Tram Be & Vallco Fashion Park, from Little Saigon Inside
Author: Vu Linh

Tram Be, 50, a real estate tycoon in Vietnam, recently invested $60 million to buy Cupertino Square – previously known as Vallco Fashion Park. 

Tram Be is known to have investments in Southern Bank (Ngan Hang Phuong Nam), Trieu An Hospital in HCM City, and other real estate investments in Binh Chanh (HCM City).

 He has close ties with Le thanh Hai, who is currently the person in charge of HCM City, the largest city in Vietnam (equivalent to a mayoral position).

This is a first multimillion dollar investment by a Vietnamese from Vietnam (a communist dictatorship country) into Silicon Valley, albeit real estate or high-tech companies.

Located in one of Silicon Valley’s most prosperous communities, the 4th biggest mall in San Jose has a checkered history.

The origininal investors of the mall consisted of Vietnamese-American and Chinese-American investors in the Bay Area. One of the Vietnamese-Americans is the owner of Grand Century Mall on Senter Road. They were hoping to turn the mall into the largest Asian mall in the US. They acquired the mall for $80 million in early 2003 from foreclosure after the previous owners defaulted on the mortgage. They were forced to sell the majority of their equity in late 2007 to an international turnaround specialist OrbitResources (A Tawainese company with Philip Liao as its CEO) after running into financial troubles for missteps, particularly the over construction costs for a new 16-screen theater. Orbit became then the main investor in Cupertino Square LLC and Vallco International Shopping Center, LLC.

According to a San Jose Business Journal’s article published on 9-4-2008, Gramercy (a New York-based real estate investment trust) is the lender of a $113 million construction loan. The mall owners filed for bankruptcy on September 2, 2008 because they could not meet their debt obligation.

The reorganization plan proposed in early 2009 by the debtors was supposed to be a compromise with its lenders. Pursuant to the plan, a newly formed entity would acquire the shopping center for $105 million (plus additional consideration), which purchase price would likely be financed by the pre-petition lenders and other investors.

The $60 million investment by Tram Be is believed to allow him to be the majority stakeholder of the shopping mall.

According to San Jose Business Journal, Cupertino Square has more than 1.2 million square feet of retail space situated on slightly more than 50 acres. The mall has four anchor tenants — three department stores and an 80,000-square-foot movie theater — plus more than 500,000 square feet of in-line shop space and a food court. Only about half the building area and 21 acres of land are owned by the debtors, however, with the balance of land and improvements owned by the department stores.