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Lennar may buy back some of Newhall Land

Posted: March 24, 2009 1:56 a.m.
Updated: March 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Reports that Lennar Corp. may buy back at least some of The Newhall Land and Farming Company is good news for the 125-year-old development firm that built Valencia, a spokeswoman said Monday.

"We're very encouraged by this recent development in our Chapter 11 case," Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for Newhall Land and Farming, said Monday. "And we look forward to emerging someday as a reorganized company."

Two different newspapers reported late last week that Lennar Corp. made overtures to buy back some or all of Newhall Land, which Lennar and partner LNR purchased for about $1 billion in 2004.

Newhall Land brought 15,000 acres of land to the table in the deal.

A Lennar/LNR joint venture, LandSource Communities Development LLC, took ownership of Newhall Land. LandSource plans and develops master-planned communities, creating ready-to-build home sites and commercial properties in Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, Nevada and Texas.

In 2007, more than 60 percent of LandSource was sold to the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS.

By 2008 the company had run into trouble restructuring its debt and defaulted on loan payments. In June 2008 it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Speculation followed about the future of Newhall Land property, especially Newhall Ranch, a massive development planned on the Los Angeles-Ventura county line.

Some envisioned a fire sale of Newhall Land property; others called for the land set aside for Newhall Ranch to be turned into a giant park.

The tentative agreement for Lennar to buy back at least some of the Newhall Land holdings would indicate Newhall Ranch could move forward. Lennar is the second-biggest homebuilder in the country.

"We know there will be a full discussion among all the constituencies as the plan moves through a process that's been defined by the bankruptcy court," Lauffer said.

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