Whitehall Street Buys Most of Hillman Assets : Real estate: $450-million sale of a majority of the O.C. firm creates a joint venture whose holdings include 39 properties encompassing 5.3 million square feet of space across the nation.


A real estate partnership managed by Goldman, Sachs & Co. paid $450 million Wednesday for most of the assets of Hillman Properties, a management and development company in Newport Beach.

Whitehall Street Real Estate Ltd. Partnership has bought what amounts to most of the commercial real estate holdings of Pittsburgh billionaire Henry Hillman. The purchase creates a joint venture, WCB Properties, whose holdings now include 39 office and commercial properties encompassing 5.3 million square feet of space across the nation, plus tracts of undeveloped land.

"This is a vote of confidence on the part of the Wall Street investment community in real estate, particularly Southern California real estate," said Sanford Goodkin, a real estate consultant in San Diego. "Hillman's portfolio has concentrations in Orange and San Diego counties. And Hillman has always been known for quality."

Hillman, whose fortune is estimated at more than $2 billion, inherited his father's coal and chemical business, then built a real estate empire. The 76-year-old mogul is reportedly selling his real estate holdings for estate planning purposes.

Not included in the purchase are two prime pieces of Hillman property in Southern California: a parcel along the Harbor Freeway in downtown Los Angeles where the company said it plans to develop a 20,000-seat sports arena and Unocal Corp.'s headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Also excluded are about 200 undeveloped acres in Seal Beach.

Michael R. Chase, who has headed Hillman Properties since 1974, will be president and chief executive officer of WCB Properties. Coleman J. Benedict, head of Hillman's northeast operations, will also be a partner in WCB, which takes its name from the first letters of Whitehall, Chase and Benedict.

"This new venture responds to changes in the real estate industry over the past few years," Chase said in a statement Wednesday. "Hillman Co. has been able to realize the value of part of its extensive real estate portfolio, and the Goldman, Sachs partnership has met its goal of purchasing high-quality, income-producing real estate assets."

Hillman Properties was formed in 1974 as an affiliate of Hillman Co., a private investment company based in Pittsburgh. It will retain ownership of number of holdings that will be managed by WCB Properties.

Whitehall, with more than $3 billion in assets, typically buys distressed real estate portfolios from financial institutions. The Hillman purchase is the highest-quality portfolio the fund has acquired, a Goldman, Sachs official said Wednesday.

WCB Properties is expected to acquire other properties for development and might eventually form a real estate investment trust to sell stakes to the public, the Goldman, Sachs official said.

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