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Western National in Joint Venture With Chicago Firm : Real estate: O.C. firm's pairing with Jupiter Realty Group, to be based in Orange, will create the United States' 14th-largest apartment manager.


ORANGE — In a move that will give it a national presence, Orange County's biggest apartment manager, Western National Group, said Friday that it has formed a joint venture with a Chicago-based commercial property manager.

The new property-management venture with Jupiter Realty Group of Chicago will be called Jupiter Western National and will be based in Orange, a Western spokeswoman said. It becomes the 14th-largest apartment manager in the United States.

"This was simply an opportunity to give us access to a lot more business," said Michael K. Hayde, president of Western National, which will continue to exist under the terms of the joint venture.

The two privately held companies did not disclose financial details. Steve F. Hallsey, president of property management for Western National, will head the new company.

Friday's announcement is the second major move this year for Orange-based Western National, which has $1.2 billion in assets.

In January, Western said it would merge with Santa Margarita Co., the Orange County ranching and land entity, to create one of the state's largest real estate concerns. That merger has not been finalized, but it will not affect the joint venture, said Terry Clarke, Western National spokeswoman.

Western manages and owns apartments in several Western states. The company also manages 51% of the 13,541 apartments owned by Irvine Apartment Communities Inc., the publicly traded arm of Orange County's largest landowner, the Irvine Co.

"We are going to monitor the situation, but we don't see any initial impact," said Tyler Rose, senior vice president of corporate finance at Irvine Apartment Communities in Newport Beach. "The joint venture gives Western access to national markets and Jupiter access to California."

In 1994, Western National filed plans with the state to go public with a $167-million real estate investment trust, but that never materialized. "Our REIT is on the shelf right now because of market conditions," Hayde said.

Jupiter Realty, founded in 1980, is a national real estate company that concentrates on managing commercial properties.

"It's the right combination," Jupiter Chairman Donald Smith said in a statement. "Combined, we have a strong national presence with divisional or regional offices in 31 states. This fits well with Western National's strength, which lies in its long history of developing and managing multifamily assets."

Western National was founded in 1963. It has about 26,000 apartment units, and its annual revenue last year was about $210 million. The company manages apartments in Florida, Texas, Washington, Oregon, California and other states.

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