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Saudi's Role in Marina Draws Protest

April 15, 1993|JEFFREY L. RABIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MARINA DEL REY — Angered by the continuing Arab economic boycott of companies that do business with Israel, a member of Los Angeles County's Small Craft Harbor Commission objected Wednesday to the expected takeover of a major bloc of marina properties by a billionaire Saudi Arabian businessman.

After the commission was briefed behind closed doors on the status of federal bankruptcy court proceedings, Santa Monica real estate developer Louis Rogers tried unsuccessfully to get his colleagues to go on record against Saudi investor Abdul Aziz al Ibrahim's taking control of the marina holdings.

Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of Saudi King Fahd, is poised to win control of long-term leases on three hotels, two apartment complexes, offices, shopping centers and more than 1,100 boat slips in the county-owned marina. A final decision by the bankruptcy court could come as early as next week.

For months, the county has supported the Saudi investor's plans for the properties, which had long been operated by Abraham M. Lurie, the marina's biggest developer. Lurie is now on the verge of losing his interests in the marina to his Saudi partner.

Rogers, who is Jewish, protested that the county is being forced to accept an investor with close ties to the Saudi Royal Family when that nation refuses to do business with U.S. companies operating in Israel.

"It's ironic that in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, where we committed our lives and treasure to free Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia from imminent attack, many of our soldiers going home to their respective companies discovered that they could not enter into contracts with Saudi Arabia because of the Arab boycott," he said.

Rogers said later he was speaking for himself and not for Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who appointed him to the advisory commission that recommends policy for the county's management of Marina del Rey. He had previously been appointed by former Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

It was the second time in as many years that Rogers has objected to Saudi investment in the marina.

However, in July, 1989, he voted in favor of the sale of a 49.9% interest in Lurie's marina holdings to an unidentified group of foreign investors who used shell corporations in Europe, the Caribbean and California to conceal their identities. The Times later identified Ibrahim as the lead investor.

Rogers said he was unaware of the investors' background at the time. "Had I known it was Saudi Arabia, I would have voted against it then," he said.

His comments brought a terse response from Charles Wallace, president of the Saudi businessman's Marina Group of Companies, who said the Arab boycott of Israel has "no relationship to the situation here."

Wallace emphasized that the Marina Group has spent nearly two years in bankruptcy proceedings seeking to win control of the marina holdings. "We're definitely in it for the long run," he said. "We certainly could have walked away from this a long time ago."

Eric Bourdon, director of the county's Department of Beaches and Harbors, which oversees the marina, said county officials support the Saudi plan in the bankruptcy proceedings.

"The county believes their plan provides the best management and long-range commitment to operation and improvement of the leaseholds," he said.

Bourdon said Rogers is entitled to express his feelings, but added: "The county's role is limited in this area. I don't think the foreign ownership is a consideration for the court."

Commissioner Joe Crail told Rogers that the county should support the Saudi plan. "Financially," he said, "it's the right thing for the county to do."

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