Malibu Yogurt sold; Malibu Inn in escrow

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The new owner of Malibu Yogurt says he plans to keep the popular frozen yogurt shop mostly the same. The sale of The Malibu Inn may face complications.

By Olivia Damavandi / Staff Writer

One longtime Malibu establishment has been sold and another has gone into escrow. The 22-year owner of Malibu Yogurt, Diana Nielson, has sold her business to Don Wildman, and The Malibu Inn is in escrow, although the sale may face complications.

Longtime Malibu resident Don Wildman’s son, Don Wildman Jr., will operate Malibu Yogurt. The iconic yogurt and ice cream shop will remain under the same title and keep all current employees, most of whom are current or past Pepperdine students.

Wildman is a 25-year Malibu resident who started what is today Bally Total Fitness. The fitness aficionado recently participated in a Senior Olympics competition, and is regularly seen dining at Coogie’s Beach Café with longtime friend Laird Hamilton.

“Don and his wife, Rebecca, were two of our very first customers,” Neilsen said. “So the Wildmans were very involved with Malibu Yogurt before they bought it. “

Wildman Jr. said, “My father loves yogurt, he’s loved it forever.”

Neilsen, a Los Angeles native, said Malibu Yogurt was owned by two Santa Monica architects and had existed for one year at Cross Creek where Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is now located before she bought it.

When asked why she chose to sell Malibu Yogurt, Neilsen said she had been thinking about retirement.

“I was probably going to sell it in a couple of years because I’ve had it for a long time and because my husband is retired,” she said. “I thought I’d make it to 25 [years] but it’s time.”

Nielsen added, “Don [Wildman] has been jokingly asking me for over 10 years, ‘When are you going to sell the store?’ and when he hit me at that [right] moment, it just worked.”

Store operator and Calabasas resident Wildman Jr. said very little would change at the yogurt store.

“This business has already been developed and I have big shoes to fill,” he said. “It’s a very successful business and it’s a great opportunity.”

Wildman Jr. said it is too early to say whether he and his father will open a yogurt shop in any additional locations.

Neilsen had been approached about opening a Malibu Yogurt in West Malibu but, she said, “One of the problems was the hiring of Pepperdine employees. You want Pepperdine employees, and the university is right here.”

The Wildmans are also undecided on whether they will change the interior “vintage” décor, some of which is as old as the business itself. “We’re thinking about it but we don’t know. That’s going to be a joint decision,” Wildman Jr. said.

Perhaps the question on most customers’ minds is whether the Wildmans are going to keep the famous “Buy 10 get 1 Free” punch cards.

“Absolutely,” Wildman Jr. said. “We’re probably going to punch them for ice cream, too. We want people who like the business to keep coming back.”

Of Malibu Yogurt, Neilson said she would miss her employees and customers most. “It’s a people business,” she said.

Buyer of Malibu Inn unknown

Though real estate broker Tony Dorn said he expects to close escrow on the $10.5 million sale of The Malibu Inn in two months, there are major complications.

Dorn said the April death of owner Mitchell Stewart left his wife, Nurit Petri, “trying to pick up the pieces and move on. That’s why she listed the property for sale, otherwise she wouldn’t have sold it. She loves it.”

Dorn would not reveal the name of the purchaser, who wants to remain anonymous.

However, Petri is being sued by David Seror, a debtor of one of a series of companies formed and controlled by Petri and Stewart, in an automated finance bankruptcy case.

Calls to Petri were unreturned.

The Malibu Times initially called The Malibu Inn last week after hearing rumors that it had been sold. The person who answered the phone would not state her name, but referred to herself as the manager. When asked to speak with the owner, she first said he had died, and then said an owner no longer exists. She said she found out a few weeks ago that The Malibu Inn is in escrow, and that she had no more information.

As of yet, The Malibu Inn has not filed for bankruptcy, and its buyers will not be revealed until escrow closes.