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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023

Foundation Relocation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is expanding its footprint by buying one of the trophy office properties in the Conejo Valley. The charitable foundation announced last month it purchased Dole Food Co.’s headquarters in Westlake Village for $50 million. The Hilton Foundation has made the property at One Dole Drive its new corporate headquarters, relocating from its prior office in nearby Agoura Hills. Dole will lease back a portion of the 168,000-square-foot, 10-acre campus from Hilton. The foundation, which was established by the Hilton Hotel founder in 1944, will keep its 23,000-square-foot Agoura Hills building at 30440 Agoura Road to use for staff meetings and events. Hilton didn’t originally intend to relocate its headquarters. Before making the deal, the foundation had plans to expand its Agoura Hills site by adding four new buildings on the 70-acre property. Hilton was temporarily leasing space at Dole in Westlake Village while the foundation negotiated land use entitlements for the expansion. But when Dole’s campus came on the market, those plans changed. The foundation decided buying the property and moving in would be cheaper and easier than going through with the development process. “When we found that the Dole building was up for sale for a reasonable price, and that it was much larger than what we would’ve been able to put together on our lot, our board decided this was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up,” said Hilton Chief Executive Peter Laugharn. Laugharn expects the new campus will facilitate the foundation’s growth as it ramps up its humanitarian efforts, which include programs to address chronic homelessness in the U.S. and provide water to children affected by AIDS in Africa. The nonprofit’s endowment is projected to double, Loughran said, and he anticipates increasing staff from 75 to 125 employees over the next few years to carry out new grantmaking activities. The foundation’s net assets totaled almost $2.6 billion in 2016, according to the most recent available tax filings. “We have considerable excess space in the new building, even for when we grow,” he said. Dole’s unclear future With the sale finalized, it’s unclear how much space Dole will lease back from the foundation, or whether the company will keep its corporate headquarters at the property. “The Dole employees who were here when we moved in are still here, and we will continue to lease whatever space suits their needs going forward,” said Hilton Communications Manager Julia Friedman. Dole declined an interview request for this story but said in a statement, “We are very happy the building will be in good hands moving forward.” The sale comes as Dole has struggled to return to growth after years of declining revenues and mounting debt, reportedly totaling $1.3 billion as of last year. In January, Dole canceled a planned $400 million initial public offering after talks to sell the company to Belgium firm Greenyard broke down. Later in July, Dole owner David Murdock sold a 45 percent stake in the company to Total Produce plc in Ireland for $300 million. Last year, Dole had considered swapping its headquarters property in a real estate exchange for the Dole Plantation in Hawaii. The income-generating plantation is a tourist attraction owned by Castle & Cook, a real estate firm controlled by Murdock. Last Fall, Dole announced closures of berry operations in California, including the layoff of 172 workers at an Oxnard strawberry operation. Nonprofit investment CBRE Group Inc. agent Todd Tydlaska, who represented Dole in the off-market sale, said in a statement that companies and organizations such as Hilton are increasingly looking to buy property. “We’ve seen great activity among users who want to own the properties they occupy,” he said. “Real estate values across Southern California have been increasing, and CBRE … puts the greater L.A. region at the top of the list. As office rents climb, owning in this market is a great way to protect you from future spikes.” CBRE declined to comment for this story. Michael Foxworthy, vice president and principal of Ventura County brokerage Daum Commercial Real Estate Services, agreed that Hilton made a smart investment with the purchase. “It would cost double to build what they’re getting with (the Dole building) now,” he said. The site, which has served as Dole’s headquarters for more than 20 years, includes a three-story office building, underground parking and expansive greenspace. It’s located across the street from the Four Seasons Westlake Village, which is owned by Murdock. Laugharn said Hilton plans to retrofit the building to make it more environmentally friendly. “We have a commitment to green architecture and look forward to the opportunity to retrofit what is a wonderful building,” he said. “We’re going to look at a variety of options from the simplest to the more ambitious, and our board will consider them over the coming months.” Jill Lederer, chief executive of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, said Hilton’s decision to purchase and move into the Dole building highlights the region’s healthy business climate. “It was a perfect solution for two amazing organizations that have been based in the Conejo Valley for so long,” she said. “They could choose to headquarter their businesses anywhere and they chose here. And now Hilton has chosen us again and we’re super proud to have them.” Laugharn said the foundation has been welcomed by the local community and aims to give back by following through on its philanthropic mission in L.A. County and beyond. “We are really looking to making a strong commitment and contribution to the local community around us, to a larger catchment area and to our global work,” he said.

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