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My Story: Todd Anson

San Diego

Way back when, Todd Anson helped grow the Internet. (So, if you like this article, thank Todd. Same goes for cat videos and online banking.) Today, he's working out municipal bond defaults as a co-founder of Common Bond Capital Partners, and he's still working on breakthrough technology.


Yesterday, we caught up with Todd at his summer lake house in Michigan. The University of Michigan law school grad and wife Terri will be there through the college football season. (So kids, don't expect any treats at the Anson home in Coronado tomorrow.) His Internet origins date back to his time as a managing partner of the former Brobeck Phleger & Harrison and later as a tech campus developer. He tells us Common Bond was the brainchild of his partner Bill Huck, a municipal finance expert formerly with Stone & Youngberg. The company was founded to take advantage of opportunities in defaulted municipal bond issuances secured by specific real estate projects. While at least $500M in dirt bonds is projected to go into default in California, Todd sees the bulk of this complicated and arcane work happening in Southeastern states like Florida and Virginia.

Friend Dick Enberg, Todd's son Chris, and former Hall of Famer Dan Fouts. Common Bond typically takes large positions at deep discounts in projects like Rolling Hills near Jacksonville, where the company has started selling lots. It's not just residential; Todd and his partners are considering a run at COPIA in Napa. The lavish center devoted to wine, food, and the arts closed in 2008. Fun fact about Todd: his summer home on Lake Charlevoix looks out over Hemingway Point, where young Ernest spent his formative years, and sits on a portion of the historic Castle Farms estate of Sears Roebuck exec Albert Loeb, father of Leopold and Loeb killer Richard Loeb.

As a real estate attorney, Todd created new structures for fast-growing tech companies to take control of the development process. Though the techniques, including synthetic leases and off-balance sheet financing, got a bad rap years later thanks to Enron, they enabled tech companies to buy land, entitle, finance and build facilities without having to rely on the development community. During the S&L crisis in the early '90s, nobody could get financing for any projects, and companies were finding it hard to find facilities. Todd and Steve Black founded Cisterra Development, which partnered first with Cisco Systems, creating facilities the company needed to support and grow the Internet, including a 1.1M SF campus in Amsterdam, 4.5M SF in Boston, and a 220k SF project in Ottawa. Cisterra also developed DiamondView Tower (above), an iconic Class-A office high-rise overlooking Petco Park.

They later partnered with IDEC (now Biogen IDEC) on a 770k SF campus in La Jolla designed by HOK. Todd recalls a closing dinner with Cisco CEO John Chambers, who said that evening, the Internet would be the great equalizer because a poor child in Africa would have access to the same information as an affluent child in America. "I'm still stunned by the vision that John Chambers and the people at Cisco had." Sons Chris and Ryan are University of Michigan grads too: Chris got his law degree last year, while Ryan has a degree in economics. In high school, Chris was a world-ranked online gamer.