05.29.2011 – Martha Stewart Posts (Tasteful) ‘For Sale’ Sign – Week On the Web – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Martha Stewart posts (tasteful) ‘For sale’ sign

Media and home decor franchise explores options, while Albany decides on a property tax limit and hedge funder David Einhorn invests in the Mets.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
May 29, 2011 5:59 a.m

Bloomberg News

Even DIY craft maven Martha Stewart knows when she needs help. On Wednesday, her limping Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia announced that it had hired Blackstone Advisory Partners to evaluate its options, including a possible sale of the company.

The news sent MSLO shares soaring nearly 30%—to all of $5 each. The value of Ms. Stewart’s famed franchise, nearly $2 billion back in early 2005, was a mere $250 million after the day’s trading.

It’s been a hard few years for the media and home decor franchise. Magazine ad dollars dried up; a merchandising deal with Kmart wasn’t renewed. In January, NBC dropped Ms. Stewart’s morning television show and its related spinoffs, relegating them to Hallmark Channel oblivion. The company’s CEO position has been vacant since 2008; Lisa Gersh, a founder of Oxygen Media, is slated to assume the post June 6.

The company’s announcement came just as 69-year-old Ms. Stewart, who has had the job title of chief editorial officer the past few years, is set to rejoin its board of directors, ending a five-year banishment due to her 2004 federal conviction for obstruction of justice.

TAX-SQUEEZED SUBURBANITES, REJOICE: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state leaders agreed to impose a 2% limit on annual property tax increases statewide. The guv says property taxes soared 5.5% per year between 1999 and 2009, and the new cap aims to combat economic decline. Still, the state teachers union said limiting tax increases would devastate low-income schools outside of New York City. Legislators seem set to vote on the cap next month. …

HEDGE FUNDER DAVID EINHORN BET $200 MILLION ON THE METS, buying a minority stake in the financially strapped team. Whether that’s enough to buy a championship, or even downplay owner Fred Wilpon’s recent tongue-lashing, remains to be seen. …

THE HUFFINGTON POST IS NOT OFF THE HOOK, YET. A federal judge declined to throw out a lawsuit claiming the media company’s founders, Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, stole the idea for the online news site from a duo of Democratic political consultants—a charge AOL Huffington Post Media Group said is “pure fantasy.” …

THE FEDS ARRESTED GERARD DENAULT, the lead manager on the controversial CityTime project, and charged him with receiving $5.6 million in kickbacks from a technology subcontractor. Mr. Denault, who oversaw the rollout of the computerized timekeeping system for more than 100,000 municipal workers, could not be reached for comment. His employer, Virginia-based SAIC, has not been charged with wrongdoing. …

TWO MASSIVE, LONG-VACANT BROOKLYN PROPERTIES WERE FINALLY CLEARED for redevelopment. A judge rejected a community group’s lawsuit and green-lighted a $2 billion redo for the former Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg. The city is now free to rezone the 11-acre site for a mixed-use residential project. And in Sunset Park, a 1.1 million-acre warehouse shut since 2000 gets its own shot at redemption: The city’s Economic Development Corp. tapped Salmar Properties to redevelop the charmingly named Federal Building #2 for light industrial use.


02.14.2011 – Sprawling Pfizer Plant in Brooklyn Sold – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Sprawling Pfizer plant in Brooklyn sold

Surprise buyer plans to convert the 660,000-square-foot facility to light industrial and commercial use; sale leaves several large parcels unsold.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
February 14, 2011 2:11 p.m
 Two years after abandoning an attempt to redevelop its sprawling former manufacturing complex in Brooklyn, drug giant Pfizer announced Monday that it had reached a surprise agreement to sell a piece of that property to Acumen Capital Partners of Long Island City.

The 660,000-square-foot plant had been sitting vacant since 2008, when the Manhattan-based company ceased operations in the South Williamsburg neighborhood where it had begun operations in a small factory in 1849. At the time of the closing, 600 jobs were lost, a fraction of those employed at the plant in its heyday.

The buyer is Acumen Capital Partners, a Long Island City-based real estate investment firm specializing in buying empty buildings in the outer boroughs and converting them for light industrial and commercial use, as it now plans to do at the Pfizer site. The conversion should bring jobs back to the area.

“This is great news,” said Carl Hum, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “The track record that Acumen Capital has—it’s great at coming up with creative uses for buildings. It’s at the forefront of urban architecture.”

According to its website, Acumen emphasizes environmental sustainability when redeveloping properties, which could mean big changes for the aging plant. In Long Island City last spring, Acumen put a 40,000-square-foot vegetable farm on top of a six-story former auto plant on Northern Boulevard that it had bought a few years earlier.

In 2007, Pfizer sent out requests for proposals for its Brooklyn site, looking for construction of affordable housing, and job creation. Owing to the recession, the company was unable to identify any attractive proposals.

In a press statement Pfizer said: “We were subsequently approached by a party interested in acquiring only the existing manufacturing facility and adjacent parking lot,” a total of about eight acres. The statement went on to note that with the sale to Acumen it “would leave intact all of the vacant parcels north of the manufacturing building for future development.”

“We’re very excited about this project and the benefits it will bring to the neighborhood,” said Pfizer spokesman Christopher Loder.

Pfizer closed the 660,000 square-foot plant in 2008, resulting in the loss of 600 jobs in Brooklyn and setting off a debate over the future of former factory properties in the borough. Mr. Loder said Pfizer’s plans for the approximately five acres of remaining parcels, scattered north of the plant, still include the option of affordable housing.

“Although I wish Pfizer could have found a way to stay in its hometown of Brooklyn, I am thrilled that Acumen is helping to bring more light industry to our borough,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in a statement. “This new facility will generate much-needed jobs, and attract the sort of innovative companies and artisans that redefine their craft every day.