Who’s Behind the Bosse-Gold PAC?

If you’ve received a Bosse-Gold mailer you will be forgiven for thinking these two city council candidates are running on a slate. They appear side-by-side; they celebrate endorsements in common; they even stand together in cartoon likenesses. But these candidates don’t share much in the way of style and they make for an unlikely slate. These Bosse-Gold mailers are the product of a political action committee (PAC) called ‘Beverly Hills United to Support Bosse and Gold.’ Who’s behind it?

The ‘Beverly Hills United to Support Bosse and Gold’ PAC was launched in mid-January with the ostensible purpose to promote two incumbent candidates. But the evident objective is to give one of those candidates a boost. We will later connect the dots to make that argument but for now we dig into the PAC’s funding: the people and commercial entities that are putting a big thumb on the scale in our local city council election.

Concerns About Independent Committee PACs Grow

In only a few days the Bosse-Gold PAC raked in $90,000. That kitty subsequently swelled to $110,000 as of the latest expenditures disclosure (filed February 11th). That’s a war chest that can effectively communicate the PAC’s singular message to each and every Beverly Hills voter many times over: Bosse and Gold.

It’s called the ‘Beverly Hills United’ PAC but Beverly Hills is not necessarily united. The PAC is proving divisive in the community because it augurs a future where unregulated big-money contributions impact our city council elections. Consider this PAC’s outsize voice. Contributions to a candidate’s committee is capped at the city’s statutory limit of $450 per individual or entity. This PAC has raised an average $9,000 from each of its contributors — twenty times more than the cap would otherwise have allowed.

PAC backers exploited a loophole in our city campaign regulations to make those expenditures without the disclosures required of big-money campaigns to support or oppose ballot measures.  However independent committees formed to support candidates (like the Bosse-Gold PAC) don’t have to comply.

Bosse-Gold PAC ad in Beverly Hills Courier
The independent Bosse-Gold PAC as advertised in Beverly Hills Courier.

To close that loophole, the city’s Sunshine Task Force last week unanimously agreed to recommend changes to the relevant section of the Municipal Code (1-8-1 City Election Campaigns).

Who’s Behind This PAC?

The $110,000 Bosse-Gold PAC war chest was contributed by twelve well-connected real estate investors and half of them hold a specific interest in Rodeo Drive. Where the mailers make general statements about “great parks, safer schools and sustainable neighborhoods,” we must look beyond the generic platitudes to intuit the agenda of the contributors behind the PAC.

Stephen Massman: $9,999 (individual)

The ‘Beverly Hills United to Support Bosse and Gold’ PAC was organized by Stephen Massman. He’s identified as the treasurer on the paperwork (filed on January 17th). He is a commercial property investor with offices at 361 North Canon Drive, which he co-owns through an investment vehicle called 361 N CANON DRIVE LLC. That company is but one of 20 current and former real estate-related LLCs that indicate Massman is a ‘manager’ (the term used in California Secretary of State business filings for a named entity behind the LLC).

Stephen Massman network
Stephen Massman’s network of entities (source: CorporationWiki)

Some of Massman’s holdings appear to be multifamily assets such as HUNTINGTON BEACH HOUSING INVESTORS LLC, WESTWOOD SDM, LLC (an apartment building on Sepulveda) and a 112-unit apartment house in Torrance held by SEVILLE TOWNHOUSE APARTMENTS LLC. Others own utilities like CENTURY SDM CO., LLC and SMBA INVESTMENTS, LP. We couldn’t find any other holdings in Beverly Hills, though.

Importantly, Massman organized the PAC but didn’t use his own business address on the committee organizing form. The address on it is 777 Figueroa suite 450, which is the offices of a downtown law firm that butters its bread with such PAC campaigns. Kaufman Legal Group, for example, is behind a greenwashing PAC named ‘Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions. The slogan: “Balanced energy policies that fight climate change while protecting energy choice, reliability, and affordability.” You get the picture.

