|By Maria Zate, Santa Barbara News-Press, Calif.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 26, 2005 - Billionaire Montecito resident Ty Warner said Friday that he plans to add to his stable the long-neglected Miramar Hotel property, which has languished as an eyesore for more than six years.
A contract "has been fully executed," according to Greg Rice, vice president of development for Mr. Warner's company Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts in Montecito.
No purchase price was disclosed for the historic 17-acre hotel site, owned by hotelier Ian Schrager and Miramar Holdings LLC. Mr. Warner said in a written statement that "a premium price" has been paid for the property in order to acquire all the approval plans and rights that will allow him to "expedite the Miramar renovations."
Sources familiar with the deal told the News-Press that the purchase price is roughly $45 million. Mr. Schrager paid $31.7 million for the property in September 1998, and sources said that he also had to spend an additional $10 million to $15 million on improvements made since the purchase, plus financing costs.
Mr. Warner -- the Beanie Babies magnate with an estimated net worth of $6 billion, according to Forbes magazine -- already owns several high-profile properties on the South Coast, which he renovated and upgraded. The properties include the Four Seasons Biltmore, the Coral Casino Beach Club, San Ysidro Ranch, Montecito Country Club and the Sandpiper Golf Course.
Mr. Warner's purchase comes two months before the permits for the proposed remodel of the seaside hotel expire in May.
County planners are still determining what needs to be done to the Miramar property before the May deadline in order for the permits and approvals to remain active, Mr. Rice said. Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts would pay for all of the required work that needs to be done in the next few months, he said.
He added that Mr. Warner "is committed to the purchase" as long as he has confirmation that the permits and building rights remain active beyond the May 2005 deadline.
"Important strides have been made in earning the (approvals and permits) that have put the Miramar on the road toward a renewed and prosperous future," Mr. Rice said. "It is so important that we can continue where the previous owner left off so that we can effectively deliver the renovation, the new life and the dignity this community has been eagerly anticipating for the Miramar property."
It is not clear if Mr. Warner plans to build the project as it was approved in May 2000. County planners could not be reached to address the issue Friday afternoon.
Mr. Warner said that letters he received from the community prompted him to consider the Miramar purchase.
"Over the past year, I have received dozens of emotional letters referring to the current condition of the Miramar. I would like to sincerely extend a solution to restore this important part of our community," he said in his statement.
"As they say, talk is cheap -- action is expensive. I am going to make a significant investment in fulfilling the Miramar promise. Yet, I will need the support of the community to expedite the healing process on this magnificent oceanfront parcel," Mr. Warner wrote.
Several Montecito residents expressed elation and support for the news of Mr. Warner's purchase plans.
"I'm absolutely thrilled," said Victoria Hines, who has lived in Montecito for 24 years. She and her husband Carter Hines are also members of the Coral Casino, and they formerly belonged to the Miramar Beach Tennis Club, which closed with the hotel in the late 1990s.
"We were so sad when the plans for the Miramar renovation fell apart, and we were very irate with Ian Schrager for letting it sit as an eyesore for so long," Mrs. Hines said.
"I hope that the county and residents of Montecito are behind this and that Mr. Warner doesn't take any grief. We should all be thrilled that someone wants to turn this property around," she added.
Steve Warner (no relation to Ty Warner) said he is "extremely supportive" of the billionaire's plans.
"This is a man who will get this project done. It's incredible for the whole community," he said. "This is like manna from heaven."
"The tremendous investments Ty Warner has put toward the improvements of his other local properties are a testament to the type of owner Ty Warner will be for the Miramar," Mr. Rice said.
Other potential buyers had been interested in purchasing the Miramar. One of the strongest contenders included David Murdock, head of Dole Food Co., the Pacific Coast Business Times recently reported. The publication said as many as 19 serious offers had been received on the hotel property.
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