Internet Rumors about Tejon Ranch Company?s Investors Are False Companies Say

By Patric Hedlund

FRAZIER PARK, Calif. (Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 11:00 a.m.) — Michael H. Winer, Portfolio Manager for Third Avenue Real Estate Value Fund, said in an interview Wednesday, Sept. 3 that the 4.8 million shares of Tejon Ranch Company stock owned by his company have not been sold, contrary to internet rumors circulated last week.

A blogger, Rex Frankel of Los Angeles, sent to The Mountain Enterprise, the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press an article titled “News Tip” saying that the Third Avenue Fund had sold nearly all its holdings in TRC. A financial reporting website was cited as the source of the information.

Third Avenue’s Winer explained the error: “They are a data-gathering site that picks up Form 13F filings listing the holdings of investment funds…they didn’t intentionally misreport—they picked up numbers that were in error—it was a computer glitch, nothing intentional.”

Winer added that Frankel drew conclusions on his blog. “He said that we had second thoughts about the agreement [with ‘Big Green’ conservation groups to create the Tejon Ranch Conservancy], but we think it is a great deal for the company—so they will eventually get their entitlements to develop the projects that they hope to develop.”

Parts of Frankel’s report were carried on the local site maintained by Jan de Leeuw of Cuddy Valley. The Mountain Enterprise did not publish the report, seeking direct verification from Third Avenue Fund first. On Tuesday morning, Sept. 2 Frankel circulated Winer’s denial of the sell-off and by that afternoon Tejon Ranch Company had put out a national press release denying the report.

More misinformation flew through Mountain Community internet lists the same week, indicating that Tejon Ranch Company had been de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange for being undercapitalized. That was a case of mistaken identity. A construction company known as TRC—but listed on the NYSE as TRR—was actually the entity in question.

Third Avenue’s Winer (who is also a member of the Tejon Ranch Company board of directors) said, “If we wanted to sell those shares in the open market it would take months—literally months.”

He also commented on the rumored $20 million paid to Tejon’s CEO Robert Stine, “Bob has certainly been fairly compensated in the view of the board over the last 10 years but I wouldn’t say he has been over-compensated; the largest percentage of his overall compensation has come in the form of options and share grants…his shares are potentially worth money but they are ‘on the come,’ he has to perform. He is in the cross hairs of a lot of different special interest groups. I don’t know too many CEOs who could pull together those groups to hammer out an agreement as he did.”

Internet Rumors about Tejon Ranch Company’s Investors Are False Companies Say

This is part of the August 29, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.