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Grand Wailea in Chapter 11 and will continue operating

By Star-Advertiser Staff and News Services

POSTED:


Maui's Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa was placed into bankruptcy with four mainland luxury resorts after the owner of the properties couldn't restructure $1.5 billion in debt that matured yesterday.

The five resorts are expected to continue operating without disruption while their owner, a group of investors, works with lenders to restructure the debt under Chapter 11.

The move was made four days after the investors group seized ownership of eight resorts from Morgan Stanley real estate funds at a foreclosure auction.

Three resorts didn't have debts maturing yesterday and were excluded from the bankruptcy, which was filed in New York.

Besides the Grand Wailea, the other resorts placed in bankruptcy were La Quinta Resort & Club and Claremont Resort & Spa in California, Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami and the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix.

The investor group includes giant hedge fund Paulson & Co., Winthrop Realty Trust and Capital Trust Inc.

The investors held junior debt that helped finance Morgan Stanley's acquisition of CNL Hotels & Resorts Inc. in 2007 at the peak of the real estate market for $6.7 billion, positioning them to foreclose on the equity ownership after Morgan Stanley defaulted on the debt.

In yesterday's bankruptcy filing, the five resorts collectively had $2.2 billion in assets and $1.9 billion in debts.

The 780-room Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria resort, accounts for 42 percent of the mortgage collateral, according to Harris Trifon, an analyst for Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York.

Among the 30 largest unsecured creditors in the bankruptcy case are two Hawaii entities: Maui County's Department of Water Supply with a $448,357 claim, and luxury condominium developer Wailea MF-9 Associates with a $567,249 claim.

Paulson affiliates will fund operations of the bankrupt hotels with a $30 million loan that would be junior to the mortgage liens while the investor group pursues more financing.

In a court filing, Dan Kamensky, a Paulson partner, said the resorts have operated in a difficult environment with a considerable debt load, reduced business and higher fuel prices.

"The debtors' overleveraged balance sheet, coupled with the difficulties in the hospitality industry, has made it impossible at this time for the debtors to refinance their approximately $1.525 billion debt that matures on Feb. 1, 2011," Kamensky said in the statement.

"In addition, several of the debtors' constituencies have raised questions regarding the efficiency, cost, and expense of operating and managing the resorts, topics which likely will need to be explored during the Chapter 11 cases."






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