United Founders Life Tower, 5900 Mosteller Drive, will be sold Monday to a Gainesville, Fla. limited partnership for about $2.5 million, a member of the buyer's group said Friday.
The new owner will be Growth Fund International Ltd., a U.S./Swedish investment group led by Gainesville investor Ernest Tew. The principal Swedish investors are Inge Pettersson and Claes Johansson.
The seller is Protective Life Insurance Corp., parent company of United Founders Life Insurance Co. Protective acquired the property through a 1986 foreclosure action.
Set to close at 10 a.m. Monday, the deal is a cash transaction, Ernest Tew said. The deal includes the adjoining building housing Queen Ann Cafeteria and 7.4 acres of surrounding land.
Including land, the sales price figures about $12.50 a square foot.
Tew said the sales price is a bargain, even in a depressed economy. He said he believes he got the building for about 15 percent of its construction cost.
The last time the tower sold, it went for $12 million, he said. That was in 1981.
Local representatives in Monday's sale include Carl Pojezny and attorney Bob Morgan for the buyer and Les Hathcock and Tom Blanton of D.J. Blanton Co., listing brokers.
Growth Fund is among a network of real estate partnerships headed by Tew, president of Equity General Corp. He said he is looking for other commercial real estate investments in Oklahoma.
"I feel like Oklahoma currently offers the best opportunities that I have encountered in my 28 years in the business," Tew said. "That's why we're here. The flip side of a problem is an opportunity, if you can solve it.
"If you own it free and clear, as we will, everything else being equal, you eliminate 90 percent of the risk."
The 20-story, 200,000-square-foot tower was built about 25 years ago by United Founders Life Insurance Co., a local company later acquired by Protective Life Insurance Corp., Birmingham, Ala. Protective acquired the tower in the transaction.
Although it is now outdated and 55 percent occupied, the 10-sided building once housed a luxurious basement fitness club. There was a revolving, top-floor restaurant, unique in the market.
The new owner plans to restore the features, Tew said. Eagle's Nest restaurant is about to renew its lease for the top floor of the tower and has committed to repairing the restaurant's revolving mechanism.
A new fitness center tenant will be sought to occupy the basement space with its indoor pool, sauna, raquetball courts and whirlpool area.
The new owner is considering converting the property to office condominiums. The owner will spend $500,000 to $1 million updating the property, beginning within 90 days, Tew said. Pojezny will probably head the building's leasing and management. A contract has not yet been signed, however.
"Our philosophy is we want to buy, renovate, manage and maintain as if we were going to keep it forever," Tew said. "But of course it will be available to possible buyers if someone wants it."
According to his estimate, the building would cost about $20 million to replace today, a figure that is high partly due to the building's round configuration and the special materials needed for the work.
The buyer plans to find a day care center tenant to serve employees working in the building. New tenants will be sought for the office tower.
United Founders Life Insurance Co. has agreed to renew its lease for 33,000 square feet and will remain as one of the anchor tenants, the spokesman said. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 384834