the agreement. Talks ended amicably, according to a joint statement, with both parties confident in their decision not to proceed with the merger. “Sometimes it makes sense to combine our strengths and assets, and other times we find it’s best to continue operating independently,” Joe Schroeder, chief executive of VCCU, said in a statement. In the Valley region, Ventura County Credit Union has offices in Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Moorpark. SIENNA FLAMEOUT Two years after executives from Sienna Biopharmaceuticals rang the opening bell at the Nasdaq in New York City, the company entered Chapter 11. The Westlake Village biotech sought to develop a laser treatment to remove light-colored hair. “The protections afforded by Chapter 11 provide for an orderly restructuring process as well as additional time to pursue financial and strategic alternatives,” Dr. Frederick Beddingfield III, chief executive of Sienna, said in a statement. “Through this process, we expect to be able to maintain ongoing business activities while we continue to focus our resources on locating a purchaser or strategic partner to maximize the value of the company.” SCREENWRITERS VERSUS AGENTS Members of the Writer’s Guild of America fired thousands of Hollywood talent agents in April because the agencies did not agree to a code of conduct proposed by the union. The action came after negotiations for a new agreement broke down between the guild and the Association of Talent Agents. The sticking points were packaging fees – in which agents negotiate contracts on behalf of several actors, directors and writers instead of one writer – and affiliate productions, which means talent agencies making their own entertainment content, with the guild arguing these practices constitute conflicts of interest. In a PR campaign, prominent writers told their negative experiences with packaging with specific references to Burbank’s Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment. TOYING WITH MATTEL? Over the summer, Chatsworth toy manufacturer MGA Entertainment Inc. made a bid to merge with rival toy company Mattel Inc., but was it a serious offer or a publicity stunt? At any rate, the El Segundo company rejected the deal. MGA, which claims to be the largest private toy company in the world, had the bestselling toy during last year’s holiday shopping season with its L.O.L. Surprise dolls. Publicly traded Mattel owns the Barbie, Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels and American Girl brands. In a letter, MGA Chief Executive Isaac Larian pointed out Mattel’s three consecutive years of declining sales and offered to become Mattel’s chairman and chief executive – adding that all of Mattel’s current board members could resign. Mattel’s Chief Legal Officer Bob Normile wrote in response that the company’s board “unanimously concluded that (MGA’s) proposal is not in the best interests of Mattel and its shareholders.” DISNEY CLOSES BABBLE Walt Disney Co. shut down its website Babble after more than a decade of serving as a resource for parents. The Burbank media giant acquired Babble Media Inc. in 2011 for about $40 million and added more than 200 bloggers on family and parenting issues. A message from the Babble editors on the website gave no reason for the shutdown. “To all the moms, dads, family, friends, writers and readers who supported us – thank you,” the message read. SABAN’S PANAVISION BUST One of the Business Journal’s biggest deals last year was Saban Capital Acquisition Corp.’s plan to buy Woodland Hills-headquartered Panavision Inc. and take it public. Saban Capital – a company formed by Beverly Hills billionaire Haim Saban – offered $622 million for Panavision and planned to combine it with a video post-production house in Canada. The deal was cancelled “due to market conditions, delays resulting from the partial U.S. government shutdown, and the March 31, 2019 termination date of (Saban Capital Acquisition Corp.),” according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Under the termination agreement, the $55 million raised in stock sales by Saban Capital was returned to shareholders. IMMUNOCELLULAR DEMISE ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd. started with the mission to use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Last year the Calabasas company delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and curtailed operations because of “significant obstacles to its continued operations which cannot be overcome,” it said in a statement. Chief Executive Dr. Anthony Gringeri, Chief Financial Officer David Fractor and Senior Vice President of Research Dr. Steven Swanson resigned from the company. The story ended in July when an unnamed biotech company purchased the intellectual property assets of the company for $1 million.