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Super-Agent Corners Beverly Hills Gateway

October 11, 1987|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

Super-agent Michael Ovitz, the powerful president of Creative Artists Agency, has scored a coup in real estate by getting one of the prime corners of Beverly Hills for CAA's headquarters and convincing internationally renowned architect I. M. Pei to design it.

The dramatic two-wing building--with a central glass atrium that will be lit at night--is planned at 9830 Wilshire Blvd. on the southeast corner of Wilshire and little Santa Monica boulevards, considered a gateway to Beverly Hills.

The site was previously owned by Marina del Rey-based Western Federal Savings & Loan, which operated a branch there until last January, although title was transferred in June, 1986, to W&S Properties, a partnership composed of the principals of Creative Artists Agency.

Robert Goldman, CAA's chief financial officer, denied that CAA bought stock in the S&L to get the site. But Securities Exchange Commission records indicate that CAA Inc. became one of the S&L's three beneficial owners (entities with 5% or more of the outstanding shares) in January, 1986.

Goldman said CAA had a binding agreement to acquire the site 18 months before escrow closed.

Robert B. Thompson, the S&L's president and managing officer, said there were "fairly extensive negotiations" for the site that went on for months.

"We were willing to relocate if we could find a place to relocate," he said. The branch moved to the other end of the block, to 9800 Wilshire Blvd.

In August, investors led by former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon announced their intention to acquire Western Federal, and they agreed to pay the S&L's stockholders $41 a share, about double its market value at that time.

"Nobody thought buying the stock when we did was a good thing," Goldman said, "but now everybody is a believer." Since January, 1986, CAA transferred its interest into an employee partnership and increased its holdings in the S&L from 5.98% to 9.6% or 342,650 shares, with Ovitz himself owning about 35,000 shares, and Goldman owning about 33,000.

Contacted in his New York City office last Wednesday, Pei said, "This is one project I've personally spent a lot of time on, mainly because of Michael Ovitz."

Pei said it took time for Ovitz to convince him to get so involved, "but he's very persuasive." Ovitz went to New York and talked to Pei, and the architect inspected the site in March, 1986. "I started work on it that May."

Pei was also personally involved in the Bunker Hill master plan, completed decades ago. "But the present plan still follows the guidelines we set down," he said.

"My son, Sandi Pei, also did a lot of work on Michael's building," he added.

I. M. Pei is also partner-in-charge of the Grand Louvre in Paris--that huge tourist complex planned around and under the famous museum--and the 72-story, 1.3-million-square-foot Bank of China Building, expected to be the largest building in Hong Kong.

A glass pyramid will mark the Louvre's entrance. The glass atrium will also be the focal point of the 65,000-square-foot, $25-million CAA building, expected to be completed in early 1989.

In preparation for ground breaking, the one-story building that housed the S&L branch was being demolished last week.

Ovitz and Pei, both collectors of contemporary art, will choose a major art piece for the atrium of the three-story CAA building, which will also have a 100-seat screening room.

CAA, which now has offices in Century City, will occupy all the space in its new building. For a young firm, CAA has come a long way. Formed in the mid-'70s by Ovitz and four other agents who had worked at the William Morris Agency, CAA rented a small suite of offices at first and couldn't even afford to hire a receptionist.

At last count, CAA was handling such biggies as actors Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Dan Aykroyd and director Sydney Pollack.

Marina del Rey is 25 years old this month and is celebrating today with a pre-1940 yacht show at Burton Chace Park and sailing and wind-surfing lessons and demonstrations at the Marina's swimming beach.

Marina del Rey Hotel, the first hotel to open in the Marina, and Marina International Hotel are offering special rates to mark the anniversary, good through Dec. 31. And the Marina Beach Hotel and Marina del Rey Area Chamber of Commerce will hold a black-tie dinner dance Oct. 29 to raise funds for the chamber.

Among the celebrities who have lived at the Marina at one time or another are Robert Goulet, John Davidson, Ed McMahon, Mark Spitz, Allen Hale Jr., Lindsey Wagner, Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, John and Bo Derek, and Buddy Ebson.

Some other facts:

In 1962, there was one restaurant, the Pieces of Eight. Now there are 36, and Pieces of Eight has become Shanghai Reds.

In 1962, it cost a boat owner $1.75 per foot/per month to rent a slip, whereas today, it costs $9.12 per foot/per month (if you can get one). And that's just dockage! To live aboard costs more.

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