|By Stephanie Hoops, Ventura County Star,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 22, 2009 - For the third time in 11 years, the historic Pierpont Inn in Ventura has been sold, but current staff is expected to be retained.
The buyer is Grace S. Ahn, managing member of the ownership company, La Canada-based Pierpont Group LLC, which involves a family trust.
The deal, which is in escrow, was announced Friday. The purchase price has not been disclosed, but the property overlooking the ocean was listed for $16.5 million.
Speaking on behalf of Ahn, Denise Bean-White, a publicity agent, said this week: "Grace says that they are very excited to have purchased the Pierpont Inn. They look forward to serving the Ventura County community as the new owner."
White referred questions to hotel General Manager Pablo Sanchez, saying that Ahn wanted him to speak for the hotel.
Asked if Ahn would be more of an absentee owner, Bean-White said she didn't think that would happen, saying Ahn would take care of the hotel.
Since 2005, the inn has been owned by Central Coast Management Inc., which includes eight members of the Panchal and Patel families: Harshad, Vina, Anil and Kamina Panchal; and Subhash, Renuka, Pravin and Panna Patel. They paid about $10.4 million to former owners Spencer and Scott Garrett.
"Basically, it was for sale from day one since we bought it," Pravin Patel said. "It's like Donald Trump. If you get a good price, you sell it. There are investment opportunities elsewhere if you market it right."
Ahn's investment group holds a portfolio of apartments and other complexes, Patel said.
The inn experienced a difficult period under the Panchal and Patel families, which allowed a group of investors interested in buying the hotel to take over the property last year before a sale was finalized. Morale among the staff dropped amid complaints of a "hostile working environment."
The deal fell through, partly because one of the investors had invested heavily in the investment bank Bear Stearns, which failed about a week before escrow was to close on the hotel sale in March 2008.
Sanchez is excited to be under new ownership.
"The biggest thing is the new owners really want to continue the Pierpont being a landmark, and they're planning on doing some improvements to the property," he said, adding that it wouldn't be anything major, simply interior improvements, possibly to the rooms.
"I've met with the purchaser several times and have expressed our concerns of the past," Sanchez said. "I think she's really listening to us."
The 77-room hotel at 550 Sanjon Road sits on 6.2 acres, next to the Pierpont Racquet Club, which was not included in the deal. Sanchez said the hotel isn't expecting any staff changes.
Built in 1910, notable guests have included famous Hollywood players and politicians, including Cecil B. DeMille and George H.W. Bush before he was president.
Sanchez said he is often moved by guests who report that they've been visiting the hotel for 40 years.
"I am very involved in what's going on and just want to make sure the Pierpont continues it's history," Sanchez said. "We just really want to preserve the moments they have locked in their head."
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