The latest indication of the severity of Robert Maguire’s financial woes surfaced last week, as the prominent Los Angeles developer engaged in “intensive discussions” to retain control of the big Playa Vista project near Marina del Rey.
A Santa Monica engineering firm, Psomas & Associates, filed a lawsuit against Maguire Thomas Partners, seeking permission from Los Angeles Superior Court to foreclose on Playa Vista.
While the claim involving Psomas about $1 million is a pittance relative to Maguire Thomas Partners’ other financial obligations on the $8 billion Playa Vista project, it is the latest in a series of mounting difficulties facing Maguire.
Also last week, an investor team comprised of Beverly Hills-based Pacific Capital Group, Morgan Stanley & Co., Goldman Sachs & Co. and ULLICO Inc. became eligible to take its Playa Vista foreclosure action one step closer to conclusion, but opted not to.
The investor team recently purchased an 83-percent stake in Playa Vista’s mortgage, originally a $150 million loan which is now $195 million in default.
The team became eligible as of June 10 to file a “notice of trustee sale,” the final filing required before a property can be auctioned off.
But the investment group had not filed that notice as of late last week because it was pursuing “intense discussions” with Maguire, according to a source close to the talks.
The group is hoping to use its position as mortgage holder to wrest control of Playa Vista from Maguire, infuse new capital into the project and restructure the debt. The group plans to retain Maguire as a partner in Playa Vista, but in a diminished role, the source said.
The team’s attempt to gain control of the Playa Vista project through its debt stake follows an unsuccessful earlier attempt by a Pacific Capital-led group to close a Playa Vista equity investment deal with Maguire.
The new Pacific Capital-Morgan-Goldman-ULLICO group bought the Playa Vista mortgage from the original Chase Manhattan Bank-led lender, which had initiated foreclosure proceedings on the Playa Vista property in March.
If the mortgage-holding investment team is successful in gaining control of Playa Vista, it plans to commence construction on the first phase of the 1,087-acre project “as soon as possible,” a well-placed source said in an interview last month.
Getting construction started on the long-stalled project is considered essential to retaining Playa Vista’s prime anchor tenant, DreamWorks SKG, which plans to develop its studio campus on the site. It would be the first major entertainment studio to be built in the L.A. area in more than 50 years.