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Monday, Sep 25, 2023


Eddie Milligan Position: President, Hansen Dam Equestrian Center Inc. Born: Philadelphia, 1931 Education: Quit high school with one semester to go Most Admired Person: Michael Milken Personal: Married with three adult children, six grandchildren By CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter At 14, Eddie Milligan rode from his native Philadelphia to California in a boxcar full of racehorses to follow his dream of becoming a jockey. By his own admission, Milligan wasn’t much of a jockey, but the experience launched him on a new career path that took him from jockey to horse trainer, car salesman to home and equestrian center developer. For the past 10 years, Milligan and his family have operated the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center in Lake View Terrace, but his most recent claim to fame is putting together a deal with San Francisco businessman Kjell Qvale and professional golfer Jim Colbert to develop a $20 million golf course and equine hospital at Pierce College. The son of a horse trader, Milligan loves wheeling and dealing, but the Pierce College project, if approved by the Los Angeles Community College District trustees in the coming weeks, will rank as his ultimate deal. Question: How did you make the transition from jockey to developer? Answer: Well, from jockey I went to training horses. And then breeding horses. Then in the ’60s I got real lucky. I bought a piece of property in San Dimas to put a horse place on it, and they built a golf course around it. It made it so damn valuable. I went in and got a subdivision approved and that was my introduction to the real estate development business. I came out of that extremely well and parlayed the proceeds into my next venture. I also learned that real estate made a lot more money than horses. Q: How did you get involved in developing equestrian centers? A: A friend of mine had an opportunity to build the first equestrian center in Whittier. That’s when I took my expertise in the horse world and my knowledge in the building trade, and I created a company that became one of the original prefabricated barn builders. It was a manufacturing company that made the steel framework that made up the components of the buildings for horse housing. All your major centers the city of L.A., the city of South Pasadena, the city of Irwindale, the city of Huntington Beach were designed and built by Better Built Enterprises. Q: How did the Pierce project unfold? A: In the horse world, we carry a good reputation. So last year, I was contacted (by the college) and they told me the horse program was in dire need of assistance. I had a lot of things going on here, but I finally agreed to go out. I told them, “I don’t know why you guys are sitting here worrying about your horse program, your whole damn college needs to be saved.” Q: What did you see that made you think that? A: Just the condition of the campus. I took time to go through everything, not just where the horses are. And when I saw that, it reminded me of this facility (Hansen Dam) when I took it over. And then it was explained to me that there were budget cuts and budget cuts and budget cuts, and that’s why they didn’t have any money to maintain the horses or the campus. Q: So where did you go from there? A: I called my man, Mr. Qvale in San Francisco, and told him I needed $10 million. And he said “What the hell for?” I said, “Jump in your plane and I’ll tell you about it.” I picked him up at Van Nuys Airport and took him to the top of the hill (at Pierce College). That’s when I dropped it on him what I want to do, build a golf course. He said, “This is beautiful. This would work.” He had just finished three golf courses in Las Vegas, so he said he’d get hold of Jim Colbert and have him and his team come and take a look at it. Q: How did you structure the deal to appeal to the college? A: After Colbert came on and his people did their due diligence, he said, “Hey, this area warrants the finest. This is not going to be just another golf course. This is going to be one of the premier golf courses in Southern California.” That’s why the cost jumped to $20 million from my original estimate of $10 million. But anybody could have built a golf course. Anybody and his brother. But if you check the (five) proposals (submitted to the college), we’re the only one that came in with classes and curriculum to advance the enrollment of the college. We’re proposing an additional $3 million worth of brand new buildings for agriculture and animal science and equine science classrooms, operating rooms, everything. That’s over and above the golf course. We’re also guaranteeing an $800,000 lease payment and we’re contributing $250,000 in (scholarship) grants to the college. Q: What kind of course offerings are you suggesting? A: What we’ll do in concert with Pierce is develop a two-year program, an associate’s program. At the golf course, it will have all brand new classrooms, teachers’ offices and brand new workshops to teach these students. The golf course becomes the largest living laboratory and classroom on the campus. We’ll also have state-of-the-art veterinarian tech programs for large animals. Q: What’s in this deal for you and your partners? A: We intend to make a return on the investment. We can either lose a lot of money or make a profit, which we’re sure as hell entitled to. That’s my only answer when it comes to money questions. Q: Critics have said any project on that site would destroy one of the last big chucks of open space in the Valley. What do you say to that? A: It does exactly the opposite. It retains it as open space indefinitely. That’s the only way you can answer it. Q: Where did you learn to make deals? A: All of my talents wheeling and dealing and trading came from my dad. He taught me when I was just a kid, you never go broke taking a profit. If you have a horse, and you can make a profit on it, sell it. He also taught me that if you have something to sell, but someone doesn’t have all the money, but they have other items you can take in on trade that you can market, don’t lose the deal. Q: Some have described you as brash, even abrasive. How do you respond to that? A: Why, I accept that as a compliment. Because when you’re a businessman, when you’re dealing with people, you want to get your message through. And you want to get your point through. With some people you’re talking to, you better be abrasive or they ain’t going to listen.

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