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$450 Million Buys Hillman Properties Package : Developers: The deal is hailed as a sign of rising real estate values. Two key sites in Los Angeles will not change hands.

November 03, 1994|DEBORA VRANA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A real estate partnership managed by Goldman, Sachs & Co. on Wednesday paid $450 million for most of the assets of Hillman Properties, a management and development company in Newport Beach.

Whitehall Street Real Estate Ltd. Partnership has bought what amounts to most of the commercial real estate holdings of Pittsburgh billionaire Henry Hillman. The purchase creates a joint venture, WCB Properties, whose holdings now include 39 office and commercial properties encompassing 5.3 million square feet of space across the nation, as well as tracts of undeveloped land.

"This is a vote of confidence on the part of the Wall Street investment community in real estate, particularly Southern California real estate," said Sanford Goodkin, a real estate consultant in San Diego. "Hillman's portfolio has concentrations in Orange and San Diego counties. And Hillman has always been known for quality."

Hillman, whose fortune is estimated at more than $2 billion, inherited his father's coal and chemical business, then built a real estate empire. The 76-year-old mogul reportedly is selling his real estate holdings for estate planning purposes.

Excluded from sale are two prime Hillman properties in Southern California: a parcel along the Harbor Freeway in Downtown Los Angeles where the company said it plans to develop a 20,000-seat sports arena, and the Unocal Corp. headquarters, also in Downtown Los Angeles. Also excluded are about 200 undeveloped acres Hillman owns in Seal Beach.

Michael R. Chase, who has headed Hillman Properties since 1974, will be president and chief executive officer of WCB Properties. Coleman J. Benedict, head of Hillman's Northeast operations, will also be a partner in WCB, which takes its name from the first letters of the names Whitehall, Chase and Benedict.

"This new venture responds to changes in the real estate industry over the past few years," Chase said in a statement Wednesday. "Hillman Co. has been able to realize the value of part of its extensive real estate portfolio, and the Goldman Sachs partnership has met its goal of purchasing high-quality, income-producing real estate assets."

Hillman Properties was formed in 1974 as an affiliate of Hillman Co., a private investment company based in Pittsburgh. It will retain ownership of a number of holdings that will be managed by WCB Properties.

Whitehall, with more than $3 billion in assets, typically buys distressed real estate portfolios from financial institutions. The Hillman purchase is the highest-quality portfolio the fund has acquired, a Goldman Sachs official said Wednesday.

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