|By Joseph Ascenzi, The Business Press, Ontario,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 13, 2007 -Less than a month after it was formed, a Rancho Mirage development company has announced plans to build two resorts in Mexico, one of which will include a casino and a golf course.
Ad Valora has obtained permission from the Mexican government to build Mexicarlo, a hotel resort and casino, said C.M. "Sonny" Ball, a Rancho Mirage resident and the founder and chairman of Ad Valora.
Mexicarlo will be built on 1,800 acres of open space near the Sea of Cortez, said John Anton, a Palm Desert resident and Ad Valora's director of golf. That project will consist of 350 suites, penthouse suites, shops, restaurants and a 40,000-square-foot Las Vegas-style casino inside the hotel.
Ball called the negotiations with the Mexican government difficult.
"I really don't think I want do business in Mexico again," he said. "The language barrier is a big problem, but it's not the only one. They always have their hand in your pocket for one fee or another."
An 18-hole golf course with a clubhouse and restaurant will be developed next to the casino, and a second 18-hole layout could be added someday if the first course attracts enough players, Anton said.
Mexicarlo will include a marina on the Sea of Cortez that eventually will have 100 spaces for boats.
The second project, Pelican Reef, will be built next door to Mexicarlo, on 157 acres adjacent to the Sea of Cortez. Pelican Reef will consist of 992 condominiums that will cover 1,200 square feet each, along with swimming pools, spas and a clubhouse, Ball said.
Both projects are expected to break ground in October. They will be built about 40 miles south of San Felipe, Mexico in Baja, California, which is part of Mexico. Ball is also a partner in a slot machines-only casino planned for downtown San Felipe that is expected to break ground in December.
Mexicarlo and Pelican Reef combined will cost about $900 million to develop, Anton said.
Ball thought he had secured a gaming agreement with the Mexican government in early August, but he got a surprise when he received the paperwork on the deal.
"It was all in Spanish," Anton said. "None of us had any idea what it said, so we had to go get some translators."
His attorney told him Aug. 9 that the casino deal was in order, Ball said.
Ball originally planned to develop a casino in Reno, but that development collapsed when his partner in the project died unexpectedly.
Shortly after his business partner's death, Ball was approached by a group of Mexican investors with contacts in the Mexican government about developing resorts and a championship golf course in that country.
The investment group already owned the land near the Sea of Cortez, Ball said.
Ball then formed Ad Valora from a shell company in July and hired E&E Communications in Laguna Hills to help with public and investor relations.
"After the [Reno] casino deal fell apart this seemed like the logical direction for me to go in," said Ball, who has multiple business interests, including part-ownership of a mortgage company in Santa Ana that buys and develops properties in foreclosure and other distressed properties.
He also owns Niteagle Systems Inc., a publicly traded company that he formed last year.
Niteagle is a Nevada corporation that manufactures cameras for recreational vehicles and trucks that are designed for better vision through fog.
Ball agreed to merge Ad Valora into Niteagle on Aug. 9.
"I want to get my investments under one roof," he said.
News of the merger spread quickly. An investor bought 62,000 shares of Niteagle at 25 cents a share immediately after that deal was announced, Anton said.
Niteagle is owned by about 1,000 shareholders and trades on the pink sheets exchange. Ball is the company's board chairman.
Ball said he will manage Ad Valora [Latin for "good value"] from his home.
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