Biggest Investor

Winner

Arden Realty Inc.

Brentwood

Runners Up

Douglas Emmett & Co.

TrizecHahn Properties

Toronto

Despite a tough year for real estate investment trusts, Arden Realty Inc. still managed to claim the distinction as 1998's largest investor in L.A. County.

Arden, a REIT that acquires, owns, leases and manages commercial property, invested $360 million for acquisitions totaling 2.4 million square feet.

The company's high-profile purchases included the 266,000-square-foot 600 Corporate Pointe building in Culver City. The building was part of a $615 million portfolio acquired from Newport Beach-based AEW/Layton-Belling & Associates. Arden also bought the Howard Hughes Center, which represents 70 acres of land and structures, for $33 million. In addition, the company added 9100 Wilshire Blvd. the site of its headquarters to its portfolio for $65.1 million.

Arden's property management side also was busy, because the 31 office properties acquired in 1997 presented new leasing opportunities. The firm signed over 900 lease transactions last year, totaling 4.2 million square feet. Some high-profile leases included 30,000 square feet for Smith Barney at 9665 Wilshire Blvd.; 19,000 square feet at the Writers and Artists Association at 8383 Wilshire Blvd.; and 10,000 square feet for UCLA at 1640 Sepulveda Blvd.

Although Arden had a strong overall total in 1998, most of its transactions took place during the first half of the year, when real estate was red hot. But many REITs, Arden included, suffered last summer when investors fled high-risk real estate ventures for more secure stocks. Arden has since rallied, though its stock, which traded last week in the $22.30 range, hasn't returned to its value of January 1998, when it was trading for $30.

"We definitely came into slow play. Major players who were buying and didn't have consistent access to capital stopped activity," said Victor Coleman, Arden's president and chief operating officer.

Clients say that a key to the company's current and future success is accessibility.

"You get a phone call back almost immediately. Some large real estate organizations get bogged down in process and hierarchy where you can't call this guy or that guy," said Grafton Tanquary, senior vice president of CB Richard Ellis in the South Bay. "At Arden it's team-oriented, and you can call anybody and nobody gets out of joint."

Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Ziman formed Arden in 1991. The company went public in October 1996, and has since gone through two secondary public offerings.

Nola L. Sarkisian

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