There’s been another setback in DreamWorks’ longtime efforts to build itself a home.Four weeks ago, a big media splash welcomed the news of a breakthrough in the long-delayed Playa Vista project, the future home to DreamWorks. A new investor group had been picked to pump $200 million into the project. One problem: No deal was ever signed. And now, once again, attempts to get the massive housing and studio complex off the ground could be delayed. Robert Maguire, the lead developer of the project with Maguire Thomas Partners, is now negotiating with other parties to invest in the project, according to a March 7 article in the Wall Street Journal. This comes after he announced a month ago that he had reached an agreement in principal with a group led by financier Gary Winnick to take over a majority stake in the project. A new investor is needed because Maguire Thomas has about $150 million in debt on the project, and reports have surfaced that banks are circling the property. But Maguire, sources say, was never entirely comfortable with the Winnick team, which includes Winnick’s Pacific Capital Group, the Union Labor Life Insurance Co. and the J.E. Robert Co. Together, they would have held the largest stake in the project. But Maguire never signed an exclusive agreement with Winnick’s group. Maguire now is looking at others who had been in the bidding, including Morgan Stanley & Co. and Goldman Sachs, according to the Journal. “I find it somewhat incredible, but typical,” says Michael Montgomery, a DreamWorks executive who has been overseeing the project. “It doesn’t shock me because it is Rob Maguire.” A spokesman for Maguire declined to comment on reports that he was looking to other investors. But the spokesman says the agreement with Winnick was never signed because of legal issues and because of comments that Winnick made to the Los Angeles Business Journal. In it, Winnick spoke of taking control of the project, one that has been a lifelong dream of Maguire’s. “I feel like I went out fishing for a trout and ended up landing a whale,” Winnick told the Business Journal. DreamWorks, meanwhile, continues to look at alternatives, such as a site in Burbank; a site next to its animation campus in Glendale, currently under construction; or even staying put on the Universal lot. But none would have the prestige and cachet of Playa Vista, and DreamWorks is still holding out hope that it will one day be its home.
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