THE Address in San Francisco

Atel Capital front desk The Registry real estate FEATURED

Luxurious is an understatement.


By Hayden Dingman

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here’s a scene late in “2001: A Space Odyssey” when protagonist Dave Bowman finds himself standing in a bright white room, modern at first glance but with unmistakably classic touches in the furniture and architecture. Stepping from the elevator into the new headquarters for Atel Capital Group feels a bit like entering Kubrick’s film set.

The bright and airy space on the ninth floor of the Transamerica Pyramid was designed by ASD Inc. Project Architect Melissa Pesci and Principal-in-Charge Amy Tamburro. “I guess the other floors are darker, stuffier,” Tamburro said.

[quote]“The Pyramid is, in my opinion, the address in San Francisco.” Dean Cash, president, Atel Capital Group[/quote]

Atel’s headquarters eschews that traditional dark wood, dimly lit, cigar-and-scotch world. “Dean definitely wanted something contemporary,” she continues. “He started with ‘super light, bright and modern.’”

Dean Cash is Atel’s animated, amicable president and chief executive, brimming with enthusiasm regarding his new office. He’ll gladly discuss the art he’s put up, chosen from his private collection: “Did you like the Donald Judd? And the Elmsworth Kelly?”

In tech-heavy San Francisco, Atel seems a bit of a rarity, but not really: Its business plan includes acquiring warrants, options or other rights to buy equity in startups. It is concerned with asset-backed acquisition financing for manufacturing equipment—new and used. It targets startups and established private companies, seeking interest rates of 12 percent to 15 percent annually. “We’ve worked with, let’s say, 250 of the Fortune 500, and we have a long list outside the Fortune 500,” Cash said.

Cash joined Atel in 1981 as director of marketing, though he knew of the company previously. He worked at GE Information Services selling computer timesharing to banks and leasing companies. One user later founded Atel and became, as Cash said, “my smallest customer.”

“He’d be running reports and printing them off, and I’d say ‘What is this stuff you’re doing?’ and he’d say, ‘Well it’s this lease analysis software I wrote,’” said Cash. “So I said, ‘Maybe we can get some other companies to use your software and you can make some royalties.’ We got Bank of America, Babcock & Brown, Transamerica—we got a whole bunch of leasing companies to sign up and use his software, and he started making some money. That was how we got to be acquainted.” Atel later sold its software to competitor Ivory Consulting, but still uses the same program to analyze the economics of lease transactions today.

By all accounts, Cash was a major force in crafting Atel’s new office. “He took us up to his house, so we had an idea of what he wanted, which is all white marble and very sleek,” Pesci said. She pointed toward the bottom of the wall. “Like this: we floated the walls off the floor,” she said. “A lot of the details aren’t typical for commercial construction, and they (Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Co.) did a great job.”

Like “2001,” Atel’s office masterfully combines aspects of old and new. The elevator exits into the entry hall, which is dominated by a glass-walled conference room overlooking Coit Tower. “This is the main conference room,” Tamburro said, “but this turns into an entertainment space.” An interior glass wall slides away on a track. “I came to their open house party and it worked. The reception desk doubled as a bar.”

The lights in this hall—and indeed, the whole office—are “L” shaped fixtures recessed into the walls. “They create this space purposefully for artwork,” Tamburro said. “Dean has an amazing collection.”

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Photography by Thomas Story

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