Wells Fargo Has Many Choices for a Base

February 11, 1986|VICTOR F. ZONANA | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Wells Fargo Bank will be able to pick and choose among several prime locations in selecting headquarters for its northern and southern California operations after it completes its acquisition of Crocker Bank later this year.

Although Wells Fargo officials insist that no decisions have been made, insiders suspect that Carl E. Reichardt, the bank's chairman and chief executive, will maintain corporate headquarters here at Wells Fargo's company-owned 13-story building on Montgomery Street between California and Sacramento streets.

Wells Fargo has long traded on its colorful history as a 19th-Century operator of stagecoach and other express lines, and, as one Wells Fargo officer said: "You've got to remember that Wells Fargo's first express office was located at Montgomery and Sacramento streets."

Moreover, Wells Fargo's modest headquarters building is in line with the frugal, no-nonsense image that Reichardt has tried to project for his bank. That image might suffer if Reichart were to relocate to Crocker's far more lavish 38-story headquarters tower a few blocks away.

"Carl is smart enough to forgo the fancy digs at a time that the banks' staffs are facing a bloodbath," one Crocker officer speculated. Reichardt has said he expects that the combined work force of around 27,000 will be pared substantially as Wells Fargo absorbs Crocker.

Economic considerations will also come into play. Crocker's San Francisco headquarters complex is owned by Prudential Insurance Cos. of America, which bought it from the bank for $358 million in cash last year.

Crocker controls about 60% of the space in the headquarters tower but has subleased a small portion of that space in recent years. With space in the building going for $35 a square foot and the building over 99% occupied, further subleasing could prove lucrative for Wells Fargo, real estate sources said.

In Los Angeles, Wells Fargo will have its choice of two skyscrapers opened during the 1980s, the 49-story Wells Fargo building at 444 S. Flower St. and the 54-story Crocker tower on Bunker Hill at 333 S. Grand Ave. Economics and space requirements will likely dictate Wells Fargo's decision.

The Wells Fargo building in Los Angeles is owned by a joint venture of Lehndorff Management and Grosvenor International, a British real estate concern. The 1-million-square-foot building, which is 98.5% occupied, was developed by Lehndorff and Rockefeller family interests.

The 54-story Crocker tower is owned jointly by Crocker and Maguire Thomas Partners, with the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, also a tenant, holding a minority limited partnership interest.

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