For Craig Kelly, president of Venerable Group Inc., selling the historic, three-building White Stag property to the University of Oregon Foundation for $42.6 million is bittersweet.
For starters, the $37 million renovation of the property marked the last major project that Kelly completed with Art DeMuro, the founder of Venerable and a close friend of Kelly’s who passed away in 2012 after a battle with cancer. In addition, the project, which revamped the 100-year-old buildings largely for the University of Oregon, became a flagship one for Venerable.
“It is the crown jewel of the Venerable empire,” Kelly said. “It is bittersweet, though, because for Art and I, this was one of our children. It’s like a link to my friend that will no longer really be there.”
Still, the time was right to sell, and the university has long had its sights set on owning the building. Venerable acquired the property in 2006 from the Naito family for $5.3 million. An 18-month construction period followed, and the University of Oregon began offering classes there in 2008.
The university occupies about 103,000 square feet of the 137,000-square-foot property. Venerable has its office in one of the buildings, as well, and plans to stay put.
The building was purchased through an entity called OFX White Stag LLC, whose registered agents include Paul Weinhold, president of the U of O Foundation, Erika Funk, COO of the foundation and Wendy Lee Laing, general counsel for the foundation. Victoria Nguyen, public affairs and communications manager for the foundation, said the deal would not lead to any operational changes at the property.
However, Kelly said he sees the university’s purchase of the property as a sign of its long-term plans.
“I think it’s just a reaffirmation of their commitment to the Portland area and the market,” he said. “I expect that they’re looking to continue to expand their presence here, and I know they will be great stewards of the property.”
Written by Jon Bell with the Portland Business Journal.