Dolby Labs Acquires New Building in Downtown San Francisco

Last week, Dolby Laboratories won a bidding war for a four-storey office building near its Potrero Hill headquarters in downtown San Francisco. Dolby president Bill Jasper plunked down $18.25 million in cashier's checks for the glass-block building, which had fallen into bankruptcy after it had been used as a diamond-cutting and distribution center linked to both the De Beers cartel and the Russian government.

Armed with $24 million, Jasper had come to the auction prepared to play hardball. He didn't have to spend it all, however. He outbid two competitors, Daiwa Bank and real estate developer Skip Berg, who got out of the game at $18 million. Berg told the San Francisco Chronicle that he knew he "didn't have a chance" as soon as he heard Dolby's name. "A developer like me can never outbid an end-user," he commented.

"We were quite lucky to find such a good building less than two blocks from here," Jasper said from his office at 100 Potrero Avenue. "We're bursting at the seams." It's been so crowded that some workers have been moved to temporary quarters, according to marketing executive Joe Hull. Rapidly growing Dolby added 75 new employees last year. "We expect to hire an additional 50 by the end of this year," said Jasper.

At the corner of Ninth St. and Brannan, the building---which Jasper described as "in excellent shape already"---will be remodeled for Dolby's multimedia design group, which will occupy the first two floors. The remaining two floors will be leased to tenants on a short-term basis, and will be available for future expansion. "We'll begin talking with the architects soon, after we've closed title," Jasper said. "In six to eight months, our multimedia group should be able to move in." A few Dolbyites will be moving in sooner, he added.