Lumber Yard owners confirm possibility of selling

The owners of the mall on Legacy Park would prefer to find a new investor.

By Jonathan Friedman / The Malibu Times

Malibu Lumber Yard co-owners Richard Sperber and Richard Weintraub said this week that an online article for a Los Angeles retail trade paper saying the mall was up for sale for the price tag of $38 million was partially correct. They confirmed that the mall is possibly for sale, although no dollar figure has been set. But they would prefer to find an investor.

Weintraub recently announced that he and Sperber were looking for an investor for the mall because, for various reasons, Malibu Lumber had cost more money to build than they had originally planned.

“There’s nothing more I would like than to continue with Malibu Lumber,” Weintraub said, adding, “all options are on the table,” which includes selling the complex.

One difficulty the two developers are facing is a construction loan from Wells Fargo that was part of a controversial city council discussion earlier this month.

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The mall owners said the council could have put their bank loan in jeopardy when it chose to delay a vote related to the loan. The mayor said on Tuesday that the delay was in the city’s best interest and that the mall officials should invest in a public relations effort.

Malibu Lumber’s $25 million construction loan from 2008 was due to Wells Fargo in July. Usually in the development business, construction loans are quickly paid off and a long-term loan, known as a take-out loan, is acquired after that. But in these difficult economic times, Sperber and Weintraub said they were unable to obtain a take-out loan with features as satisfying as the construction loan, so they instead sought to renew the construction loan for a year, with the option for a further extension.

Wells Fargo had approved this request in concept. Because the mall is on city land and for other technical reasons, this extension request went before the council. The council members and public speakers had several questions at the Aug. 9 meeting that city staff was unable to answer to their satisfaction. As a result, the council members decided to delay the vote until the next meeting on Sept. 13. Sperber said this created a “mega issue.”

“There are lots of these headwinds that we have,” Sperber said in an interview on Friday. “That’s just another headwind. We had a good loan that is tough to get in these times, and we’re looking to renew it. This was only before the council for technical reasons.”

Weintraub said the council’s decision to delay the vote put the loan in limbo. Wells Fargo could get fed up and not want to extend the loan, Sperber said. A Wells Fargo spokesperson told The Times the bank could not comment due to customer confidentiality concerns.

Mayor Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner was the most vocal on the council about the item at the meeting. He said the city’s relationship with Malibu Lumber had become a “muddy situation.” Wagner said on Tuesday it was unfortunate the council’s decision could threaten the loan, but he was looking out for the best interest of the city.

“Although Richard Weintraub is a personal friend, friendships tend to take a second seat when it comes to civic responsibility,” Wagner said.

Wagner said Weintraub and Sperber should “do some PR.” He noted that the two have not appeared at recent council meetings when Malibu Lumber was on the agenda.

“Until residents are able to put a human face and warm smile to the situation, of course they are going to be wary,” Wagner said. When told about this statement, Weintraub said he would attend the Sept. 13 meeting.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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