|By Marla Matzer Rose, The Columbus
Dispatch, OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
December 10, 2010 - The Baymont Inn & Suites at Port Columbus remains open for business, but behind the scenes, it's the subject of considerable financial wrangling.
Its owners have filed for bankruptcy, saying they're trying to protect the hotel from the struggles of its lender, Delaware County Bank.
However, attorneys for the bank say the move is just the latest by the owners, Dublin-based investment group Cross Country Inn Investors, to delay foreclosure and avoid paying about $6 million they owe the bank.
The bank was awarded a judgment of about $6 million late last month. The bankruptcy filing by the hotel's owners quickly followed. The investors list assets of $1.5 million and liabilities of $6 million. A Jan.19 hearing date has been set in the case.
In the meantime, management of the property is at issue. Currently, the hotel is run by an affiliate of Philadelphia-based GF Management.
One of the lead investors, Peter Coratola of Dublin, is also an owner of the Lodging First management company. His group is seeking to reinstate Lodging First as manager of the Baymont.
Coratola's Platinum Ridge Properties was the lead buyer of the Baymont and four other Port Columbus hotel properties five years ago.
Platinum Ridge paid Columbus developer Don Kenney $29.5 million for the five hotels when the real-estate market was healthy and values were growing.
All five hotels were put up for sale in early 2009, but attracted no buyers.
Al Lucas, a Columbus attorney representing Delaware County Bank, said the investors have tried twice to replace the receiver with Lodging First.
Lucas said the bank "bent over backward to help work things out" with the investors. That included paying back rent and taxes owed by the investors, Lucas said. The five airport hotels all sit on land that's on a long-term lease from the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.
Coratola did not return calls seeking comment.
In a statement released last week, Corotola characterized the bankruptcy filing as "the best method to safeguard the financial integrity of the hotel and reorganize the debt to improve the financial position for future success."
The statement said the filing was in response to executive turnover at the bank and the increased scrutiny it faces from bank regulators. The Delaware County Bank , hurt by the recession and the downturn in commercial real estate in particular, is under orders to take steps to bolster its sagging finances.
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