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Sale of old Columbia headquarters finalized

August 16, 2007|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

The $200-million sale of one of Hollywood's most famous film lots, the former Columbia Pictures headquarters, has closed and is now in the hands of a new Los Angeles investment company.

The 15-acre lot has one of the richest histories in the entertainment industry, dating to a tiny studio that tycoon Harry Cohn bought in 1920 on Sunset Boulevard between Gower Street and Beachwood Drive.

Investment firm Hudson Capital bought Sunset-Gower Studios from GI Partners, a Menlo Park-based private equity firm, as first reported in June.

Hudson Capital will invest in further improvements to the site, managing partner Victor Coleman said, though he declined to say how much they would cost. "We are going to upgrade amenities such as the commissary, production facilities and offices," he said.

Hudson will also finish developing a six-story office building on the studio lot that will be fully occupied by tenant Technicolor Inc. by the end of May 2008, Coleman said. His company's strategy is to make Sunset-Gower one of the region's few studios that offers preproduction, production and postproduction services for movie and television show makers.

"Other studios don't offer the full cycle," Coleman said.

Sunset-Gower Studios is the first major acquisition by Hudson, which was formed a year ago after Coleman stepped down from the presidency of Arden Realty Inc., a Los Angeles office landlord. Arden was sold to General Electric Co. for $3.2 billion.

Coleman said he intended to pursue the acquisition of other independently owned studios. "I'm a big believer in real estate that already has operating businesses," he said.

GI Partners bought the historic studio and nearby Nickelodeon Theater in late 2004 for $110 million and then conducted a $10-million modernization campaign that included building one of the largest computer visual effects stages in the region, said Andrew Tainiter, a managing director at GI.

It sold the Nickelodeon property for about $25 million last year and is looking for other real estate opportunities in the area. "We definitely are interested in continuing to invest in Hollywood," he said.

Movies and TV programs are filmed on 12 soundstages at Sunset-Gower, said studio chief Robert Papazian, who will continue to be a consultant to the new owners as he heads back toward his industry roots.

"I have been a producer for 35 years," Papazian said. "I have arrangements that will probably take me in that direction again."

Productions currently shooting at Sunset-Gower Studios include NBC's hit series "Heroes," Showtime's "Dexter" and Touchstone's "October Road."

In the past, some of Columbia's most noteworthy films were shot there, including "It Happened One Night," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "Funny Girl."

GI Partners was represented by CB Richard Ellis in the sale of the studio.

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roger.vincent@latimes.com

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