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COLUMN ONE : The Mogul and the Democrats : Movie and music figure Ted Field, living a life of well-guarded privacy, has become a major force in national politics, a friend to the party and foe of the GOP's Religious Right.

September 16, 1992|DAVID WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Yet Field, after producing 28 films, remains an enigma in Hollywood, socializing with only a few of its top players. And, within hours of Field's recent sale of a 51% stake in his film company, disagreement sprouted over who got the better of the deal.

Many viewed the $35-million cash sale to Polygram as vindication for a man who not many years ago was scoffed at as a money-burning dilettante. Long-term, said Interscope President Cort, the aim is no less than forging a new major studio.

The more cynical interpretation of the $35-million film company sale is that it might suggest Field's empire is feeling the pinch from his spending so hugely over the last 2 1/2 years to launch the record company.

Is Ted Field, who in the 1980s more than doubled his $260-million family inheritance, at any risk of plowing through his fortune? Burkett and Field, who declined to estimate his net worth, insist not.

Yet there are a handful of circumstances that warrant at least posing the question.

Field is trying to sell his five trophy residential properties, including Greenacres, a 43-acre compound in Santa Barbara and a mansion that is the largest ski-in, ski-out home on Aspen Mountain. And in May, Field relinquished ownership of Murdock Plaza, the Westwood office tower that remains home to his businesses.

The holdings are for sale, Field said, because he does not use them often enough or has tired of them.

"This house Greenacres has become a complete albatross, in a certain sense, around my neck," Field said, referring to the estate built in 1928 for the silent screen star Harold Lloyd. "Hopefully it won't become a white elephant, as well, in the real estate market."

Field bought the mansion six years ago in a court-ordered sale for $6.5 million. After spending millions more to refurbish it, he put Greenacres on the market in 1990, asking $55 million. The property now lists for $39 million. Also on the market are Field's retreats in Santa Barbara, $21 million, and Aspen, $19.9 million.

As for Murdock Plaza, Field relinquished ownership in May of the Wilshire Boulevard tower, which he purchased in 1985 for $70 million. Land records show that Field in 1988 took out a loan of $88 million for the property from Sumitomo Life Realty Inc.--secured only by the building and its lease income--not by any of Field's other assets.

So, in the end, Field still may have profited because he gave up property that he purchased for less than the loan amount. Field has kept his operations headquartered in the building, only now he is a tenant, not a landlord.

Eighteen years after coming to California, Ted Field still chafes at fitting any family tradition.

"I don't particularly relate to being a, quote, Field," he said. ". . . I am deliberately the rebel. Deliberately the maverick. And totally unconcerned about how I fit into the Field nexus and the Field legacy. Now, that may sound ungrateful. And frankly, I don't care about that either."

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