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Culver Studios to seek buyer

Culver Studios, in operation in Culver City since 1918, may fetch as much as $150 million, according to real estate experts.

September 28, 2011|By Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times

Culver Studios, the storied movie lot that brought the world "Citizen Kane" and other classics, is about to be put up for sale.

The lot, in operation in Culver City since 1918, may fetch as much as $150 million, according to real estate experts familiar with the independent studio, where television shows and movies are made.

That's a heady price, but 14 acres on the Westside is intrinsically valuable, and the studio's provenance includes Hollywood royalty.

Silent screen pioneer Thomas Ince founded the studio on Washington Boulevard, and it was expanded by its next owner, the legendary film mogul Cecil B. DeMille. Other owners have included David O. Selznick, Joseph Kennedy, Howard Hughes, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Grant Tinker and Sony Corp.

The timing is right to sell, said James Cella, president of Culver Studios. "There's an opportunity now," he said.

Selling the property are private equity fund Pacific Coast Capital Partners, New York investor Ron Pickett and a remnant of equity fund Lehman Bros. They bought it for more than $100 million in 2004 and tried to sell it before the financial crises that began in 2008 pushed Lehman into bankruptcy.

Los Angeles real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis will kick off the sale next week, broker Kevin Shannon said.

Top bids may come from a Hollywood mogul who wants his own studio or someone with a burning desire to become a Hollywood player — and perhaps rename it for himself.

"It's truly an emotional asset," Shannon said.

More hard-nosed bidders might include investment funds and public real estate companies such as Hudson Pacific Properties, the owner of Sunset Gower Studios and Sunset Bronson Studios.

Culver Studios lost one of its largest tenants, the syndicated game show "Deal or No Deal," in 2009 to Waterford, Conn.

"We continue to have runaway production issues here in California," Cella said. "I believe that is going to subside. As more states look at their tax credit programs, more productions are going to come back."

roger.vincent@latimes.com

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