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Cook Inlet Region Inc. Sells Partnership Interests in Two Las Vegas-area Resorts;
Concludes It Could Generate More Money by Selling Now vs Operating
 Them Over the Next 10+ Years

By Elizabeth Bluemink, Anchorage Daily News, AlaskaMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Feb. 2, 2007 - -Cook Inlet Region Inc. recently sold its partnership interests in two ritzy Las Vegas-area resorts for an unspecified sum.

CIRI sold its 46 percent interest in the 349-room Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Spa at Lake Las Vegas on Dec. 27 to one of the other original investors in the resort.

The resort, opened in 2003, didn't meet the Anchorage-based Native corporation's financial expectations, CIRI officials said Thursday. They declined to disclose details.

Almost three weeks earlier, CIRI sold its 50 percent interest in the 493-room Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas Resort to Loews hotel chain.

In September, CIRI and its partners sold a third resort -- the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz. -- to Host Hotels & Resorts for $393 million. That resort was actually performing "fabulously" at the time of the sale, CIRI officials said.

CIRI doesn't intend to exit the resort business, said CIRI chief executive Margie Brown on Thursday.

The Anchorage company made big moves into the Alaska and U.S. tourism markets starting in the late 1990s.

In Alaska it built an upscale hotel in Talkeetna, acquired other lodging, expanded into day cruises out of Seward and Whittier, and opened a big RV park in Anchorage. It since has closed the RV park and scaled back the cruise venture.

Outside, the company opened the Hyatt Regency in 1999 and the Ritz-Carlton four years later.

The company sold its interests in the three resorts after concluding it could generate more money by selling them than by operating them over the next 10 to 20 years, said Sophie Minich, CIRI's senior vice president for business development.

"There was a lot of cash in the market," Minich said. CIRI is just one of many companies selling resort properties right now, she said.

R. Dennis Brandon recently left after heading CIRI's tourism investments since 1997. He'll do some contract work for the company, according to a CIRI newsletter.

The company is pleased with the financial performance of the one resort it still owns, the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort, near Austin, Texas. CIRI is also evaluating the resort potential for other land it owns in Texas and Hawaii, Brown said.

CIRI still owns Casino MonteLago, which is inside the Ritz-Carlton.

Brown declined to say how much CIRI received from selling its interest in the other resorts, but said that information will be shared with CIRI's shareholders later this year.

The company's biggest real estate projects this year include developing a Target-anchored shopping center in Muldoon and evaluating possible development of a wind farm or other projects on Fire Island, CIRI officials said.

Also, in the Lower 48, CIRI might develop land it owns in San Diego and San Antonio, Brown said.

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Copyright (c) 2007, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska

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