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Irvine Co. Moving Closer to New Stock Offering

Real estate: The county's recession is over and good times lie ahead, Bren tells investment trust shareholders.


IRVINE — Multibillionaire developer Donald L. Bren, pronouncing the long recession "history," said Tuesday that a public offering of more parts of his privately held Irvine Co. could come before the end of the year.

The company is "studying" possible offers of some of its vast real estate holdings through a real estate investment trust, Bren said at the annual meeting of Irvine Apartment Communities Inc.

Irvine Apartments, sold on Wall Street as an investment trust in 1993, is the only publicly traded division of the Irvine Co., Orange County's largest landowner.

Bren said the new investment trusts "could be [created] this year or it could be next year." He wouldn't be more specific. "But we're moving forward," he said.

The Irvine Co. also continues to ponder the potential for expanding beyond the 90-square-mile Irvine Ranch to build new apartment projects in San Francisco or San Diego.

"We are studying several properties," Bren said. "We spent a fair amount of time in 1995 looking at two or three properties, but a decision has not been made."

Looking more relaxed than usual and peppering his prepared remarks with a few jokes, Bren said he was bullish on the county's economic prospects for this year.

"Real estate values in the county are stabilizing and have begun to inch their way back up," he said. "I believe there will be full resolution of the bankruptcy by July 1 and that will be a real relief.

"In short, the recession is history," he said.

He also fielded shareholders' questions about Irvine Apartments and the local economy.

On why no women sit on the nine-member board of Irvine Apartments, he said, "We have women in high levels in our company and in the future there will be women on the board."

On the proposed airport to replace the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, he said, "I really think over the long run, if there is an airport, it would bring additional trade and be beneficial to the county."

Irvine Apartments, which owns apartment units in Orange County, reported net income of $8.5 million last year, 16% higher than the $7.3 million earned the previous year.

The annual meeting, held at the Hyatt Regency Irvine, was crowded with shareholders, many curious to see Bren.

One valet said he was hoping to see Bren's car when it pulled up to the hotel, but found that Bren always parks his car himself. "Bren thinks the $7 for valet parking is too much," the valet said.

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