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Talent Agency Scores Callback in Beverly Hills

As Beverly Hills and Los Angeles fight over keeping businesses within their city limits, United Talent Agency Inc. has struck a clever deal.

It has convinced Beverly Hills to guarantee that UTA will receive comparable incentives provided to other entertainment, talent or literary agencies thinking of leaving the city over the next 15 years.

The City Council approved that provision last week as part of a broader agreement with the talent agency, which signed a 15-year lease last year with landlord Tishman Speyer Properties to move into the former Hilton Hotels Corp. headquarters at 9326 and 9346 Civic Center Drive.

Even though UTA will remain within the city limits after moving from its current office at 9560 Wilshire Blvd., the agency said it would only be fair that it receive any future incentives since it had turned down an offer to move to Los Angeles, which included a three-year break on that city’s gross receipts tax.

Beverly Hills has already lost two car dealerships – Beverly Hills BMW and Beverly Hills Porsche – to Los Angeles in the last the year. Both cited the L.A. gross receipts tax break as a contributing factor, and now Beverly Hills officials are considering incentives to retain existing companies.

However, the deal the Beverly Hills council approved May 1 does not guarantee UTA will receive incentives given to attract businesses outside city limits. And, should more than one Beverly Hills company receive an incentive, the City Council would have to determine on a case-by-case basis an equitable incentive to provide to UTA.

Other provisions of the agreement call for moving the location of the city’s Sunday farmers market so it doesn’t block car access to the building. (UTA offices are open Sunday.) The agency also was given the right to use the Civic Center Plaza for events during the year.

“I am delighted that United Talent Agency has reaffirmed its commitment to Beverly Hills as its headquarters site,” said Beverly Hills Mayor Willie Brien. “UTA is one of most successful and prestigious entertainment companies in the business and a perfect fit for our community.”

UTA expects to move into its 120,000 square feet of office space this summer. It’s unclear whether the company could have backed out of its lease had the city agreement not been ratified.

New Online Venture

Looking for a commercial real estate loan but not sure which lender has the best rate? L.A. real estate veteran Michael Koss thinks he may have a solution.

Koss has developed an online portal that allows borrowers to search a lender database and compare rates side by side.

“A loan on a small property at an interest rate that is marginally lower can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings,” he said.

The website, KossREsource.com, allows a user two free loan searches but requires a paid membership, ranging from $100 to $280 monthly. It also provides free ready-to-use commercial real estate and legal documents, such as standard leases, for users to download. It also includes a social component for commercial real estate professionals, similar to LinkedIn, that allows for referrals and reviews of companies and individuals.

It may be hard to believe but no such comprehensive site exists for commercial real estate nationally now, Koss said. The site, which is still in test mode, already has hundreds of lenders’ loan programs in the database, which are added for free but companies can opt to pay for higher placement on the web page. Koss added that dozens of commercial real estate professionals and companies are already using the service in test mode.

He has a growing team of 35 employees now working to beef up the site, which will include a list of 1,500 debt programs from 400 lenders.

Koss, whose Koss Real Estate Investments owns the Malibu Country Mart retail center, has been funding the site himself but hopes to generate revenue through advertising and memberships. The site is scheduled to go live May 20.

Luxury on the Rise

Luxury homes in Los Angeles sold faster and at higher prices in the first quarter than they did in the same period last year, according to Westside Estate Agency.

The high-end residential brokerage analyzed the sales of homes priced higher than $3 million in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Malibu and Brentwood.

It found that the average time those homes spent on the market fell almost 19 percent to 117 days from 144, while the median sales price jumped 20 percent to $5.1 million from $4.25 million. It also found that the gap between listing and sales prices had closed by almost 47 percent.

WEA broker Bill Kerbox, who conducted the study, said that the increasing health of the larger housing market and potential buyers seeking to take advantage of historically low interest rates and lower prices are helping boost the luxury market.

“At a time when supplies are decreasing and prices are inching up, homeowners wishing to pay (more for) a larger property are at an advantage,” he said. “This growth in activity and buyer confidence is a significant step in the continued growth of the local luxury marketplace.”

Staff reporter Jacquelyn Ryan can be reached at jryan@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 228.

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