There is a connection worth noting: real estate investor John Bendheim who also does business at 361 North Canon as Bendheim Enterprises Inc. He is a named manager for at least six current and former real estate-related LLCs and through 361 N CANON DRIVE LLC he shares ownership of the property.

In Beverly Hills Bendheim has owned (or still owns) 9411 South Santa Monica Boulevard though a vehicle named 469 NORTH CANON DRIVE PLAZA LLC, according to city records. It can be difficult to trace the actual beneficial owner when real estate is controlled though LLCs, but Bendheim’s name appears as ‘owner’ on a city permit for the property as recently as 2016.

The name John Bendheim may sound familiar because he co-owns the Beverly Hills Courier after the paper changed hands last year. And it changed direction too; today it feels less like news and more like business promotion. The point is that the Courier has not yet mentioned the ‘Beverly Hills United to Support Bosse and Gold’ PAC in its news pages even though the paper endorsed Bosse & Gold. Besides, the PAC is clearly newsworthy. Why the silent treatment?

Moving on, Massman may have organized the PAC but he wasn’t the first contributor; that was local property tycoon Steve Gordon.

Steven Gordon: $9,500 (individual)

Steve Gordon (no relation to candidate Lori Gordon) runs Domino Realty Management Company, Inc. at 9990 Santa Monica Boulevard. Through a multitude of LLCs Gordon has invested in multifamily real estate, office, retail and even self-storage (which incidentally is always about the underlying real estate). Domino is a regular contributor to the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles political action PAC. According to disclosures he has donated $3,500 to advance the AAGLA mission over the past eight years.

Gordon controls at least three multifamily properties in Beverly Hills: 9101–9111 West Olympic at the northeast corner of Doheny; 9045–9079 West Olympic on the northwest corner and 9113–9133 West Olympic just adjacent. City records show the owner of these properties as DOHENY VILLAGE PARTNERS LLC — a Gordon entity and one of 40 active LLCs associated with Gordon and his Domino Realty firm.

Steven Gordon network
Steven Gordon network (source: CorporationWiki)

City permits confirm he also controlled 133 North Almont though his ALMONT TWO PARTNERS, LLC (however the property was sold in 2016). The Domino Realty motto: “Buy prime assets in prime locations, manage them aggressively, hold them for the long term and pay meticulous attention to the details.” Aggressive management is a euphemism for value-extraction…which may be good for landlords but not always good for tenants.

Elliot Megdal & Associates: $9,000

Elliot Megdal owns and operates nonresidential properties through a handful of partnerships and limited liability companies. Those holdings span Culver City, San Diego, Berkeley, Texas and Moorpark, California, to name a few. But these investments can be difficult to identify because LLC paperwork generally says nothing about the underlying holding. More likely it says “real estate investment.” In fact we have never seen LLC paperwork that actually identifies a specific property.

Yet there are hints. Two instances where Megdal holdings came to wider attention caught our eye. MEGDAL FLORES LLC got some press because the second-generation Taylor Megdal (real estate investment is a family business!) became locked into an ongoing feud with the city of Moorpark over the redevelopment of a gas station.

Another instance is BAGEL WHIZZ, LLC. That’s a must-google, right? This one is a departure from the core competency: Bagel Whizz is a bagel-scraping implement that allows the health-conscious to “keep the great taste of their favorite bread while removing some of the filler and calories.” (See it to believe it.) Most of Migdal’s 18 LLCs are difficult to associate to holdings.

Vahn Living Trust: $5,000

Leon Vahn likes diversity. His holdings are spread over at least twenty real estate-related LLCs, according to the California Secretary of State, and even together they don’t suggest the scale of his assets. For example ARLETA LAVANDERIA LLC suggests a small business. And it appears to be a laundry in Ventura County.  But google his bio and we see an empire of 1.2M square feet of office, 1.2M square feet of industrial, 170K square feet of self-storage and a half-million square feet of retail.

Fun fact: Vahn’s wife, Stephanie Vahn, chairs our city’s new Arts & Culture Commission. No doubt they are esteemed art collectors too.

