The harsh California recession and a family fortune diluted over time may have toppled the Janss Corp., which developed much of Thousand Oaks and Camarillo as well as Los Angeles County areas such as Westwood and Van Nuys.
After nearly a century of operation, the company will close its doors by the end of the year, officials announced.
"There may have been a vast fortune, but when you divide it by 100 years and 15 people, it becomes a twinkling of its former self," said Larry Janss, a Thousand Oaks resident who is a cousin of William Janss Jr., who controlled the company.
The company's only ongoing project in Ventura County, a renovation of the Janss Mall in Thousand Oaks, will be unaffected by the change, said Bill Mendelsohn, manager of the project. He said Goldman Sachs and the Westfield Corp. have taken over the project from the Janss Corp.
The renovation is scheduled to be completed in October, 1996.
In a broader sense, the end of the company is a landmark in a four-generation saga of a family that owned tens of thousands of acres and built homes that hundreds of thousands of people lived in.
The company was close to celebrating its hundredth birthday.
"To call it a tragic ending is too dramatic. Wistful is a word that springs to my mind more," Larry Janss said.
The family's holdings were split in three in 1981, and since then the development company has been less active.
"I have the deepest respect and admiration for my cousin, Bill, and I hope that life after the Janss Corp. is satisfying and fruitful for him," Janss said. "Bill is a cat and he'll land on his feet."