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Lennar VP Dismisses Mideast Buyer Story as Rumor

Reuters reports that U.A.E. investors looking at company.

Posted: March 6, 2008 1:42 a.m.
Updated: May 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Contrary to reports in a Los Angeles business newspaper, no firm from the Middle East is buying development giant Lennar Corp., the company's vice president told The Signal on Wednesday.

Marshall Ames, reached by phone in Miami, Fla., called a story in Monday's edition of the Los Angeles Business Journal "old news" and "rumors."

"That's very old news," Ames said, when asked about reports Monday that Middle Eastern investors might purchase Lennar, the parent of Valencia developer Newhall Land and Farming Co. "It's a rumor. It was fairly well discussed two weeks ago. But, we don't comment on rumors."

According to the business journal, which cited only un-named reports, financially-struggling Lennar was "sought" by a group of United Arab Emirates investors.

That's just not the case, Ames said Wednesday.

When pressed to put the reports in perspective, he said: "I've told you already, we don't comment on rumors."

Newhall Land spokes-woman Marlee Lauffer said Wednesday that, "Lennar is a 16 percent owner of Newhall Land, so any comments about Lennar investor issues have to come from their corporate offices."

Asked about ownership and direction of the Valencia company, Lauffer pointed out that Newhall Land stopped being a publicly traded company when it was purchased in 2004. Since then, Lennar has been a managing general partner in the company.

The Los Angeles Business Journal also reported that Lennar's revenues last year dropped by almost 40 percent to $10 billion, and that in the last year its stocks fell by 60 percent. However, when Reuters news service reported last week that the United Arab Emirates deal was in the works, it sparked action on the New York Stock Exchange. Forbes reported that Lennar shares rose 8.5 percent on Feb. 26.

Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston, who was quoted in the business journal, told The Signal Wednesday that the residents of Santa Clarita are savvy enough to see the larger picture.

"I think the people of Santa Clarita are sophisticated enough to realize that we live in a global economy," he said.

"Whether the people who are the owners are either from far away or from another country it does not concern the citizens as much as how interactive they are with the local people and the local government."

When it was suggested that the media might not be having this discussion if potential buyers were, for example, Swedish rather than Arab, Boydston reflected on a time two decades ago when the public was concerned about Japanese investors buying ski resorts in Colorado.

Boydston said if people are concerned about foreign ownership they should start paying attention to the issues surrounding Free Trade.

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