S & A Realty Corp: $9,999

S & A Realty Corp is another family-controlled real estate investment business. The CEO and CFO  listed in state filings is Steven Hakim, son of founding father Kambiz and brother to Alexander (who is also the secretary). Together the Hakims control about twenty real estate-related LLCs mostly invested in commercial and multifamily properties.

 

Kambiz Hakim network
Kambiz Hakim network (source: CorporationWiki)

For example the Hakims own the Paseo Del Mar building in Santa Monica and Carbon Plaza on Pacific Coast Highway. They picked up SEVENTY46 (multifamily residential) in Hollywood and bought out of bankruptcy the Malibu Inn a decade ago. They’re tripling their money on a $30 million spec house listing and they own a 48-unit building in NYC too. Some of those properties are recognizable by name in their constellation of LLCs.

Beverly Hills holdings appear to be limited though one is substantial: the family purchased 9350 Wilshire five years ago for $48M (!) through HAKIM HOLDINGS, LLC and have since spent untold millions to extensively renovate it. Work is ongoing at the southeast corner of Wilshire & Crescent. It will be the family’s new headquarters.

Duesenberg Investment Company, LLC $9,500

We hadn’t heard of DUESENBERG INVESTMENT COMPANY, LLC until the company turned up on the PAC’s disclosure forms. A little digging produced at least three important commercial parcels that it owns in our town: 202 North Canon, the Rodeo Realty building; 8833 Wilshire, which is the Audi dealership; and 9720 Wilshire. The latter is the iconic Edward Durrell Stone building that rises nine stories at the southwest corner of Wilshire & McCarty. (The property was preliminarily approved for our local historic register in 2014.)

1800-1900 Avenue of the Stars owned by Duesenberg
1800 & 1900 Avenue of the Stars, Century City.

Secretary of State filings shows that DUESENBERG INVESTMENT COMPANY, LLC was formed  in 2009 for the purposes of “real estate investments and management.” John & Marion Anderson are listed as general partners. It appears that this vehicle was formed to hold two Century City office towers: 1800 and 1900 Avenue of the Stars. That’s nearly a million square feet of office in Century City!

For a massive company, Duesenberg keeps a low profile. We discovered the 1800 & 1900 holding only because a Century City Business Improvement District development plan listed the LLC as the owner of those properties.

Indeed DUESENBERG INVESTMENT COMPANY, LLC is only the tail of a bigger dog. The name that graces the top of 1800 Avenue of the Stars is ‘TOPA.’ Some more digging shows that DUESENBERG INVESTMENT COMPANY, LLC is one of a dozen LLCs controlled by TOPA EQUITIES, LTD, which was formed to control real estate, beverage and automotive investments.  TOPA holds office towers in Oxnard, auto dealerships, insurance and financial services firms and much more. The company was once associated with a cattle company in Nevada.

TOPA EQUITIES, LTD was formed in 1962 by Anderson. But real estate is a family business and so control passed to his son William S. Anderson (CEO) a few years ago. TOPA holds more than 25 subsidiaries in four divisions, according to the website,  and yet the Andersons are interested in a Beverly Hills city council race?

OUTSOURCING & MANAGEMENT CONCEPTS, INC.: $5,000

Bringing it back to Beverly Hills, this Beverly-Hills based contributor seems like an outlier. Why would a ‘marketing strategies and employment outsourcing’ firm keep company with real estate moguls? Digging into OUTSOURCING & MANAGEMENT CONCEPTS, INC. shows that the company was incorporated by Gabriel Frem, who is also CEO, CFO and secretary. Digging deeper we find a number of real estate-related companies registered to Frem.

Also at his 240 North Beverly Drive address is FREM INVESTMENTS, LLC; FREM INVESTMENTS BEL AIR, LLC; and FREM INVESTMENTS LOS ANGELES, LLC. The latter is a vehicle to hold dual parcels underneath his now-closed House of Cravings restaurant at Olympic & La Peer. (It is now a fitness center of some kind.) That wasn’t his only restaurant either. Frem’s office is adjacent to his Sweet Beverly takeaway restaurant (both on city-owned property).

