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Persistence Pays in Woodland Hills Purchase : Acquisition: Canadian developer kept after property owned by Dataproducts until it was able to buy it.

October 29, 1989|RON GALPERIN | Galperin is a Los Angeles-based free-lance writer who has covered the commercial real estate scene for several years

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Such seems to be the moral for investors serious about buying a well-located property. For a primer on the pursuit, just ask Trizec Properties.

Early this year, Trizec made an unsolicited offer for about 22 acres of plum Woodland Hills property, currently home to Dataproducts Corp. When the printer company refused, however, Trizec didn't settle for a no.

Instead, the Calgary, Canada-based developer cut a deal to acquire two parcels along Erwin Street for $57 million from DPC Acquisition Partners, a group of dissident Dataproducts shareholders seeking a hostile takeover.

Had the deal gone through, DPC was committed to vacating the premises so that Trizec could redevelop a chunk of it as 500,000 square feet of high-end office space.

The plan didn't exactly work.

Financially troubled Dataproducts decided to fight back, hiring Goldman, Sachs & Co. to evaluate potential suitors, and Landauer Associates Inc. of West Los Angeles to directly market their prized property adjacent to Warner Ridge.

But, as DPC's bid faltered, Trizec wasted no time presenting Dataproducts with yet another bid--this one for $63 million, which won Dataproducts' consent.

Trizec is set to close escrow on its all-cash purchase sometime in November. Meanwhile, DPC investors, led by the New York investment firm Crescott Inc., announced yet another hostile bid for Dataproducts in mid-October. All parties involved--including Trizec, Dataproducts and DPC--expect the sale to go forward as planned, however.

"There isn't enough quality property available for people looking to buy," said Ivan Faggen, real estate services group director at Arthur Andersen & Co.

Almost everybody with money to invest is looking for property in Southern California, reports Faggen, and investors are trying "whatever works" to acquire the right site. This summer, Schickler Meringoff Properties of Los Angeles even went so far as to offer a new Porsche to any broker who could get the company into escrow on a suitable investment property.

The competition among buyers for top-tier properties may best explain Trizec's perseverance.

"We had a lot of people who wanted to buy our property in Woodland Hills," said Frank McQuaid, vice president of Dataproducts. "But, we weren't ready to sell."

Finally, he said, the company decided it didn't make sense to hold on to a $63-million property for manufacturing plants. The best way to fight a takeover, reasoned executives, was to divest the company of its real estate holdings and eliminate marginal operations.

In September, Dataproducts announced plans to lay off 400 mostly local employees over the next year. Also up for sale is a New England division for between $40 million and $45 million and 25 acres in Austin, Tex., for $2 million. So far, reports McQuaid, there are no takers.

Instead of staying in the San Fernando Valley, McQuaid sees his company relocating to an area such as the Simi Valley, where land is available for well below the $2.9 million an acre it is getting from Trizec.

Trizec, in turn, gets some of the West Valley's most coveted properties and an almost guaranteed leasing market once construction is completed. Trizec also has two years to obtain all needed development rights, while Dataproducts leases back its facilities at $6.5 million a year.

"We originally couldn't get Dataproducts to talk to us," recalled Trizec's broker, Seth Dudley. The repeated attempts finally paid off, however, said the Julien J. Studley Inc. vice president.

"There is intense competition for these kinds of properties," he said. In fact, six other buyers were seriously in the running too. Up against such odds for the privilege of buying a property, he advises investors to "stretch further, know more and take bigger risks."

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