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Watson Land Chairman Retiring

June 04, 2003|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

William T. Huston, chairman of Watson Land Co., one of Southern California's oldest and largest real estate companies, will retire this month after leading the Carson-based firm for 40 years.

During Huston's tenure, Watson grew from a 5,000-square-foot auto dealership in Wilmington to a large owner and operator of industrial parks. Today, the private real estate investment trust has 33 employees and nearly 12 million square feet of industrial, office and technology buildings and business centers.

When Huston took over the company in 1963, its primary asset was about 1,200 acres in the South Bay that dated to a Spanish land grant.

"We rented the land out generally for bean fields and truck farming," said Huston. "Now that land is pretty well filled up."

In 1964, Huston began promoting the concept of master- planned industrial parks in suburban settings. At that time, manufacturers typically located in downtown districts. Watson developed four buildings in the 1960s, then took off with construction of 36 buildings in the 1970s and 23 buildings in the 1980s. Huston reorganized the company as a REIT in 1990.

A new chairman will be named at a board meeting in three weeks. Huston, 75, said he will continue with his charitable activities that have included leadership roles with National Catholic Educational Assn. and St. Anne's Home. The former FBI agent and tax attorney also has served on several boards, including those of CalMat Co., the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Watson Land dates back two centuries to Rancho San Pedro, California's first Spanish land grant that included 75,000 acres in and around what now is Carson.

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