|By Douglas Hanks, The Miami
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 25, 2012--Donald Trump appears poised to put the Blue Monster on his famously demanding leash.
The celebrity developer is moving closer toward purchasing the Doral Golf Resort, one of the largest hotels in South Florida and home to the famous the Blue Monster golf course. He plans a massive renovation of the 1962 resort, including significant work on greens that in two weeks will play host to Luke Donald, Rob McIlroy and Tiger Woods during the annual Doral tournament.
A ruling this week allows the bankrupt owner of the 692-room property to proceed with the $150 million sale, and resort insiders say Trump has been peppering hotel staff with questions -- particularly on the golf-side of the operation. Neither side is talking about the deal, but an announcement is expected late next week.
A Trump purchase would hand the famous golfer a spotlight during one of the country's most-watched professional golf tournaments. Trump plans to be at the March 7-11 Cadillac championship tournament on the Doral Blue Monster, leveraging his fame to claim a new era for the resort. Trump insiders see the resort as dated and not utilizing its potential as a top-notch golf resort just a short drive from a major city. Earlier reports had Trump planning a $150 million renovation, allowing him to reposition the property as more of a luxury destination catering to deep-pocked golfers rather than families and conventioneers.
Trump has had a tumultuous relationship with South Florida's hotel market. He signed licensing deals to brand two Fort Lauderdale condo-hotel projects with the Trump brand, but both failed before opening. His company manages a hotel in Sunny Isles Beach. He sold his name to a trio of Sunny Isles condo towers that thrived as some of the first high-rises in South Florida's real estate boom, though the Trump Hollywood condo tower got caught in the bust and went into foreclosure.
In October, he announced plans to buy the Doral during bankruptcy proceedings. The owner, the Paulson & Co. hedge fund, took control of a chain of similar resorts in foreclosure proceedings, then put them into bankruptcy protection to fend off lenders as it sold part of the portfolio. Other bidders have until Friday to outbid Trump's $150 million offer, but both sides expect Trump to be the lone suitor.
The sale is contingent on a settlement with Marriott, which holds a long-term management contract at the Doral. A bankruptcy judge in New York approved a settlement for an undisclosed sum, clearing the way for next week's sale.
When Trump first surfaced as a potential Doral buyer, Florida was in the midst of a fierce debate over allowing massive casino resorts beyond Indian lands and race tracks and jai-alai frontons. At the time, he dismissed the timing of the deal as coincidence and said "this really is unrelated to gaming."
(c)2012 The Miami Herald
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