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SunCal’s N.M. Land Out of Bankruptcy, in Receivership

RESIDENTIAL

Irvine-based SunCal Cos.’ largest proposed project—a 55,000-acre housing development planned near Albuquerque, N.M.—is no longer in bankruptcy. But the master developer still has a tough battle on its hands if it wants to retain an ownership stake or a management role in the land’s development.

The massive property, which is twice the size of Boston, now is being run by a court-appointed receiver.

There could be a chance that the project’s main lender—Barclays Capital Real Estate Inc., a unit of Barclays PLC—could push for a sale of the Albuquerque land, removing SunCal’s involvement in the development.

So far, no action has been taken by the lender to complete the foreclosure process, according to SunCal officials.

“We remain hopeful that a deal will be able to be worked out with the lender,” SunCal officials said last week in a statement.

SunCal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April for its New Mexico project, which operates under the Westland DevCo LP name.

The developer and New York-based financier, D.E. Shaw & Co. of New York, paid about $250 million for the land in late 2006.

Barclays said it was owed more than $180 million in loans for the project and was pushing to foreclose on the land prior to the bankruptcy filing.

The filing was made to “explore all alternatives for restructuring the project’s loan in a challenging real estate market,” SunCal said at the time.

Barclays contested SunCal’s claims, saying in court filings that it was a “financial pipe dream” that the project, which requires some $2 billion in infrastructure work, was financially viable.

The bank’s argument won over the bankruptcy judge in Delaware handling the proceeding. The case was dismissed, shifting legal action back to New Mexico’s district courts.

Following that decision, Barclays quickly moved ahead with efforts to seize the property. In June, the court approved a request by Barclays to place the land’s management in the hands of a court-overseen receiver. No plans for a sale of the land have been disclosed to date, but it’s rare for a developer to keep a financial stake in a property, other than as a fee manager, once a property goes into receivership.

The receiver is Douglas Wilson of San Diego-based real estate workout and consulting firm Douglas Wilson Cos. His first report with the court was filed in mid-July.

Wilson’s receivership business counts several West Coast offices. Among local properties the company’s working on is the partially built Garden Grove Galleria, just off Garden Grove Boulevard.

That proposed 126,510-square-foot commercial and housing project was slated to be eight stories, but hasn’t seen much work done since its steel frame was put up a couple years ago.

The initial developer for that project, Garden Grove Galleria LLC, defaulted on its loan a while ago.

COMMERCIAL

The Newport Beach office of Santa Ana-based Grubb & Ellis Co. has added two big names to its office brokerage team.

The company—Orange County’s second-largest brokerage based on its amount of deals—recently hired John Desper as vice president for its office group.

Desper counts 12 years of experience; he joined the company from Cresa Partners, where he was a vice president.

Prior to Cresa, Desper was with CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., where he began his career.

He represents tenants in office, flex and industrial property leasing.

He worked with Aliso Viejo’s Parker Properties Inc. in leasing up its Summit office campus.

His hiring comes a few weeks after Grubb announced that Shane Wilder joined the company as a senior vice president in its tenant advisory group, which specializes in office leasing.

Wilder joins Grubb from Studley Inc., where he worked for 11 years, most recently as a corporate managing director overseeing the company’s strategic planning and consulting group in Southern California.

His clients include Universal Building Products Inc., Chapman University, Bowne & Co., BNC Mortgage LLC, Sybron Dental Specialties, Yard House USA Inc. and Telepower.

Construction Consultants

Two locals have started Nelson+Okerlund LLC, a project management firm for the construction industry.

The Orange-based company plans to provide program management, project management and construction management services to clients throughout California.

Its specialty areas include healthcare, entertainment, government and commercial projects.

The company’s two partners, Bruce Nelson and Phil Okerlund, each count more than 28 years of industry experience.

Nelson previously was vice president of business development for McCarthy Building Co.’s Newport Beach office, one of OC’s largest construction firms.

He also previously worked for Turner Construction Co. as operations manager for the company’s healthcare division in Southern California.

Okerlund founded and was president of Orange’s Okerlund Consulting & Management.

His career also included positions at Suffolk Construction Co., DPR Construction Inc. and Swinerton Builders.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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