AirCal’s Lyon, Partner Buy Florida Firm : Pay $141 Million for Real Estate Company

Times Staff Writer

Newport Beach real estate developer and AirCal Chairman William Lyon and a former Continental Illinois National Bank executive have bought Senior Corp., a Miami Beach-based real estate firm, for $141 million.

Lyon’s partner, James D. Harper Jr., is a former executive vice president of real estate operations for Continental and president of JDH Realty, which he founded in 1982.

Lyon, whose closely held development firm is one of the West’s largest home builders, said in a telephone interview that he borrowed $31 million from Crocker National Bank for the acquisition. The remaining $110 million was financed by a group of banks headed by Barnett Bank of South Florida.

Senior Corp. was previously owned by a group of more than 130 banks. It was formed in 1980 by the senior creditors of Continental Mortgage Investors, a real estate investment trust that entered into bankruptcy proceedings in 1976.


To Develop 4 Properties

William Lyon Co. and Harper’s JDH Realty each now own 50% of Senior Corp., with Lyon serving as chairman and Harper as president. Dick J. Randall, president of William Lyon Co., will be vice chairman.

Harper said he and Lyon plan to develop four major Senior Corp. properties--two in south Florida, one in Atlanta and one near Denver--and to sell most of the other land holdings. He declined to place a value on the properties to be sold but said that a portfolio of loans and 15 income-producing properties valued at $70 million would be kept.

Senior Corp.'s holdings include 60 properties in 18 states and Puerto Rico, with many of them in California and Florida, where Lyon Co. is also active, according to Harper. He said corporate headquarters would remain in Miami Beach, where Senior Corp. has about 60 employees.


Harper added that, although no layoffs are planned, the nature of the business is such that, as properties are sold, fewer employees may be needed.

“But that takes time to accomplish,” he said.

In a prepared statement, Lyon said Senior Corp. is “one of the greatest real estate opportunities I’ve seen in my 30 years in the business. This company has some prime properties, and we intend to develop and market them actively.” In the interview, he said more-specific decisions about the properties would be made in the next 30 days.