|By Douglas Hanks, The Miami
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
October 31, 2009 - --The Soffer family's Turnberry Isle resort must pay $6 million to the hotel's operator -- fees held back over allegations of mismanagement at the money-losing luxury resort in Aventura.
An arbitrator awarded the $6 million in back fees and interest to Fairmont Hotels & Resorts after Turnberry dropped its objection to the claim. But after giving up in the arbitration, a Turnberry lawyer wrote Fairmont that the owner won't pay the fee because other claims against Fairmont are much larger.
"Turnberry disputes any net liability in favor of Fairmont," Turnberry lawyer Marc Marmaro wrote in an e-mail Tuesday to Fairmont. "Turnberry's position is that Fairmont owes substantially more in damages than the amount of the arbitration award."
Fairmont has denied mismanaging the resort. The Canadian hotel company is asking a judge to force Turnberry to pay, adding to the roster of claims the Soffers face over their resorts. The Fontainebleau Las Vegas is in bankruptcy, while contractors at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach claim more than $60 million in unpaid construction bills.
The case in federal court revealed severe setbacks in the Soffers' return to Turnberry Isle.
Patriarch Donald Soffer had launched the celebrated golf resort in the 1970s and sold it years later. In 2005, son Jeffrey Soffer announced the family was buying the 392-room property back, saying they would "make the place a five-star resort, which it was at one time."
In a September e-mail to arbitrator Francis Nardozza, Marmaro wrote that the owners had spent $29 million to cover losses at the resort. Turnberry Isle lost nearly $13 million in 2007 and almost $4 million in 2008, he said.
A Turnberry spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, and Marmaro declined to discuss the case beyond saying "it's obviously regrettable these two businesses have these disputes."
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