Warren Buffett, shopping centers and football: They were fuel for the some of the highest-profile and biggest-money deals announced in Richmond during 2012.
Warren Buffett dropped $142 million to rid Richmond-based Media General of its newspaper holdings, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The deal, which closed in late June, left the downtown company with 18 television stations and on better footing to keep its hundreds of millions of dollars in debt under control.
Fall was the season of huge shopping center transactions. First came the sale of the Shops at White Oak Village. An Arizona firm bought about 440,000 square feet of the Eastern Henrico retail development for $68 million.
Upping the ante in terms of dollars was the sale of West Broad Village, the mixed-use development near Short Pump that had fallen on hard times after the housing market crashed. In a clear sign of its comeback, Unicorp, the Florida developer that conceived the project, sold it in October for $161 million to a San Diego REIT.
A troubled local mall was involved in a deal that allowed it to avoid foreclosure and let its owner off the hook on a huge loan. Regency Square Mall was deeded to Bank of America after its owner, mall conglomerate Taubman Centers, stopped making payments on the $72 million loan on the property. Bank of America accepted a deed to the property in lieu of foreclosure and wiped Taubman’s tab clean of the debt.
The City of Richmond entered into at least two controversial deals this year. The first was related to an expensive renovation of one of the area’s oldest theaters. Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones announced in July a deal to rename the Landmark Theater the Altria Theater. The local king of tobacco’s $10 million contribution helped cap off the funding for a $50 million renovation of the 85-year-old theater near VCU.
But few deals grabbed more local headlines than one still being worked out between the city and hospital giant Bon Secours to help land a Washington Redskins practice facility behind the Science Museum of Virginia. The deal involves the city handing over prime real estate on the cheap, millions upfront and the promise for millions more in long-term construction and leases, all in the name of getting RGIII to Richmond for three weeks a year.
The biggest news in the local banking scene came in March when Richmond-based Peoples Bank of Virginia announced it would be acquired by First Community Bank from western Virginia. The $40 million deal was the first M&A action among local banks since summer 2011.
Perhaps the biggest-dollar deal of 2012 came in December when a downtown REIT announced the pending sale of one of its funds. Apple REIT Six, one of five funds run by the Apple REIT Companies, will be sold for $1.2 billion to a New York firm. The buyer of the fund and its 66 hotel properties is BRE Select Hotels Corp. It is part of Blackstone Real Estate Partners, an affiliate of private equity giant Blackstone. The deal is pending.