The Rodeo Connection!

Nearly half of the contributors to the ‘Beverly Hills United to Support Bosse and Gold’ PAC come from entities with interests on Rodeo Drive. That makes sense given that the city is very generous to Rodeo Drive businesses. The Rodeo Drive Committee, city-funded but private organization that promotes Rodeo Drive, this year received about $2M from the city’s marketing budget for the website, special events, etc. (Both Bosse and Gold support that spending to keep the city’s retail cash-cow fed.)

Gearys: $9,000

Gearys is a longtime retailer in Beverly Hills. Support for the incumbents might fit with the owner Thomas Blumenthal’s interest to keep our small-business climate in Beverly Hills healthy and strong. After all he has long been involved with the Rodeo Drive Committee. But the contribution comes not from Blumenthal, Gearys chief executive, but from the retailing company itself.

The main store is located at 351 North Beverly. The entity that controls the retailing operation is TJB GEARYS, LLC. Blumenthal is listed as a company member on the filings (fitting as ‘TJB’ are his initials). The property is owned by another vehicle, RODEO BEVERLY LLC, which is located at 441 North Beverly. Filings show that the LLC is controlled by both the Blumenthal family and real estate investor Bruce Meyer.

In fact Bruce Meyer controls a number of real estate companies based at 441 North Beverly (where ground floor is leased to James Perse).

Rodeo Family, LLC: $9,500

RODEO FAMILY LLC is located at 441 North Beverly along with the other entities that control Gearys (and the land beneath the Beverly store). The company owns 314 North Rodeo, according to city records, which makes it a Rodeo Drive stakeholder. (The retail space itself is leased to Dolce & Gabbana.)

RODEO FAMILY LLC describes its business on state forms as “real estate investment.” It names as company members Bruce A. Meyer, Jack L. Blumenthal, and Susan M. Blumenthal. Not only do Blumenthal and Meyer share the 441 North Beverly business address; twenty years ago, forms show, they shared the 351 North Beverly address of the Gearys store too.

Meyer is a named member on twenty other LLCs that appear to be real property-related, too, including CANON PROPERTIES LLC that owns 419 North Canon Drive which lists Meyer as CEO and member. Together the Gearys and Rodeo Family contributions total $18,500 which is more than 15% of total PAC funding.

Walter M. Marks, Inc.: $4,500

WALTER N. MARKS, INC. was founded in Beverly Hills in 1956 by future real estate mogul Wally Marks how built its empire on the Wilshire corridor, Santa Monica Place mall and, later, the Third Street Promenade. Notably it gained control of the 11-acre Helms Bakery site on Venice Boulevard. That preservation success story is today a retailing mecca.

Speaking of retailing meccas, the company purchased 320–324 North Rodeo Drive some years back. (The property is leased to Valentino & Bottega Veneta.) Today a third-generation president, Walter Marks III, leads the Los Angeles-based firm and the company recently announced plans to build a 42-story residential tower on Miracle Mile. Founder Wally Marks would be proud — and the family still has that Rodeo Drive connection.

Dominium Management Corporation: $9,500

Another home-grown family real estate investment business with connections to Rodeo Drive is Dominium controlled by brothers Daryoush Mahboubi-Fardi (President and CEO) and Behrouz Mahboubi-Fardi (CFO). The firm is headquartered at 9629 Brighton Way, which is owned by a partnership named Brighton Way, Ltd., according to company filings. But the only partner in that company is Brighton Way Corporation. Behrouz Mahboubi-Fardi is indicated as a vice president and partner for the Brighton Way corporation.

There are many companies associated with Dominium and not a few are related to Rodeo Drive. One is RODEO COLLECTION LTD, a partnership that owns the namesake Rodeo Drive Collection. Any tourist will know that assemblage of storefronts numbered 413–443 North Rodeo. The storefronts mask a mall behind. Likewise behind the RODEO COLLECTION LTD vehicle is another company named RDP MANAGER, LLC which is managed by Daryoush Mahboubi-Fardi and Bahador Mahboubi.

