Sterling Flips High-End Rodeo Drive Property in $110M Sale to LVMH
Sterling Organization, a private equity firm based in Palm Beach, Fla., doubled its money on the sale of a 7,634-square-foot parcel at 456 N. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Sterling netted a cool $110 million for the property—which includes a 6,200-square-foot vacant single-story building and a 1,500-square-foot parking lot between Santa Monica Boulevard and Brighton Way—in the heart of the so-called “Golden Triangle,” one of the country’s most sought-after locations for luxury retail, according to an official release from Sterling. Last week’s sale came a mere day after Sterling closed its purchase of the property from The Karl B. Schurz Trust (Schurz Trust) for $55 million.
The purchaser of the property, a subsidiary of Paris-based, multinational conglomerate LVMH originally considered leasing space at the property, but the company alternatively expressed an immediate interest in acquiring it. LVMH, which counts Louis Vuitton and Loewe among its portfolio of upscale brands, owns two other stores in the area at 319-323 North Rodeo Drive and 420 North Rodeo Drive, according to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of the sale.
LVMH declined to comment on the purchase.
Sterling’s acquisition of the property resulted from a highly structured off-market transaction, when it signed a 30-year ground lease with rights to purchase on Oct. 26, 2017.
Last week’s sale transferred the 456 N. Rodeo Drive property to the luxury goods behemoth for approximately $17,750 per square foot.
Retail agent Robert Cohen, a vice chairman at RKF in Los Angeles and who was not involved with the deal, said the move for LVMH was a “very smart move” and part of an overall trend of European retailers investing in brick-and-mortar real estate in top U.S. shopping districts.
“This is a trend we’ve seen more and more of, which is personified on Rodeo Drive for several reasons, the least of which is that it’s only three-blocks long, an easy market and low-density. These retailers don’t have to worry about offices, residential or hotels, which is more difficult,” he said.
“Rents have gone up historically. It’s held its value. Europeans are very smart because they have not only the ability but they understand buying is better long-term than leasing. You control your own destiny.” (This is a trend that WSJ recently noted in Manhattan.)
Cohen pointed out that while $17,000-plus a square foot is high considering the comparables, over time, it works out to make good business sense. Average asking rents per per square foot on Rodeo Drive ranges from $600 to $1,000, Cohen said, so, say, over 20 years, the price paid averages $850 per foot. “You’re at the middle of the market, but now you own the property. Not only are you not paying rent, but you have an asset that is increasing in value,” he said.
Indeed. Rents on this stretch of Rodeo Drive, home to luxury retailers including Hermes, Chanel, Celine, Tiffany & Co. and Givenchy, rank among the highest in the nation. Retail rents on Rodeo Drive were $875 per square foot in 2017, according to statistics from Cushman & Wakefield’s 2017 year-end Los Angeles retail report, making the locale the second-highest in the nation. (Upper Fifth Avenue—49th Street to 60th Streets—in New York City still dominates, the C&W data indicate, closing 2017 at $2,982 per square foot.)
Negotiations for 456 N. Rodeo Drive began in July 2017 between Jonathan Mendis, Sterling’s senior vice president of investments for the Western United States, Brian Kosoy, Sterling’s president and CEO, and the trustee for Schurz Trust. The months of negotiations culminated in the October 2017 ground lease execution and purchase of the fee interest.
“When a circumstance presents itself to acquire a Rodeo Drive property, you aggressively pursue it, regardless of the complications involved in getting a deal done,” Kosoy said in prepare remarks. “This was a win-win-win for all three parties involved with each securing what they desired. The deal round-tripped a lot faster than we projected, and we are extremely pleased with the exceptional financial results we were able to provide to our investor partners.”
Kosoy told Commercial Observer his firm flipped the property because it felt it was in the best interest of its investor partners.
“Part of the opportunity in the commercial real estate sector pertaining to retail is that the passive observer, analysts, as well as much of the media, seem to repeatedly throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Kosoy said. “There are many areas that are immune to the woes of retailers today and Rodeo Drive is one of them. Great retail real estate is not under assault as many believe.”
He foresees Rodeo Drive real estate going in only one direction value wise: higher. “Continued limited and static supply and high demand assures such,” Kosoy said.
Cohen concurred, calling Sterling’s flip, “a brilliant play.”
“It’s an amazing story,” he added. “From a real estate perspective, they tied this up to a ground lease with an option to purchase, obviously purchased, it and to turn this around in a day and sell it, to basically double your money— that shows how voracious an appetite some of these people— these retailers have for real estate.”