Atholl McBean | From page 104 of Ruth Newhall (1992). Click image to enlarge.
McBean Parkway in Valencia is named for the man who saved The Newhall Land and Farming Co. from financial meltdown in the 1930s.
The sons of Henry Mayo Newhall and founders of Newhall Land did not prove to be skillful managers of their corporation. They indulged in lavish lifestyles that bled money from the company. They received large executive salaries and bonuses and ran their business on a cash basis with sloppy to nonexistent bookkeeping.
Following the stock market crash of October 1929, Atholl McBean, husband of Newhall’s granddaughter Margaret Newhall, learned from a director at the Bank of California that the Newhalls and their companies were at least $2 million in debt and in danger of collapsing under the weight of the Depression.
McBean had become an expert at business management and at age 40 was president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and a director of several major corporations. He also led a successful company in which his family held a 3/8 interest Gladding, McBean Co., a major pottery manufacturer headquartered in San Francisco.
Gladding, McBean tile adorned Stanford University, where McBean endowed a professorship in the fledgling Business School. In future decades it would produce a pool of Newhall Land executives.
Atholl McBean | Click image to enlarge
Although not a Newhall Land stockholder in 1930, McBean called in professional controllers to examine the books of the company and found them to be in great disarray. Over the objections of a Newhall family that was used to the trappings of wealth generated by their company, McBean suspended their dividends and set about turning around the troubled firm's financial fortunes.
After convincing his reluctant friends at Crocker Bank to extend a loan to the Newhalls, McBean, through a variety of skillful business maneuvers, set the company back on solid financial ground by 1935.
That year, McBean granted a lease to the Barnsdall Co. to drill for oil in the Potrero Hills on the western end of the Newhall Ranch property. The following year, a major oil strike by the Barnsdall Co. brought a new source of income to Newhall Land. As more producers flocked to the ranch for oil and gas leases, the oil profits become the major source of income for the Newhalls.
McBean also set the wheels in motion in the 1940s for land development in the Santa Clarita Valley, a vision that would become the primary business model for Newhall Land's future. In the 1960s, McBean spearheaded the plans to create the town of Valencia on Newhall property to the north of the old town of Newhall.
McBean remained as chairman of the board of The Newhall Land and Farming Co. until his death in 1968 at age 89.