Who will own Yosemite?

January 04, 1991|By The Los Angeles Times

SECRETARY of the Interior Manuel Lujan only wants the best deal he can get on a concessionaire's holdings at Yosemite National Park. And that's OK. But the way he is going about it sometimes sounds suspiciously like Japan-bashing.

The fuss involves the sale of MCA Inc., an entertainment giant, to Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., an electronics giant. With MCA go the hotels, restaurants and other enterprises operated by Yosemite Park & Curry Co., whose contract with the Park Service expires in 1993.

Matsushita recognized that foreign ownership of property at Yosemite might not look good. So it decided early on to try to sell Curry Co. to an American buyer and put interim profits in escrow for a park foundation.

Lujan's office has not approved the plan, apparently still hoping that Matsushita will just donate Curry properties that may be worth $300 million, something no publicly held company wants to do. Legally, the Curry sale probably can go through anyway, but a sale to an American firm would go more smoothly if Matsushita and Interior worked side by side.

It could be that the longer Lujan holds out, the stronger the chance that Curry will remain in foreign hands. That would be an ironic outcome of his campaign. It's smart to take a public negotiating position designed to drive a price down. And few Americans want the Yosemite concession to stay in foreign hands.

But don't go overboard.

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