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THE BOTTOM LINE / Bill Ritter

November 25, 1986|Bill Ritter

Ivan's Crystal Ball

Ivan Boesky, the supposed arbitrage wizard who allegedly bribed his way to success and last week was fined $100 million by federal authorities, made but one public showing in San Diego as chairman of Northview Corp., a post he resigned last week.

It was in June, 1985, and it was Boesky's only appearance at a Northview annual shareholders meeting since he joined the board in 1978.

A curious reporter asked Boesky of his acquisition plans.

His response, chilling in retrospect: "Be patient and you'll start to see some very interesting things happen."

Sportland Can't Make It in Chainland

To those who grew up in the La Mesa area, Sportland has been an institution for 40 years. At the 7,000-square-foot building on Baltimore Drive, you can buy fishing gear, baseball gloves, roller skates, crisp new sweat socks or just about anything else jock-like. It is a good, old-fashioned independent sporting goods store.

And it is about to go out of business, the victim of intense competition from well-financed chains.

The day after Christmas or thereabouts, Sportland will be no more. The way manager Dale Wittman figures it, more than two dozen independents have shut down in the last 15 years.

"We weren't losing money, but we got to the point where it's tougher and tougher to make a good profit," said Wittman, whose parents founded the firm in 1946.

Today's full-line sporting goods store needs an inventory that most independents can't afford, Wittman said. The smaller independents that are now opening tend to specialize--just shoes or just fishing equipment or only hunting gear, he said.

Wittman and his family, unable to find a buyer, are selling off their $250,000 inventory at discounts of 20% to 60%.

And another independent business skis off into the sunset.

Executive Sale Decision in the Works

Three prospective buyers, two of them local, have emerged for the Executive Complex downtown. Asking price: at least $41.5 million.

Good thing, too. The complex--consisting of a 102-room hotel, the fabled Cuyamaca Club and Spa, a 25-story office building and an 11-story parking garage--is in all sorts of financial binds, according to a report sent to investors in a partnership that owns the complex.

There's a monthly negative cash flow of nearly $225,000 and it will take more than $3.1 million to make building improvements and remove the asbestos that was sprayed on the flooring and support beams, according to Dennis Schmucker, the court-appointed receiver for the limited partnership. That partnership, once managed by William Crowder, a San Bernardino developer, has been accused by state regulators of securities violations and of drawing unauthorized fees and loans from the partnership. Crowder's 4,500 clients invested $30 million in the Executive Complex.

Worse, the $33-million first trust deed owed to Dollar Dry Dock Savings Bank will not be refinanced; DDD will make a new loan on the property only to a new owner, Schmucker said in his report to the partnership's investors.

A court hearing to approve a sale is scheduled for Dec. 5 in San Bernardino Superior Court.

High-Voltage Battle With the Navy

San Diego Gas & Electric officials bristle a bit when their current flap with the Navy over its plan to build its own electricity-generation system has been described as a war.

It is indeed more a war than a tete-a-tete, however, and SDG&E, fancying itself something of an underdog, has gone on a warpath of sorts, no matter how refined and polished and polite.

Last week, SDG&E staffers sent letters to the editorial sections of San Diego daily newspapers, urging editorials asking the Navy to abandon its proposal and remain in the utility's rate base. If the Navy, SDG&E's largest electric customer, does pull out, then everyone else's rates will increase, the utility argues.

The company's public relations department also wrote a two-page, single-spaced "background work sheet," in which staffer Dave Kusumoto, a former radio news reporter, offers a folksy, informal perspective on SDG&E's position.

"Let's be honest," one paragraph starts, while another opines that "SDG&E cannot afford being unresponsive." The work sheet candidly states that many of the utility's customers, mindful of SDG&E's "turbulent past, refuse to believe we could ever be on the side of (our) customers."

The utility has a "trust problem" with its customers, Vice President Richard Manning acknowledged. "So much hull damage was done . . . we're still trying to work our way back."

The letter makes no bones about the fact that the utility is looking for editorial support. "We want editorial policy," Manning said Monday. The utility, he said, wants to "see if there is community support to demonstrate to the Navy that we're not working in a vacuum when we're talking to them."

Those talks begin in earnest Dec. 1.

The last time SDG&E went on the public relations warpath, er, dialogue path, was three years ago during Congress' debate over natural gas deregulation, which SDG&E favored.

Evidence of a Birthday

Louis Metzger, the J. David & Co. bankruptcy trustee, celebrated his 70th birthday last week--on the same day that a federal grand jury returned a 234-count indictment against former J. David executive Nancy Hoover.

Two hours after U.S. Atty. Peter Nunez announced the indictment, Metzger was given a surprise birthday party by U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence Irving, who's overseeing the J. David bankruptcy.

There was no connection between the two events.

There's Plenty in These Names

Once a marketer, always a marketer. Sid Levitz, once of Levitz Furniture, is now operating Western Video Marketing. Among his firm's ventures is the marketing of a variety of videotapes with names that would make even the writers on "Hee-Haw" blush.

Witness "Swim, Baby, Swim" with Esther Williams, "Phyllis Diller on Cosmetic Surgery," "Handicapping Horses by Body Language" and "Tune Up America," distributed by various auto parts stores.

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