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Thursday, Sep 28, 2023


Steve Roth and his family have built an oil and real estate empire that generates $600 million in revenues annually thanks to a simple strategy: buy and hold. Roth’s father, Bernard P. Roth, bought his first service station in 1939 at Florence Avenue and San Pedro Street in L.A. turning it into the first self-service station in the country. The family has been buying and holding property since, and today, World Oil Co., the family-run business, has more than 125 service stations in California, making it the largest distributor of Exxon products in the nation. The company also owns a reclaimed oil business, an asphalt and roofing tar refinery, oil storage terminals, a trucking company and has vast real estate holdings. “I can’t even remember a piece of property we sold,” said Steve Roth. “You buy it and you hold it, and what you acquired five, 10, 15 years ago turns into being a great piece of property.” Now the South Gate-based company is bringing its buy-and-hold strategy to the San Fernando Valley, an area Roth believes is poised for explosive growth over the next 20 years. The company has begun development of one of the largest business parks to come to the Valley this year: the nine-acre, $11 million Valley Gateway Business Park in Sylmar. The park, at 15648 Roxford St., is within minutes of the Golden State (5) Freeway, the Foothill (210) Freeway, and the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway. Being built entirely on speculation, the park will feature three freestanding buildings of 108,000, 40,000 and 20,000 square feet. Bullish on the San Fernando Valley, the family is looking for other deals in the area. Question: How did you end up in the family business? Answer: I was always involved in the family business. We’re close-knit, so I was always very well aware of what was going on. Before I joined the family business full time, though, I was also in the entertainment business. I produced movies such as “Scrooged” and “Last Action Hero.” I was also one of the principal partners at Creative Artists. I loved the entertainment business, but at a certain point in time I decided it was in my best interest to be involved in the family business for the rest of my life. And it has proven to be a wise choice. Q: What other real estate investments is your family involved in? A: We’re in a lot of different deals around the country. Kind of anything. We have some Best Buys and Sport Marts. We like to own the ground and take leases back. We also own the ground under one of the big hotels in Orange County, Sutton Place, across the street from John Wayne Airport. So we have a pretty neat business that does in excess of $600 million a year in revenues. The building of the industrial park, for better or worse, was my harebrained idea. Q: Why take a chance on building a business park, especially on speculation? A: We’re in a series of different businesses, mostly energy-related, but we are always keenly interested in having an opportunity to buy property. We’re fairly opportunistic investors. So when the opportunity came to buy this property, I took a look at it and knew right away it was a long-term investment. Clean land is scarce in the Valley, and here was nine acres of flat land with close access to freeways. We called it Valley Gateway Business Park because it will serve as a distribution gateway to the Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley even Simi Valley. Q: Why build in the San Fernando Valley? A: When you look at the San Fernando Valley, you realize there is very little available to lease. It’s a tremendous growth area. Yet a substantial portion of what is available is not the 28-foot-clearance buildings. I just felt it was an opportunity we could not pass up. Q: Do you think you’ll have any trouble attracting tenants? A: Many people are interested in the property. And one major tenant is in negotiations on one of the buildings right now. You might say I’m an optimist, but I’m a realistic optimist. The decision to buy the property was based on a lot of research. You get a feel for looking at the charts and seeing what’s available out there, the rents people are getting. This was a very well-thought-through decision. Q: What types of tenants will you be looking for? A: It will be from high-tech to whatever. The quality of the park will be like the real upscale parks in Irvine. In many respects, I think we’re ahead of ourselves in terms of the quality of development on the property than the other comparable properties in the area. But we’re looking at it into the future, and I think it will be awhile before everything upgrades to that level in the area. Q: What are your target lease rates? A: I hope they’re good, but I don’t even want to speculate. The marketplace will dictate. Q: Your project has been in the planning stages for a year, yet you’ve been quiet about it. Why? A: We try to fly a little below the radar. Also, we didn’t want to make a big announcement and end up with egg on our faces if something fell through. Q: Did you encounter any problems during the planning process? A: Of course, it always takes more time than you had hoped, but the support from the city and the county has been good. Now we have all of our permits in place, and we already have three pads down. Q: What potential do you see in the greater San Fernando Valley? A: I am a huge believer in this region. We just bought a service station property in Simi Valley. The growth out there is extraordinary. The growth in the Antelope Valley is unbelievable. The redevelopment in the San Fernando Valley is great. I am looking for other opportunities right now. Steven F. Roth Title: Executive Vice President Company: World Oil Co. Born: Los Angeles, 1948 Education: B.A. in English, UC Berkeley Most Admired Person: His father, Bernard B. Roth Personal: Divorced, three children

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