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VICA, Westfield share successes

Posted: December 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.

VICA Chair David Adelman (Greenberg & Bass), VICA Vice Chair Francine Oschin (Oschin Partners), Keynote Speaker Peter Lowy Co-CEO Westfield Corp., Laurence Darmiento (San Fernando Valley Business Journal) and Robert Case (Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne) at Valley Industry and Commerce Association's 63rd annual meeting on Thursday.

 

By Sara Mitchell

Signal Staff Writer

After sharing some of its biggest policy successes in 2012, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association brought one of the most successful retail property groups, Westfield, to the stage to talk about global real estate.

Westfield Co-Chief Executive Officer Peter Lowy was the keynote speaker at VICA’s 63rd annual meeting on Thursday afternoon, where the business advocacy group elected its 2013 board of directors and gave out various awards.

Westfield holds $62 billion in assets in four global markets and owns Westfield Valencia Town Center. Lowy discussed the company’s 15-year journey to add the U.S., United Kingdom and New Zealand markets to the company’s Australia-based portfolio.

“We didn’t really run the business on a global basis,” Lowy said of the earlier days of expanding the market. But a hostile takeover of a Holland-based retailer with stock based in the euro, equity in the U.S., using Australian money, “fundamentally changed my way of the world.”

Lowy explained how the company is investing more capital in its larger markets — Los Angeles, New York, London, Sydney — as it began selling off 35 of its secondary properties, and will eventually sell 50 total properties. Westfield’s larger assets are taking more of the pie, while secondary properties are not recovering as fast, he said.

“The financial crisis has highlighted why this approach is necessary,” he said. Retailers are also downsizing their U.S. brick-and-mortar business because of increasing international demand and an increase in Internet shopping.

“As their leases come up, they’re actually letting them go,” he said, so Westfield has to invest more into the key properties to keep the top retailers.

About 300 VICA members ate lunch in the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills as Lowy explained other challenges of running a global company. As the head of the financial department of Westfield, Lowy has to navigate the different tax issues in each country — or even each region of one country. Westfield has to approach its Los Angeles properties much differently than its New Jersey malls. Currently, Westfield is beginning to invest in Brazil as a possible next market, but it would be the first non-English-speaking market for Westfield. But Westfield is successful in expanding globally, he said, because the company takes four or five years to “put executives on the ground” and study the markets.

Having been with Westfield since the early ’80s, Lowy has put a lot of work into the company – but sometimes it’s just luck, he said, describing the story of how Westfield purchased property in London four months before it was chosen for the 2012 Olympics. That Westfield mall became the doorway to the Olympics and Olympic Village, and 5.5 million people went through the mall during the Olympics.

Before Lowy spoke, VICA re-instated David Adelman from Greenberg & Bass as the chairman of the board.

“In 2012, we prevailed in some very big battles,” Adelman said, noting the extension of film tax credits and reforming Los Angeles’ business tax policies. “I find myself surrounded by superheroes,” he said. “VICA is chock-full of them.”

VICA also awarded its President’s Award to Mel Kohn of Kirsch, Kohn & Bridge LLP for his dedication to VICA for the last 15 years.

“Mel is a shining example of a VICA member,” said Susanne Passatino of Republic Services, who introduced him.

Greg Lippe, president of Gregory N. Lippe Accountancy Corp., received the Harmon Ballin Community Service Award.

“I’m receiving this award for doing the things I love to do,” Lippe said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Time Warner Cable received the Robert E. Gibson Corporate Award of Excellence for “priding themselves in offering excellent customer service,” said Harvey Englander of Englander, Knabe & Allen, while introducing the cable company.

smitchell@signalscv.com

661-287-5593

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