In 1997, Moyer broke ground without any financing on the Fox Tower project; two years in, with $90 million of his own money already committed, he had no more than a fifth of the future space rented. Development competitors expected him to fold, but Moyer had a card left to play: his life story. Inviting The Oregonian’s R. Gregory Nokes into his Vancouver, Wash., home, Moyer laid out a drama worthy of Alger, about his rise from hard-scrabble Depression baby beginnings in Sellwood, his abandonment of school to pursue an amateur boxing career that put him in the ring with legendary Sugar Ray Robinson, through the growth of his theater conglomerate that led to a falling out with his siblings but eventually earned him $192 million upon sale in 1989, and finally, tossing out some anecdotes of the stinginess and forgetfulness that friends and family said defined him.
Nokes was even offered a view from the top of the skeletal concrete elevator shaft Hoffman had put in first at the Fox Tower, and here was the trade-off: Moyer, whom Sturgeon describes as “excruciatingly private,” was willing to expose himself in exchange for some free publicity. “He felt he had to,” says Sturgeon.
The outreach effort, combined with an aggressive sales pitch from Moyer’s team of high-powered brokers, worked. In late 1999, timber magnate Louisiana Pacific committed to leaving the choicest office address in Portland — the top two floors at U.S. Bancorp Tower — for the Fox Tower. That led to a construction loan from Bank of America, and by the time the building was finished it was over 90% leased. Moyer moved into his own apartment on the upper floors of Fox Tower, the new “it” spot in town.
A mini-charm offensive from Sturgeon last spring, however, couldn’t rescue TMT’s $50 million investment already sunk into Park Avenue West. The Portland Development Commission was weighing a move from its Old Town offices into Park Avenue West that — with commitments from Stoel Rives to half the office space and Nike to a retail store — would have secured a construction loan from Pacific Life to finish the tower. Sturgeon and Co. hired a public affairs consultant to navigate the PDC’s public bid process and Sturgeon sat for an interview with the Portland Business Journal.
But that restart fell through when PDC officials couldn’t justify paying an estimated $10-a-square-foot premium to move commission offices to Park Avenue West. It was a prime example of the persistence of low rents around the city that have been a drag on new office projects.
That brings us to TMT’s latest predicament: It’s without a loan and without Stoel Rives, which renewed its lease at the Standard Insurance Tower last August. The company needs to show its face again.