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Lender Files Lawsuit Seeking Foreclosure Against the 462-room
 Crowne Plaza Tulsa, Claims the Hotel Owes $25.78 million

By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World, Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 26, 2009 - -A Cayman Islands lender has filed a lawsuit seeking foreclosure against the Crowne Plaza Tulsa, claiming the downtown hotel owes $25.78 million.

In actions related to the suit, Tulsa County District Court Judge Rebecca Brett Nightingale placed the hotel into receivership.

Sorin Master Fund Ltd. filed the suit Jan. 15 against the hotel's owner, Ascension Hotels of Donaldsonville, La.; Aaron Patel -- also known as Amrutbhai J. Patel -- of Donaldsonville; and Kamal and Tarun Kapoor, both of Alhambra, Calif. Tarun Kapoor is Ascension's president.

The lawsuit stems from an alleged failure to repay Sorin Master Fund, which states in the suit that its full $20.3 million loan was due Dec. 31. Sorin is also seeking more than $5.48 million in interest, exit fees and late fees.

The court appointed Kevin Dingle, the director of development for Aimbridge Hospitality of Dallas, as the receiver of the hotel Jan. 28. Aimbridge now lists the Crowne Plaza on its Web site as one of the properties it manages.

Dingle said in a news release that Ascension is proceeding toward a swift resolution of the suit and is working closely with Aimbridge.

"Aimbridge Hospitality is a nationally recognized hotel management firm and is honoring all reservations, financial commitments and contracts," he said. "This hotel is open for business and will continue to be open."

<>The news release noted that the Crowne Plaza has not performed to expectations because of the recession and issues specific to downtown Tulsa, such as horns from passing trains -- recently resolved by the elimination of train horns after downtown crossings were improved. Also cited were continuing, "difficult" negotiations with the city of Tulsa over parking and other matters.

Officials representing Sorin were unavailable for comment Thursday.

Ascension Hotels, which operates four hotels in Louisiana, purchased the Crowne Plaza at 100 E. Second St. in 2006 for $6.75 million and began a two-year, $20 million renovation shortly afterward.

Sorin says in the lawsuit that Column Financial Inc. of Delaware granted a $19 million mortgage to Patel and the Kapoors in May 2007. The lender transferred the mortgage to Sorin Real Estate in October of that year, and increased the amount to $20.3 million in October 2008.

The suit says Ascension agreed to make monthly, interest-only payments from November 2008 to Dec. 31, 2009, when the entire amount of the loan would be due.

Sorin said that when it filed the suit Ascension had not repaid the loan, nor had it paid $247,381 in property taxes and $28,365 in assessment fees due to the city to fund ONEOK Field, the new downtown baseball stadium.

Tulsa County records indicate that Ascension still owes the $247,381 in property taxes.

Tarun Kapoor said in a news release that Ascension is close to reaching agreements with new lenders that will resolve the lawsuit and allow the hotel to emerge from receivership.

"The hotel is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the expansion of downtown Tulsa and the economy by virtue of its location and its upgraded facilities," he said. "We are calling on the city of Tulsa and Tulsa County to honor their commitments to downtown businesses such as the Crowne Plaza -- their cooperation is critical to the success of the hotel and most other downtown businesses."

The Crowne Plaza has 462 rooms and employs 180 people.

Robert Evatt 581-8447 robert.evatt@tulsaworld.com

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