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Pink Slips Real Estate and Marin Economic Forum

Columnist: Bill Meagher
February, 2018 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

Autodesk, a company that got its start in Mill Valley in 1982 but has seen its stock bounce up and down from about $73 to $131 a share over the last year, streeted 13 percent of its workforce. It’s the second time since February 2016 the company has done a larger layoff—sending 925 employees packing.
The company, which has its corporate headquarters in San Rafael, previously employed about 9,000 folks worldwide, with about 2,000 working in San Rafael and San Francisco facilities. The company was a pioneer in the architectural and engineering software sector. 
Autodesk has been transitioning from a business model of selling licenses to use its software to an online subscription business.
The layoffs will wind up costing the company as much as $149 million. The pink slip parade was stuffed inside Autodesk’s financials for the third quarter in which it reported a 5 percent jump in revenues to $515 million year over year. But it still posted losses of about $120 million, an improvement from the quarter before where it had about $143 million in red ink.
The company made Marketing Chief Andrew Anagnost chief executive officer in June last year, after Carl Bass, who headed up the company for more than a decade, left in February.

Former condo project changes hands, again

In a move signaling Marin commercial real estate may be heading in a northerly direction, the 33 North apartment complex in the Santa Venetia neighborhood of San Rafael was sold to Coastal City Partners LLC for $42.6 million.
The 82-unit complex close to the Marin Civic Center was originally set to be upscale condos way back in 2008, when San Rafael’s Monahan Pacific was developing it. (Monahan shoveled $55 million into this project.) But in 2012 the project was in bankruptcy and was purchased for a little more than $36 million by a New York-Los Angeles joint venture, which turned it into an apartment complex.
Three years later, it was sold again; this time for $45 million.
There is no word about future plans for the complex. But with the SMART train finally on the tracks, the Santa Venetia is seeing some changes. The city of San Rafael is rebuilding the fire station across the street from the Civic Center. And the Marin Farmer’s Market is moving on its plans to build a permanent home on the other side of the Civic Center next to the SMART station. 
The town of Corte Madera has said “yes” to RH, the brand formerly known as Restoration Hardware, and it plans to build a 46,000-square-foot monument to large furniture at the Village at Corte Madera.
The town expects to realize about $600,000 in new sales tax from the project which includes a rooftop conservatory and a café. “We don’t build retail stores,” CEO Gary Friedman reminds us. “We build inspiring spaces that blur the lines between residential and retail, indoors and outdoors, physical and digital, with garden courtyards, reflecting pools and rooftop parks.”
Uh, yeah.   

Your Marin moment

Brother, can you spare $100K?
The Marin Board of Supervisors has bailed out the star-crossed Marin Economic Forum to the tune of $100,000 in a move to keep the business-focused non-profit afloat. The organization finds itself in the red and newly-hired CEO Robin Sternberg says that the Forum has had some transitional issues.
Sternberg has a gift for the understated. She is the fourth CEO since 2011 to lead the Forum, replacing Jim Cordeiro in August. He resigned after spending less than a year in Marin.
The new CEO inherited an organization where its staff was looking to fluff up their resumes, with the information technology manager and a longtime administrative aid heading for greener pastures. 
Worse, the fundraising cupboard was empty and the Forum had to find new digs.
In recent years, the Forum’s membership has dwindled and with it deposits in the nonprofit’s coffers. But new sponsor cash has begun flowing since Sternberg came on board with almost $35,000 coming in. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. ponied up a whole $2,500 and AT&T contributed a whopping $2,000. But then those companies only have market capitalizations of $27 billion and $234 billion respectively, so cash is tight. Thus it’s easy to understand why the College of Marin gave $5,000, more than those two behemoths combined. 
Sternberg is saddled with an impossibly large board of 29 members, but she has laid down the law, telling all of its members its time to get out their checkbooks. 
If the “generous contributions” from PG&E and AT&T are examples, she is going to have to expand the board.
Bill Meagher is a contributing editor at NorthBay biz and an associate editor at The Deal and TheStreet, Wall Street-based financial news outlet, working from its west coast office in San Francisco. He and his family call San Rafael home.  



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