|By Tom Stieghorst, South Florida Sun-Sentinel|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 9, 2004 - A bittersweet Wayne Huizenga said farewell to Boca Resorts Inc. on Wednesday, and then confirmed that his company is interested in jumping back into the lodging business.
"It's a good day, and it's a sad day," Huizenga told about two dozen shareholders at a special meeting called to consider the sale of the resort company to an affiliate of Blackstone Group, a private equity firm.
As chairman, Huizenga has controlled Boca Resorts and its flagship Boca Raton Resort & Club since 1997. The company also owns the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Resort and Marina and the Radisson Bahia Mar Beach Resort & Yachting Center in Fort Lauderdale, along with two resorts in Naples and several golf courses.
"I can't say I'm entirely pleased about not being associated with these resorts anymore," Huizenga said.
A proxy statement filed with regulators for the meeting makes clear that Huizenga faced mounting pressure to sell.
Starting in the fall of 2003, Boca Resorts received several acquisition offers, but rejected them. In the spring and summer of 2004 it negotiated a deal with a real estate investment trust, but pulled out when terms changed from all cash to cash and stock, the proxy said.
Blackstone contacted Huizenga in August and later offered $23 a share for the company, but eventually agreed to $24.
"We're in business to make money for our shareholders," Huizenga said at Wednesday's meeting. "Sometimes you have to pull the plug."
The price is a 23 percent premium to the $19.15 Boca Resorts shares traded at the day before the deal was announced and 2 1/2 times the recent low of $9.60 a share reached in the first quarter of 2003.
Approval of the offer was never in doubt once Huizenga agreed to it. He owns all of the company's Class B shares, which gives him effective control of 98 percent of the voting power, the proxy says.
The shareholder vote was the last major step to completing the deal, which has not drawn interest from antitrust regulators. It is expected to be final later this month or in January.
The deal calls for all shareholders to get $1 billion in cash. Huizenga said his family interests owned 47 percent of the total shares. The deal also extinguishes a $200 million balance on a line of credit the company maintained.
Having exited Boca Resorts, Huizenga said he has outstanding bids on four or five hotels. "We haven't closed on one yet," he said. He said there is still value in lodging, adding, "obviously we'll never replace the quality of the assets we have here."
Huizenga is pursuing the hotels through his investment company Huizenga Holdings. All other things being equal, Huizenga said he prefers to acquire hotels in Florida, particularly southeast Florida.
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