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M. H. Golden Marks 6 Decades : San Diego Builder Seeking Greater Presence in L. A.

May 24, 1987|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

It's not the firm's golden anniversary, but today is Golden's anniversary--M. H. Golden Co.'s 60th, to be exact--and the building company is marking it with a growing Los Angeles presence that soon may exceed its standing in San Diego.

That's where the company has been headquartered all these years and has done many of its landmark jobs: the Nissan Complex, First Interstate Building, Vacation Village, Central Savings Tower (on the site of the former Union-Tribune building), the original Old Globe Theatre, El Cortez Hotel.

Never mind.

Morley R. Golden, the firm's president, expects it to build as many or more such projects in Los Angeles, where he is already contemplating a volume this year equal to company business down south. Total revenue anticipated: $150 million.

Accelerating Volume

"Our Los Angeles office also should do a volume that will accelerate over the years to one exceeding that of our San Diego office," Golden added.

"We project a growth rate of 16% a year in Los Angeles, a little less in San Diego due to our market penetration and having been there steadily for 60 years. Besides that, Los Angeles is larger and, consequently, provides more opportunity."

In Los Angeles, the company is putting the finishing touches on the $150-million Wilshire Courtyard, the 1-million-square-foot office project across Wilshire Boulevard from the La Brea Tar Pits. Completion is scheduled in mid-June.

And M. H. Golden Co. is also involved in several other Los Angeles as well as San Diego area developments.

San Diego Projects

Among its San Diego projects are the $300-million East Tower of the Plaza at La Jolla Village, $24-million Park at Coronado hotel, $10-million Sunroad Marina, $6.5-million Fifth & Beech Street office building and $5.3-million addition to the Catamaran Hotel.

A couple of its other Los Angeles-area projects are the $13-million Ramada Hotel in Agoura Hills and $17.8-million East Los Angeles Municipal Courthouse.

"We've done work in the Los Angeles area consistently since the beginning of the company," Golden said, "but we didn't open an office there until recently, and we didn't develop an ongoing presence in the marketplace there until now."

Before starting his company in San Diego, Golden's grandfather, Morley H. Golden, worked as a construction superintendent on the Breakers Hotel in Long Beach. He came to the Los Angeles from Salt Lake City, where he was born.

Vowed to Return

He was one of 10 children and quit high school to become a carpenter. He was married in 1917 and honeymooned in San Diego, where he vowed to return.

At 31, he worked his way back and started his firm out of his Texas Street home with a $3,750 contract to build a boiler facility at the North Island Naval Air Station.

He was later known as a "Mr. San Diego" for his community involvement. He spearheaded much of the downtown's redevelopment and led the campaign to build the complex housing City Hall, exhibit and convention halls and 3,000-seat Civic Theater, which his firm completed in 1965.

Since 1927, M. H. Golden Co. has been responsible for more than 2,000 projects with a total value in excess of $1 billion and has appeared many times in the top 40% of Engineering News Record magazine's "Top 400" list of the nation's largest volume general contracting firms.

Sold Major Interest

M. H. Golden Co. is, however, no longer strictly family owned. Five years ago, the family sold 80% of the firm to Centex Corp., a $1-billion, Dallas-based, publicly traded holding company involved in construction products and general contracting.

Morley H. Golden died two years earlier at age 84.

Would he have objected to the sale? His grandson, who has been president of the company since 1976, gives a resounding "no." "And my father was involved in the decision."

His father, Robert, became president of the company in 1956.

Morley R. Golden has no immediate plans to retire. He just turned 45 last Monday.

Strategic Planning

He has a 19-year-old son, Brian, but there are no immediate plans for him to head the business. "My father didn't force the family tradition on me," Morley Golden said, "and I don't intend to force it on Brian."

Despite the uncertainty about what part Brian Golden someday will play, his father views strategic planning as a major accomplishment--"working with our personnel so the company can continue when I'm no longer able to run it, getting the employees involved in planning so they feel a part of the company and know where we are going and how we are getting there."

Where does he see the company going in the next 60 years? Nationally? Internationally? "No, we have no desire to look abroad, but we have been focusing on the western United States. We may make an expansion effort in late '88."

By 2047, who knows? The company's West Coast presence might be as great as it ever was in San Diego.

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