The LA Law office building that still has the backing of lenders

The tower's tenants include law firm Parker Stansbury, investment bank Morgan Stanley and fitness company Equinox.

444 South Flower Street (Source: Hayley Block)

If the walls could talk at 444 South Flower Street, they would reel off a long list of onscreen cameos. The office tower is in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) and forms part of an iconic skyline etched in the brains of movie, video game and TV-lovers. The city, however, has been the subject of much scrutiny from a real estate perspective lately, with a slew of poorly performing office buildings either facing default or selling for significantly less than they were bought.

Recent months have not been all doom and gloom for the DTLA submarket, however. In May, Brookfield-backed manager Oaktree Capital Management secured a loan extension from New York-based insurer American International Group for 444 South Flower Street, in northwestern DTLA. Oaktree took control of the building in January from Coretrust Capital Partners in a foreclosure auction. Coretrust remains in the building as a tenant.

The original loan, issued in 2018, was a $64.7 million mezzanine loan, and formed part of a larger refinancing package in which AIG provided a $209.6 million senior loan. Coretrust had originally acquired the building in 2016 for $336 million.

Since taking control, Oaktree has hired broker JLL as leasing agent and executed 90,000 square feet of new leases at the 48-story, 914,000 square foot tower which, at time of opening in 1981, was the fifth-tallest building in the city. 

Meanwhile, the DTLA office market has been under increasing pressure. At the end of last year, 30 percent of office space in DTLA was available for lease, according to broker Colliers, the highest figure for any major US metro. In February, manager Brookfield defaulted on loans worth $784 million against two office properties held in its DTLA fund Office Trust Investor. Another three buildings held in the vehicle face a risk of foreclosure, according to public filings. 

Star quality

Movie and TV buffs may be most familiar with 444 South Flower Street’s role in the opening credits of NBC television drama LA Law, and as the setting for the main heist in Michael Mann’s 1995 cult classic film Heat. More recently, it was crushed by the US Bank Tower, with which it shares a city block, in the 2015 movie San Andreas.

The building also features in the third installment of Tony Hawk’s skateboarding video game franchise, and was recreated in the fifth Grand Theft Auto game in its fake version of LA, Los Santos.

Beyond its cultural significance, the building has played host to a number of high-profile tenants, including law firm Parker Stansbury, investment bank Morgan Stanley and fitness company Equinox. It was originally opened as the Wells Fargo Building and was developed by the Rockefeller Group. It was renamed the Citigroup Center shortly after, when the global bank moved in and made it its headquarters, before moving out in 2018.

Despite constant change, 444 South Flower Street is still considered a quality asset, as evidenced by the loan extension. Such cultural touchstones should keep it relevant long after another evolution. 

  • 1981: Building opens as the Wells Fargo Center
  • 1983 – 87: Renamed Citigroup Center as anchor tenant moves in
  • 2003: Beacon Capital Partners acquires property for $170 million
  • 2016: Coretrust Capital Partners acquires building for $336 million from Hines
  • Jan 2023: Oaktree takes control of property via uniform credit
  • May 2023: Oaktree secures extension on the loan against the building