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Business Observer Thursday, Apr. 28, 2022 5 months ago

Chinese billionaire possibly behind nearly $10M purchase of Bradenton shopping center

A Seattle company with potential ties to the founder of Shanghai real estate empire is buyer of The Fountains.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

A Bradenton shopping center has sold for $9.5 million to a Seattle-based company ​that could have ties to a Chinese billionaire​. ​

The center is The Fountain, a 72,795-square-foot property on 14th St​reet W​est​. Current tenants include Crunch Fitness, Good Liquid Brewing Co., Armed Forces Career Center and Grand Buffet.​

According to a press release from Ian Black Real Estate, which represented the seller, the buyer was Fountains Plaza​ ​​LLC.

Fountain Plaza​ ​​LLC., according to th​Florida Division of Corporation’s website, lists its principal address as 3435 122nd Place NE in​ ​Bellevue, Washington, a Seattle suburb. The company’s manager, ​the filing shows, is ​​a businessman named Wang Wenxue​. In addition, King County, Washington, property records show that ​the ​122nd Place N​E​ property is owned by Wenxue.

Wenxue​, according to Bloomberg,​ is a Chinese billionaire who founded and runs China Fortune Land Development, a Shanghai-based developer of industrial parks in Asia, including more than 30 in China. Forbes has him as ​No. 925 on its list of richest people in the world with a net worth of $3.3 billion.

A profile of the company on the Wall Street Journal's online Markets page says it has 21,450 employees and $9.45 billion in revenue. 

Through several calls and text messages with people involved in the deal and with the LLCs, the Business Observer attempted to confirm whether Wenxue is, in fact, the Shanghai billionaire behind the purchase of The Fountain. Yunfei Liu of Multi Choice Realty in Claremontwho represented Fountain Plaza in the deal, says he’s unsure if his client is the billionaire Wenxue or someone else. “I have no idea about that, my friend,” he says.

Ian Black Real Estate officials, in the statement, describe the buyer in the press release simply as a “West Coast investor (who) is planning to relocate to Florida and is purchasing commercial properties to build his portfolio.”

Nick Devito, a partner with the firm, says in the press release that the buyer, whomever it might be, was looking to buy a shopping center in southwest Florida and found The Fountain “particularly desirable given its low vacancy rate, long-term tenants and great visibility on U.S. 41.”

“Outside investors are scooping up properties in the area and paying competitive prices for properties," Devito adds in the statement. "It’s created a highly competitive market, with no signs of things slowing down.” 

Devito was traveling and unavailable.

There is other information that ties Wenxue to the The Fountain purchase. 

According to the press release announcing the sale, for one, the buyer of the Bradenton property also purchased the Kissimmee Korners Shopping Center in Kissimmee last year. Two published reports from the time identified the Wenxue of the China fortune as the person buying the Kissimmee shopping center. One of those is Mingtiandi, a highly regarded industry publication that specializes in covering the real estate business in Asia.

In addition, Osceola County property records show the buyer of the Kissimmee center as WWX2 Limited. That company’s address, according to property records, is also 3435 122nd Place NE in Bellevue.

As for the deal itself, to make the center more attractive the previous owners and Ian Black worked to secure long-term tenants and fill space left vacant after shops closed during the pandemic. At the time of sale, occupancy was more than 95%

The center was previously owned by Evan N. Berlin, a Sarasota investor, and his revocable trust. He paid $7.35 in 2018.

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