West Coast Journal: Affinity Group Selling HQ

June 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Affinity Group, once a major employer in Ventura, Calif., has made layoffs and restructured, putting its massive ocean-view headquarters campus up for sale for $9.7 million, Ventura’s Pacific Coast Business Times reports.

Affinity oversaw a line of recreational vehicle clubs, a chain of camping-related retail stores and a stable of niche publications focused on boats, trailers and motorcycles. The company faced looming debt payments and struggled to refinance as bond markets froze in 2008 and 2009.

But late last year, Affinity Group secured $333 million in a private placement — the source of the funds wasn’t disclosed — to refinance its debts. The company also appears to have restructured. CEO Michael Schneider has stepped down, and some of the magazine titles were sold, according to people familiar with the company.

Affinity did not return repeated attempts to seek comment for this story, the Pacific Coast Business Times indicated, so it’s not clear where the company is moving to.

The Affinity restructuring is the latest in a series of blows for Stephen Adams, the reclusive Montecito mogul whose holdings include the group. Affinity Group lost $52.8 million on $471.8 million in revenue. The losses were narrower than 2008, when the firm lost $125.3 million on $526.1 million in revenue.

Now, Affinity’s 72,649-square-foot corporate headquarters on 9.3 acres of land on Vista Del Mar Avenue in Ventura are up for sale. It is unclear how many jobs were housed there. In total, Affinity had about 460 non-retail employees in 2009, according to public filings.

The former Affinity building is being marketed by Nick Gregg, a senior vice president with commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis in Camarillo. He said the steel-framed building is suitable for another big institution, such as a corporate headquarters or college. It also has 512 parking spaces, he said.

Affinity has been in the building since 1994 after putting a major refurbishment into it. The structure was built in 1983. Affinity has a “slight preference” to sell the building rather than lease it, Gregg said, but would lease to a quality tenant. In that case, they would likely sell it, fully leased, to investors.

Gregg said one large regional firm with about 500 employees has expressed interest in the site, though he could not disclose the company’s name. He is also searching regionally, nationally and abroad for a prospective buyer.

The property has a beautiful ocean view, Gregg said, but it is large and unlike any other in the city. It would take a big firm to fill or buy it, and those firms take their time. “We don’t have a lot of competition for this size building and this quality building,” Gregg said. “Having said that, the economy is slowly improving only now.”

Jeff Lambert, the director of community development for the city of Ventura, said the city is willing to work with prospective tenants or buyers to expedite permits for remodeling or other improvements. The city wants as many well paying jobs as possible at the site. “We would like to see a new corporate headquarters there,” Lambert said.

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