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Japanese Developer to Buy All of Pebble Beach Co. : Real estate: The controversial golf course magnate originally wanted a 49% stake in the resort firm. The total price may top $800 million.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A firm controlled by controversial Japanese developer Minoru Isutani has agreed to buy Pebble Beach Co., which owns some of the most prestigious golf courses in North America.

Ben Hogan Properties of Ft. Worth, owned by Isutani’s Cosmo World Co., initially had agreed to purchase a 49% stake in Pebble Beach Co.

But in a brief announcement released late Wednesday, Pebble Beach officials said Ben Hogan Properties had purchased the entire company. The 49% share was previously valued at up to $400 million, suggesting the total price may approach or exceed $800 million. Ben Hogan Properties was acquired by privately held Cosmo World in 1988 for $52 million.

The sale thus adds Pebble Beach to a growing list of U.S. trophy resort properties acquired in recent years by the Japanese, whose interest in golf has grown phenomenally. Another Japanese investment firm recently purchased the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

Pebble Beach Co., based in Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula, is currently owned by a real estate partnership known as Miller, Klutznick, Davis & Gray. Los Angeles business tycoon Marvin Davis is the best-known partner.

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“We are excited about this new alliance,” Pebble Beach Co. President Tom Oliver said in a statement. “Our combined decades of experience will assure that Pebble Beach will remain among the world’s finest golfing resorts.”

However, a spokeswoman who identified herself as a consultant to Pebble Beach Co. offered no explanation for the Japanese firm’s decision to purchase the entire company.

“There are no changes in personnel or management anticipated,” she said.

Lee Solter, a spokesman for Davis, also could not explain the change in the deal. “I know nothing about it,” Solter said, adding that he didn’t have “the slightest idea” why Isutani decided to purchase the entire Pebble Beach Co. rather than the 49% previously discussed.

“There are no surprises any more,” said Solter, declining to elaborate on the specifics of the deal.

Pebble Beach owns four golf courses, two resort hotels and hundreds of acres of undeveloped property on the Monterey Peninsula.

Cosmo World’s fiercely private principal, Isutani, recently made headlines in Japan and the United States. The Japanese press has been covering his relationship with former NTT Corp. Chairman Hisashi Shinto, who is being tried for political bribery in a stock scandal.

Last month, the Las Vegas Sun newspaper reported that Isutani’s application for a Nevada gaming license may be rejected because of his association with Shinto.

Members of Cosmo-owned country clubs in Japan have also complained that the company has oversold memberships and has reneged on pledges to allow members to resell their memberships.

Ted Honda, executive vice president of Cosmo World in Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment late Wednesday. However in a previous interview, he called the allegations against Isutani “a cheap shot and erroneous.”

Isutani serves as president of six companies. They include Cosmo World Co., which produces software in Japan; Olympic Staff Co., which makes sporting equipment, and four land development firms.

Isutani is also planning to build the Los Angeles International Golf Course in the Tujunga Wash area of the San Fernando Valley. Homeowners in the area have questioned the environmental impact of the course, although the local chamber of commerce supports the project.


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