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Donald Koll Will Give Up CEO Position


Donald Koll, one of Southern California's leading commercial real estate developers, is stepping down as chief executive of the company that he founded nearly 40 years ago.

Koll, 67, will remain chairman of Koll Development Co. in Newport Beach.

Succeeding him as CEO is Steven Van Amburgh, 48, who has directed Koll's Dallas office for 12 years.

Analysts say the management change signals a strategic shift by Koll to put greater emphasis on more conservative projects, rather than the high-risk speculative building that has been its staple in California.

"Somebody is thinking about the overall economy and saying, 'We don't want to get into an exposed position,' " said Rick Chichester, a managing director at commercial brokerage CB Richard Ellis' office in Anaheim. "They want to be cautious."

Donald Koll has a stake in CB Richard Ellis and is part of a group that has made a bid to buy the firm, which is based in Los Angeles.

Van Amburgh said Tuesday that, given the prospects for slower economic growth over the next year or two, Koll wants to create a more balanced portfolio between so-called spec buildings and those built specifically with certain tenants in mind.

Koll has 49 projects under construction nationwide, half of them in California, with a total value of more than $1 billion. About 80% of Koll's California projects are spec buildings.

Koll won't be abandoning spec building in California--in fact, the company plans to announce shortly new speculative projects of about 250,000 square feet each in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. But Van Amburgh said that over the next one to two years, half of new projects will be build-to-suit.

Van Amburgh, a native of the Dallas area, said the decision to shift course came from Koll himself.

Koll started the company in 1962 as a general contractor.

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