Disney Deal Still in Tomorrowland, Farmer Says : Real estate: Anaheim’s Hiroshi Fujishige tells the entertainment giant’s No. 2 officer that his family’s strawberry field will not be for sale for at least three years.
Hiroshi Fujishige, whose Anaheim strawberry farm stands in the path of a multibillion-dollar Walt Disney Co. expansion, was introduced to the entertainment giant’s president and chief operating officer last week and was apparently underwhelmed.
Sticking to a strategy that has baffled developers and entertained surrounding landowners for years and has so far kept the Disney Co. at bay, the farmer told Frank Wells, the Disney chief, that his prime, 58-acre parcel--just south of Disneyland--is not for sale.
“I don’t really want to hurt those guys,” said Fujishige, who had to telephone his bookkeeper to recall Wells’ name. “I told them (Disney executives) that it was not for sale or lease, not right now. Maybe in another three or four years it will be a different story.”
Fujishige said he, his sister-in-law, Carolyn, and the family’s bookkeeper were invited to meet with Wells in a Disneyland Hotel office.
The meeting came after a series of talks between the family and Disney representatives over the past several months in which the company has tried to gain control of the property at 1854 Harbor Blvd. The company has reportedly targeted Anaheim for a second and possibly third theme park.
Before revealing plans for a $1-billion second attraction in Anaheim, the company has been acquiring property surrounding Disneyland to accommodate the project. Anaheim is vying with Long Beach to land the lucrative second-gate deal.
In December, the company paid $1.3 million an acre for a 23-acre former mobile home park off Katella Avenue and bordering the Fujishige strawberry field.
Fujishige, 68, said he rejected as too low a $32-million deal the company reportedly offered for a long-term lease on his property.
The farmer said he was invited to the meeting with Wells so Disney officials could become acquainted with him and his family.
“It was a good meeting,” Fujishige said. “We didn’t talk price or anything. He said he didn’t know about the trailer park (next door) selling for a million an acre. He said he would go find out about it.”
Fujishige said he wants to hang on to the property for at least another three years, until he is ready to retire.
By then, he said, the property could be worth “double.”
Irwin Okun, Disney’s senior vice president for communications, confirmed that Wells’ April 4 meeting with Fujishige had been a chance for Disney’s No. 2 executive to “get to know” the landowner.
“Mr. Wells is a very hands-on manager, and he wanted to meet this gentleman,” Okun said.
Wells considers the meeting to be private, Okun said, so he declined to discuss the conversations with Fujishige.
Okun said he does not believe that Wells’ personal involvement with the Anaheim landowner indicates increased interest in the property.
“Mr. Wells is a distinguished attorney to begin with, and he has been involved in many negotiations with Disney in the past,” Okun said.
Disney is just one of a string of developers who have tried to gain control of the Fujishige family’s farmland, which is shadowed by high-rise hotels that line the Harbor Boulevard entry to Disneyland.
To area landowners and city officials, the farm has become closely identified with the 1986 suicide of Fujishige’s brother, Masao. At the time of the suicide, Fujishige said, his brother had been in declining health and the family was battling to keep the city from building access roads across the property.
“They have a lot of land to develop yet,” the farmer said, referring to Disney’s recent property acquisitions in Anaheim. “I don’t want to hurt Disney, but shucks, I still got kids in school.”