Berkeley’s landmark Wells Fargo Building has been sold to a company owned by the heirs to the Hills Brothers Coffee fortune.
The new owner is Bollibokka Shattuck LLC, a subsidiary of the Bollibokka Land Company, which was incorporated in Nevada in May 2007 and is headquartered in Mill Valley.
Leighton J. Hills, the company’s legal agent of record, lives in Mill Valley, while other members of the family live in Santa Rosa, Colusa, Reno and Farmington, Conn., according to legal filings.
Hills did not returned calls, and details of the sale, including purchase price, were not available.
Asked if Seagate Properties, the former owners, had sold the venerable Berkeley building, a receptionist for that company answered, “Yes, we have.” Calls left with Seagate for further comment were not returned.
Bollibokka lists the building on the home page of their Internet site at www.bollibokka.com.
According to the site, the Bollibokka Land Company was founded in 1904, though the corporation as it now exists was formed in Nevada in April 1935. For more than a century the firm owned land on the McCloud River, where it ran a private fly-fishing operation, the Bollibokka Club.
The property, which was sold in 2006 for a reported $30 million, is adjacent to Wyntoon, the baronial resort built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
According to their website, the land company “is in the process of building a portfolio of commercial real estate properties” and cites only one purchase to date, “an acquisition of the Wells Fargo Bank building in Berkeley.”
Seagate still retains other properties in the city, including the ELS office building at 2030-2040 Addison St., the Berkeley Promenade at 2061-2065 Center St., the former National Guard armory at 1950 Addison St., and their newest acquisition at 2850 Telegraph Ave.
“Wow,” said City Councilmember Dona Spring when she learned of the sale. “That just shows that downtown real estate continues to be a hot commodity.”
Spring, who represents the district on the council, compared the sale to last year’s $147.4 million sale of the seven downtown apartment buildings owned by developers Patrick Kennedy and David Teece.
Designated a city landmark in 1984, the building was completed in 1925, designed by Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr. and originally named the Chamber of Commerce Building for its primary tenant.
Spring is the building’s number one fan, noting wryly “that it makes up in height for what it lacks in aesthetics.”
The councilmember said she believes the new owners will probably have to do a significant amount of retrofit to bring the offices up to contemporary standards.
“The last time I was in the building, I noticed that it was pretty antiquated,” she said.
Berkeley Economic Development Director Michael Caplan said he hadn’t heard of the transaction before a reporter called, “but I had heard rumors on and off about a possible sale. When you have large property transactions, it means an infusion of transfer tax to the city, and that’s a good thing,” he said.