Wayne Ratkovich, founder, chairman, Ratkovich Co.

Wayne Ratkovich, founder, chairman, Ratkovich Co.

Ratkovich Co., one of the largest and most influential developers in Los Angeles, has a new chief executive.
 
Brian Saenger, who previously served as chief operating officer and general counsel at the company, took over Feb. 15 from founder Wayne Ratkovich.


Ratkovich will become the company’s chairman and act in an advisory role but will not be involved in day-to-day operations.

“We decided that the time was right. The next birthday I have will have an eight in front of it,” Ratkovich said. “Time marches on, and it’s also time for the next generation to take a leadership role and take the company in the direction that they would like it to go.”

 
Ratkovich added that he would spend more time on charitable endeavors, including working with the nonprofit Homeboy Industries and the expansion of Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center in South Park.


Saenger, who joined Ratkovich 10 years ago, has overseen operations at the company including development. Before that, he was outside counsel to the company.
The new CEO said he was “excited about the opportunity and the faith Wayne has put in me to run the company.” He added that his immediate goals were to tend to the company’s existing properties and continue its development plans.


Ratkovich Co. has had a significant presence in L.A. for nearly five decades. The company has redeveloped a number of historic properties, preserving the buildings while updating them for modern tenants.


In all, Ratkovich Co. has completed nearly 4 million square feet of projects in L.A. since 2010. The company ranked No. 12 on the Business Journal’s most recent list of top Commercial Real Estate Developers in Los Angeles County.


A new course

Company founder Ratkovich began his developer career in 1972 and launched his eponymous firm in 1977. That same year, his company purchased the Oviatt Building downtown, a 12-story art deco office and retail tower built in the 1920s.
 
The roughly 100,000-square-foot property cost $500,000, and Ratkovich said the seller thought it would be demolished to make way for a parking lot.


“We thought the building was quite a remarkable building and that we could do something with it. We decided to restore the building and rehab the building,” Ratkovich said.

 
“We didn’t know that it was a historic building until about two weeks after we bought it when the city knocked on our door and said, ‘Congratulations, you are a historic landmark.’ So, we decided to use that to our advantage. This was a time when historic buildings were not saved in Los Angeles,” he added.

 
The restoration received a lot of attention and set the company on a new course.
“It was so unique in Los Angeles to be restoring a historic building,” Ratkovich said, adding that it attracted many tenants. “It became a marketing advantage to us.”
After that, the company moved to acquire and redevelop other historic buildings and began to move away from handling industrial properties.


“It changed our company. We became an urban developer as a result of it.” Ratkovich said.


The company would work on renovations of other iconic buildings, including the Wiltern Theatre and Chapman Market in Koreatown.

 
In 2005, Ratkovich acquired 5900 Wilshire, a Miracle Mile tower that topped 30 stories, and spent $34 million overhauling the property.

 
The company has renovated 17 historic buildings in L.A. to date.


Other notable Ratkovich Co. redevelopments include the 1.8-million-square-foot mixed-used property dubbed The Bloc in downtown and the 28-acre Hercules Campus in Playa Vista.

 
The Hercules Campus counts YouTube Studios, ad agency 72andSunny and Google as tenants. The campus was previously home to Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose airplane.

 
Saenger was involved in the company’s acquisition of The Bloc and has been involved in some of the company’s ongoing developments.

 
He represented the company in negotiations of a 50-year ground lease for West Harbor, which was previously known as the San Pedro Public Market. Ratkovich Co. is working on a $150 million development of the property, and Saenger said the company was working on leasing up the property.


As chief executive, Saenger will oversee the West Harbor project. He is also seeking approval for a new residential development, called The Villages at The Alhambra, to add to office complex The Alhambra.


Seeking opportunities

Saenger is also looking for other development opportunities.
 
“We are continuing to look for opportunities, trying to find opportunities that others miss and bring our unique touch to them,” Saenger said.


He added that the company would continue to rehabilitate properties and would also look to find new uses for some asset types, similar to how they converted the Hercules Campus from industrial to creative office space.


“The model is looking at B and C product, and converting it into market leading, Class A product,” Saenger said.

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