A Bradenton mall has been sold for $9.5 million to a Seattle-based company that may have ties to a Chinese billionaire.
The center is The Fountain, a 72,795 square foot property on West 14th Street. 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, who represented the seller, the buyer was Fountains Plaza LLC.
Fountain Plaza LLC., according to thand The Florida Division of Corporation website lists its primary address as 3435 122nd Place NE in Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. The manager of the company, according to the file, is a businessman named Wang Wenxue. Besides, Property records from King County, Washington show that the property at 122nd Place NE 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 it like No. 925 on his list of the richest people in the world with a net worth of $3.3 billion.
A company profile on the Wall Street Journal’s online markets page says it has 21,450 employees and $9.45 billion in revenue.
Through multiple calls and text messages with people involved in the case and with the LLCs, the Business Observer attempted to confirm whether Wenxue is, in fact, the Shanghai billionaire behind The Fountain’s purchase. Yunfei Liu of Multi Choice Realty in Claremont, who represented Fountain Plaza in the deal, says he doesn’t know if his client is billionaire Wenxue or someone else. “I have no idea, my friend,” he said.
Officials at Ian Black Real Estate, in the statement, describe the buyer in the press release simply as a “West Coast investor (who) is considering relocating to Florida and buying commercial properties to build his portfolio.”
Nick Devito, a partner in the firm, says in the press release that whoever the buyer was looking to buy a mall in Southwest Florida and found The Fountain “particularly desirable account given its low vacancy rate, long-term tenants and high visibility on US 41.”
“Outside investors are picking up properties in the area and paying competitive prices for the properties,” Devito adds in the statement. “It has created a highly competitive market, with no signs of slowing down.”
Devito was traveling and unavailable.
There is other information that links Wenxue to buying The Fountain.
According to the press release announcing the sale, the buyer of the Bradenton property also purchased the Kissimmee Korners mall in Kissimmee last year. Two reports released at the time identified China’s wealthy Wenxue as the person buying the Kissimmee mall. One of them is Mingtiandi, a highly regarded industry publication that specializes in covering real estate business in Asia.
Besides, Osceola County property records indicate that the purchaser for central Kissimmee is WWX2 Limited. The address of this company, according to property records, is also 3435 122nd Place NE in Bellevue.
As for the deal itself, to make the center more attractive, former owners and Ian Black have been working to find long-term tenants and fill spaces left vacant after shops closed during the pandemic. At the time of sale, occupancy was over 95%
The center was previously owned by Evan N. Berlin, a Sarasota investor, and his revocable trust. He paid $7.35 in 2018.