It is worth noting that the Mahboubi family numbers no fewer than twelve, according to voting records. They tend to register Republican and contribution filings show they tend to support more conservative city council candidates. Oh, and they often donate as a block at the maximum $450 per head. The PAC affords Dominium even more of a voice in local affairs.

KMJ DE LLC: $9,500

There is not much information available on the Delaware-based KMJ DE LLC. It was formed only in 2018 with the stated purpose being “investments.” Digging into the paperwork shows that a Mark C. Tronstein is listed as a manager. The firm is headquartered at 100 Wilshire Blvd #1600 in Santa Monica.

Tronstein has deep connections to Rodeo Drive. He is a Rodeo land owner at 445–449 (owned through one of his vehicles, RODEO DRIVE ASSOCIATES, LLC.) His other companies include RODEO/BRIGHTON LLC and 445–449 RODEO ASSOCIATES, LLC. (Incidentally his property is next door to Mahboubi’s Rodeo Collection.)

Tronstein is also past president of the Rodeo Drive Committee and is on the Chamber’s Board of Directors (along with Bendheim). Why he contributed though this LLC and not as an individual is not known.

Barbara Sanborn: $9,500 (individual)

This PAC contributor was a curiosity. Why would an architect in Santa Barbara make a relatively big-dollar contribution to a PAC supporting candidates in a distant city council race? The Beverly Press reported that the contributor showed a Mission Viejo street address that did not exist. (But that was a mere oversight. A quick google shows that the correct street is Mission Ridge.) Had the Beverly Press dug deeper they would have found a solid connection to Beverly Hills.

First, Sanborn and her husband Thomas are donors to Beverly Gardens Park. That got us curious whether they had business in town. Looking over business licenses we saw ‘Sanborn Properties’ on two leasing entities. And those entities relate to two adjacent parcels: 301 and 309 North Rodeo. That happens to be the location of the recently constructed Burberry’s store — a $24M job! That is quite a substantial Rodeo connection indeed.

The owner of record, according to the city, is SANBORN,JOSEPHINE S CO TR ET AL. Now trusts are not very transparent. Unlike LLCs and other entities there is no available filings. So we dug deeper into city records to find a development plan review application with the names Walter D. Sanborn III and Thomas H. Sanborn. (He is the husband of Barbara.)

We conclude that these brothers descended from Walter Sanborn and Josephine who must have made the Rodeo investment long ago. The elder Sanborns retired to Reno, records show, while Barbara and Thomas now call Santa Barbara home. But they still maintain that connection to Beverly Hills — and to our local politics.

Commentary

Far from uniting Beverly Hills, the ‘Beverly Hills United to Support Bosse and Gold’ PAC is dividing us. It reminds us that big-money politics can affect small-town elections. In this case it puts city council candidate Lori Greene Gordon at a disadvantage for running a straight-up campaign.

(Notably candidate Bosse has disavowed the PAC support. Candidate Gold appreciates support wherever he can get it, he told the Beverly Press.)

The constant mailers leave behind an aftertaste of campaign skullduggery which has no place in our city council race. More alarmingly it could augur more of the same going forward until the city follows the Sunshine Task Force unanimous recommendation to close the independent committee PAC loophole.

We’re not the only ones grumbling. One resident went so far as to take out a full-page advertisement in the Weekly to bemoan the PAC’s impact on our election. Ironically this aggrieved elector himself is a longtime Rodeo Drive stakeholder (his family just sold some choice parcels to LVMH)!

Bosse-Gold Robbie Anderson ad in Weekly issue 1064
This concerned citizen sought to counter the PAC spending with his own ad calling out the “suspicious” PAC spending and the agenda behind it.

Have we made a mistake? We welcome anything you can share about the sometimes obscured assets these folks hold. Get in touch!