BentleyForbes Sketches Ambitious Multi-Year Acquisition Plans

Current economic woes aren’t discouraging long-term planning in commercial real estate investment, not if the latest plans by privately held BentleyForbes are any indication. At the moment, the Century City, Calif.-based company owns a portfolio worth about $3 billion, including office, hotel, resort and single-tenant corporate properties. Its plan is to expand that portfolio to $12 billion by 2014. The key to such expansive plans? Partnerships with institutional funds or other private equity sources, according to the company. Such access to equity will prepare BentleyForbes for entering various international markets, continuing to buy within its core asset classes (office, hotel, resort and single-tenant corporate), and taking on new development or redevelopments. “Our primary focus will continue to be multitenant office assets in urban cores, places with high barriers to entry,” Bert Dezzutti, COO of BentleyForbes, told CPN. “Now is the time to be out there. Product is trading very quietly, but it is trading. Even in this environment, there are opportunities that we want to pursue aggressively.”Sellers still have various motivations to sell, even in the current market, Dezzutti explained. “There aren’t as many qualified buyers as there used to be, which is why you don’t sell a lot of assets on the market. But some owners need to sell to recapitalize or for other reasons, so there are properties out there for qualified buyers.”We’re looking for partners that have aggressive growth plans like ours,” Dezzutti continued. “We’re looking for partners who want to capitalize on our investment and operating expertise. There’s quite a bit of private equity out there, and institutional fund equity, and we’re well positioned to align with them to grow.” Since the founding of BentleyForbes in 1993 by C. Frederick Wehba (Fred Wehba Sr.) and C. Frederick Wehba II (Fred Wehba Jr.), the Wehba family has overseen the company’s growth, which has largely funded by the family trust. The elder Wehba originally made his money in Texas, specialized in buying corporate headquarters with long-term leases with the sellers, and then selling them. He and his family moved from Dallas to Los Angeles in the late 1980s. Though single-tenant properties are still important to the company, it has acquired a number of higher-profile assets over the years. These include the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas, which sits on 400 acres and includes 307 guest rooms, 124 villa rooms, and 60 Four Season for-sale condominiums now in development; Prudential Plaza, a 2.2 million-square-foot, two-tower, office complex in Chicago; Bank of America Plaza, a 1.3 million-square-foot office tower in Atlanta; Las Olas Centre, a 469,000-square-foot office complex in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; the Watergate Building, a 261,000-square-foot office and retail property in Washington, D.C.; and three Dallas office properties, the 419,000-square-foot, three-building Preston Commons, the 303,000-square-foot Sterling Plaza, and the 236,000-square-foot Park Center.