Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Honolulu’s Amfac towers to
be renamed as Topa
Financial Center

By Tim Ruel

John Edward Anderson, the wealthy California businessman who purchased Honolulu's landmark Amfac Center in November, has renamed it the Topa Financial Center.

Topa comes from the Topa Topa mountain range in Ojai, east of Santa Barbara, Calif., where Anderson has a ranch of the same name that grows Topa Topa avocados, Anderson said.

Topa means gopher in the language of the Chumash, American Indians who live in the Santa Barbara area.

As part of the name change, Amfac's 20-story twin towers, named the Hawaii and Amfac towers, have been renamed the East Tower and West Tower. The name plates could be changed as early as mid-April, said Linda A. Gee of the center's property management firm, PM Realty Group.

Anderson said several people in Honolulu suggested that the center adopt his own name. "I don't want to be critical of Amfac or the name as what has happened to the company, but I think a lot of people felt it was time for change," Anderson said. "We investigated and talked with a number of people."

Amfac, formerly one of the legendary Big Five, was once Hawaii's largest company with 8,500 employees before it was sold to Chicago-based JMB Realty Corp. in 1988 for nearly $1 billion. Since then, Amfac has shed the bulk of its assets, including thousands of acres of land on several islands, and is down to about 100 employees. The firm went bank- rupt last week in Chicago and plans to reorganize by issuing ownership stakes to its debt holders.

Anderson said he didn't want his own moniker on the center because he's received enough personal attention. The University of California Los Angeles named its graduate business school after him in 1987.

"I said thank you but no thank you," he said. "I'm inclined to play myself down rather than puff it up."

Forbes magazine listed Anderson as the 345th richest American in 2001 with a net worth of $750 million. An octogenarian, Anderson started Ace Beverage Co., before he diversified into real estate, insurance, banks and investment advice. Anderson co-founded Kayne Anderson Rudnick Investment Management in 1984 and is now the firm's chairman.

Anderson has used Topa to name many of his 42 companies, including Topa Insurance Co., Topa Management and Topa Equities Ltd., which owns Waipahu distributor Paradise Beverages Inc.

The Topa Financial Center joins a string of Topa-named buildings, including the Topa building at Century City and the 27-acre Topa Financial Plaza in Oxnard, both in Los Angeles. A real estate investment partnership led by Anderson and his wife recently bought the latter building complex for about $58 million, and renamed it from the Oxnard Financial Plaza, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Amfac Center was built in the early 1970s as a joint venture between Amfac and Northwest contractor Richard H. Hadley, who was brought in by Amfac's R. Gregg Anderson, according to "Dynasty in the Pacific," a corporate history written about Amfac. Gregg Anderson is not related to John Anderson.

Amfac's contribution to the development was the land under the property, which it acquired in the latter half of the 19th century from the Hawaiian government. When the center was finished, Amfac sold its interest for $6 million to a private investor.

John Anderson bought the center for $95 million from Japan-based Mitsui Fudosan Co., which had paid $141 million for it in 1988, records show.

Monthly base rent for office space at the center is currently going from $1.25 to $1.30 per square foot, according to a recent notice to tenants. Vacancy has fallen to about 85 percent, following the departure of a couple tenants, Gee said.

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