Culver Studios, a historic independent studio where “Gone with the Wind” and “Citizen Kane” were filmed, is changing hands.
Lehman Bros. Holdings has reached an agreement to sell the Culver City property to Hackman Capital Partners, a Los Angeles real estate investment firm, two sources familiar with the matter said.
The transaction, expected to close this week, is among former Lehman assets being sold off following the investment firm’s 2008 bankruptcy filing.
Hackman Capital is buying the property for $85 million, close to what Lehman and other investors paid Sony Pictures Entertainment a decade ago for the 14-acre Washington Boulevard property, sources said. Lehman made several previous unsuccessful attempts to sell the historic studio.
The sale marks the latest twist in Culver Studios' century-long history. The studio was built by silent movie producer Thomas Ince in 1918 and was purchased six years later by legendary producer and director Cecil B. DeMille. Other owners have included filmmakers David O. Selznick, Joseph Kennedy and Howard Hughes, and TV producers Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, and Grant Tinker.
Over the decades, Culver Studios hosted some of the biggest films in Hollywood but struggled in the last decade as more production moved out of state. The studio was especially hard hit in 2009 when the syndicated game show “Deal or No Deal” moved to Connecticut to take advantage of tax credits.
In 2007, the studio became enmeshed in an ugly legal dispute with the former managers, Hal Katersky and his partner Dana Arnold. In a lawsuit, studio owners alleged “various acts of fraud and embezzlement” occurred when Katersky and Arnold managed the studio from 2004 to 2006.
Katersky called the accusations “unsubstantiated and unfounded” and said the lawsuit was a ploy to thwart the growth of Katersky’s Pacifica Ventures, which operates rival Albuquerque Studios in New Mexico. The case was settled confidentially in 2008.
Culver Studios currently houses ABC's “Cougar Town” and “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
A spokeswoman for Hackman, which manages more than 25 million square feet of industrial and office properties, declined to comment on the transaction, which was first reported by Deadline.
But an investment summary obtained by The Times indicated the company plans to continue operating the historic property as a studio space.
“We intend to maintain a major portion of the studio but add significant value to the property by implementing a redevelopment plan that will add approximately 330,000 square feet of new creative office space and a 1,300 car parking structure,” the summary said. “When completed, the project will have 409,000 square feet of office space, 124,000 square feet of stage and support areas and 1,800 parking spaces with improved loading, storage and access.”
To operate the studio, Hackman is working with Raleigh Studios, one of the largest independent studio operators in North America, the summary said.
Although L.A. has seen a sharp fall in feature film productions, Culver Studios could benefit from its proximity to various new media companies looking for studio space to film Web-based shows.
“It's an ideal location,” said Carl Muhlstein, managing director for Jones Lang LaSalle. “I believe they can be successful if they play it right.”