The Real Deal New York

Robert Shapiro’s Woodbridge files for bankruptcy, Disney to lease Fox’s Century City site, and more…

Los Angeles briefs
By TRD L.A. Staff | January 01, 2018 01:00PM

Robert Shapiro with Adam Rosenfeld, Kyle Giese (Photo illustration by Jhila Farzaneh for The Real Deal. Credit: Mercer Vine, Getty Images)

Inside Woodbridge and Mercer Vine 

Robert Shapiro, the chief of embattled real estate investment firm Woodbridge Group of Companies, has resigned from the firm, the company announced on Dec. 4. Woodbridge also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it said in the announcement, as part of a process “intended to restructure its approximately $750 million in debt.”

The move represents a dramatic fall from grace for Shapiro and Woodbridge, which is now under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for potentially orchestrating a major fraud, which The Real Deal reported on in November. In a subsequent investigation on Dec. 1, TRD revealed that Shapiro was the quiet force behind Mercer Vine, a much-buzzed-about residential brokerage in the city. According to the announcement, Mercer resigned from Woodbridge that same day.

Mercer Vine, which had its corporate registration with the state of California suspended in September, had an unusually close relationship with Woodbridge. Its top producers and purported founders — Adam Rosenfeld, Kyle Giese and Domonic Labriola — were obscure figures in the industry. And as it turns out, Shapiro is identified at different times as the president, secretary and manager of Mercer Vine, documents filed with the California secretary of state show. In statements sent to TRD, Rosenfeld maintained that Shapiro was merely a “key contributor to our startup three years ago.”

And despite its suspension, Mercer Vine is going about business as usual. It has closed at least 18 deals since September, according to an analysis of the Multiple Listing Service and Redfin. Jonas Grant, an L.A.-based attorney who practices corporate entities law, said that as a business without a valid corporation registration, “you’re basically dead in the water until you fix the problem.”

Disney to lease Fox’s Century City site

As part of the $52.4 billion acquisition that’s sending shock waves through the entertainment industry, Walt Disney Co. will lease the massive Fox studio site in Century City for seven years, 21st Century Fox President Peter Rice said in a conference call with employees last month.

Real estate insiders told Deadline that the 52-acre lot on Pico Boulevard could be valued at up to $1.8 billion.

About 1.8 million square feet of the 2.3 million-square-foot property was developed as of 2015, when Fox submitted a “master plan” to the city to develop another 1.1 million square feet, Deadline reported. The county assessor’s office in June said the remaining undeveloped land was valued at around $422 million.

Developers seeking out ‘gritty’ neighborhoods

“Grit-tastic”?

That’s the latest term being used to describe luxury projects in seedy neighborhoods, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Several of these projects have risen in far-from-gentrified areas, including Trumark Urban’s Ten50 in South Park — a Downtown Los Angeles neighborhood where crime is still high compared to other parts of the city.

“We have projects that are gritty and fantastic. We talk about them being ‘grit-tastic,’” Trumark Urban managing director Arden Hearing told the WSJ.

The San Francisco-based developer has sold condos at Ten50 for anywhere from $500,000 to $4 million since launching sales in 2016.

Developers are betting on these buildings’ amenities and shifting consumer preferences, rather than the specific neighborhood. They’ll also follow high-profile employers, who tend to revitalize areas with their educated workforce and influx of capital.