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Moiso Selling Home-Building Unit to CCL Development

Real estate: President of debt-laden Santa Margarita Co. cuts costs by divesting San Juan Group. Combined companies will be called Vintage Communities Inc.

November 12, 1996|MELINDA FULMER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA — In another move to cut costs in his South County real estate empire, Santa Margarita Co. President Anthony R. Moiso is selling the company's home-building affiliate, San Juan Group Inc., to Irvine builder CCL Development Inc.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

San Juan Group, which is owned by a partnership of Moiso and Santa Margarita Co. Chairman Richard O' Neill, oversees the development of the 1,000-acre Las Flores community in southern Orange County.

CCL has residential developments in Monarch Beach, Topanga Canyon and Temecula.

Once the deal is completed next month, the combined companies will become Vintage Communities Inc., an Irvine-based land developer and builder with 30 employees. Vintage will be headed by CCL owner David Chang, who becomes chairman and chief executive officer. Matthew K. Osgood, San Juan Group president, will be president.

Osgood said his company lacked the funds needed "to be really competitive in land development or in the home-building industry."

Osgood said CCL's Chang is backed by family and other Hong Kong investors, which provides stable finances. In turn, San Juan Group gives management expertise and access to large landholders and other institutional partners.

"It's a good fit," said Jeff Meyers, of the Meyers Group, an Irvine real estate consultant. "CCL has the land San Juan needed to build on, but it needed a strong management team."

Meyers said that to this point CCL had been a very entrepreneurial company doing everything from providing equity to partners like Warmington Homes and Bramalea California Inc., to building custom and production homes. It builds 75 to 100 homes a year.

Analysts say that for the most part, home-building activity by the San Juan Group had been put on hold while Moiso concentrated on paying off debts and lining up a partner for Ladera, the new 4,000-acre community that Santa Margarita Co. is planning with Phoenix-based DMB Associates.

It is building one project in Las Flores called Avelino. Land for another 105-home planned community, Ballantree, that was to be developed by San Juan, is being sold to Shea Homes.

Osgood said Moiso decided to sell the company because he could not devote enough time and resources to it.

"Ladera is very management intensive and is a 15-year project," Osgood said.

He added that Vintage would continue to manage Las Flores, which has 70 acres and 600 homes left to build out.

It also would consider future building opportunities on Santa Margarita Co. land.

Vintage will focus on niches that most public home builders here would avoid, such as high-end homes. For example, Vintage's first project will be a 105-home community called Peninsula Pointe in Rancho Palos Verdes, where homes will sell for about $900,000.

Over the next few years, Osgood expects the company to build between 250 and 500 homes annually, depending on the land it buys. In addition, it plans to complete processing the entitlements for an 800-home project in Chino Hills called Fairfield Ranch, which it will likely sell.

"We plan to be real active in analyzing potential opportunities beginning next year," Osgood said.

San Juan Group was founded in 1990, and purchased by the Santa Margarita Co. from investors in 1994. That same year, the company was merged with the home-building arm of apartment manager and developer Western National Group.

Osgood, president of Western National Homes, was brought over to head the new company. Western National bought a 45% stake in the company, with Santa Margarita Co. controlling 55%. The new company was supposed to build apartments for Western National as well as homes.

It was to be the first step of a merger between the two companies, but that deal fell through late last year when Santa Margarita's heavy debt load prompted Western National officials to reconsider.

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