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Four Would be Buyers Hovering As the $98 million Sale of
 The Holiday Isle Resort in the Florida Keys Stalls

By Douglas Hanks III, The Miami Herald
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Mar. 21, 2006 - Four would-be buyers are hovering around the troubled sales talks involving Islamorada's Holiday Isle resort in hopes the deal falls through, a representative of the owner said. A federal bankruptcy-court judge on Friday granted a West Palm Beach developer an extension on its $98 million purchase contract for the famed honky-tonk resort on the ocean.

An entity controlled by Ceebraid-Signal filed for bankruptcy protection in February in a last-ditch effort to secure financing before the contract expired. Judge Paul Hyman on Friday agreed to give Ceebraid until April 28 to close on the sale.

If Ceebraid doesn't, four groups are ready to swoop in and buy Holiday Isle, said Robert Given, the CB Richard Ellis broker representing Holiday Isle's owners. He declined to name the potential buyers. Two of the would-be buyers are offering prices essentially equal to Ceebraid's offer, he said.

But fans of the slushy drinks and beach-bum charm that made Holiday Isle a favorite destination for fun-loving spring breakers and road trippers should not take heart.

Given said all four Holiday Isle suitors share Ceebraid's plans for a hotel that claims to have invented the rum rummer -- demolition, followed by construction of a luxury resort that will charge five-star rates.

"This deal is going to be a condo-hotel no matter what," Given said.

Executives with Ceebraid-Signal and Holiday Isle could not be reached Monday.

The pending sale comes amid increased interest in Florida Keys hotels as strict development controls and a strong lodging market has builders eager to buy properties they can upgrade into upscale resorts and residences.

Some hotels are selling for $400,000 a room, though Ceebraid would acquire Holiday Isle -- which includes a marina and a significant stretch of oceanfront -- for nearly $650,000 a room. Gregory Rumpel, senior vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, said Holiday Isle is the kind of property that developers are looking for in the Keys.

"There were a lot of people trying to get it," Rumpel said. "It's crying out for redevelopment."

Ceebraid, which owns a Hilton and the Brazilian Court hotel in Palm Beach and apartment buildings in Connecticut, faces almost $2 million in liens, according to the Palm Beach Post. West Palm Beach officials recently threatened a daily $2,000 fine if the company doesn't complete renovations at the Brazilian Court.

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Miami Herald

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