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San Fernando
Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Who Needs Silicon Valley?

The greater San Fernando Valley doesn’t exactly have the reputation of being fertile ground for public company growth, formation and churn. OK, so it’s not Silicon Valley, but let’s give some credit where it’s due on occasion of the Business Journal’s annual Public Company Special Issue. An example is the initial public offering of Marcus & Millichap Inc., the Calabasas brokerage that has ambitions to move from being a specialist in handling trades of multifamily buildings between private parties to brokering office transactions involving institutional investors. Reporter Elliot Golan documents the challenges the company faces in an article on page 9, but so far investors are giving it the benefit of the doubt. Shares are up about 50 percent since the October IPO and now the company has a market cap approaching $700 million. Not bad for any local investors who were paying attention to a local company that clearly was worth their capital. Another new public company worth noting is American Homes 4 Rent., an Agoura Hills firm that went public in August and is the nation’s second largest single-family home landlord – a new industry that emerged out of the housing bust. The area also benefited from the digital revolution that has transformed the office from a cluttered depository of stacks of papers to one in which the “reply all’’ button on your email program likely presents the greatest hazard. That reduction in paper hit Pasadena label and supplies maker Avery Dennison Inc. hard, so it shed underperforming businesses, focused on faster-growing ones and downsized, including moving out of its company-owned building to smaller, leased space in Glendale. Voila! The area gained a Fortune 500 company just like that and the only thing we have to thank – aside from computers – is Glendale’s high vacancy rate and low asking rents. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons! Of course, when it comes to some public companies, it’s all a bit circular. You know perhaps the Buddhist concept of eternal return, the notion that everything gets repeated? I myself like the way Yogi Berra is said to have put it: “It’s deja vu all over again.” If you are following me here, given the context, you probably have figured out I’m talking about Dole Food Co., which Chairman and Chief Executive David Murdock took private at a cost of $1.6 billion in October. Of course, if you remember, the nonagenarian billionaire did the same thing 10 years ago before being forced to take it public again in 2009 due to heavy debts. At least that’s what the analysts said. But this much I will say: If Murdock – a famous advocate of healthy eating who wants to live well past 100 – gets his wish, it will be deja vu all over again – and again. So, grab a banana and enjoy our issue. • • • Disappointment, I guess, is the word I would use to describe the emotion I felt upon hearing that our new mayor planned on hiring 50 part-time parking enforcement officers to raise an estimated $3 million in revenue for City Hall. When Eric Garcetti ran for office, he presented himself as the new modern face of government, a politician who would bring a fresh approach to municipal affairs. What happened? What kind of plan is it to raise revenue by sticking it to car-dependent Angelenos, who get stuck with exorbitant tickets just because they get caught in line at a store and their meters run out? Is there anything that typifies the same old dysfunctional way of running the city than an uncreative proposal like that? If there is one thing our bureaucratic City Hall excels at, it is the timely enforcement of parking regulations, even though it’s anti-resident and anti-business, scaring off potential customers. Well, now some Council members are considering a scaled-down plan to hire fewer officers to fill some vacant positions, but that alternative doesn’t go far enough. I suggest you read the OpEd on the opposing page by Steven Vincent, who is leading an initiative to transform the city’s entire approach to parking enforcement: from one that is driven by raising revenue and emptying wallets to one that actually helps businesses by encouraging customers to park but not hog spaces all day. Seems reasonable to me. • • • Lastly, I would like to give a shout out to our cartoonist Steve Greenberg, who drew not one, but two cartoons for this issue. Below is a typical example of his work, which comments on a growing affordability gap in housing as prices rise. But I want to give special praise to his front-page work that depicts our centerpiece story on Walt Disney Co. and DreamWorks Animation, which are battling it out on the Web and in China. The work is a cartoon movie poster that highlights the rivalry between Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger and his counterpart at DreamWorks, Jeffrey Katzenberg. And don’t you just love those Shrek and Mickey Mouse ears? Laurence Darmiento is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at editor@sfvbj.com.

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