|By Ryan Geddes, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 16, 2005 - The Adam's Mark hotel is something of a deal magnet, and a new prospect is feeling its pull.
Oxford Lodging Advisory & Investment Group LLC, a San Francisco company that bought New York's Metropolitan Hotel in 2003 and acquired a $100 million Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, Md., last year, is working on an Adam's Mark deal -- company representatives met with Mayor John Peyton on Monday and were expected to hold a news conference that day to announce plans for the property.
But details of the deal remain murky, and downtown's largest hotel has seen its share of suitors.
Rumors of its impending sale have bubbled for nearly a year -- Marriott International Inc. came close to buying the 966-room property last summer, but the agreement fell through after the city nixed an $8 million incentive package for the purchase.
And upscale hospitality company Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. was poking at the property as recently as December, before the Adam's Mark's owner, St. Louis-based HBE Corp., pulled it back off the market, according to Starwood spokesman Mark Ricci.
Robert Kline, president of Oxford Lodging, said Tuesday that he could not talk about the Adam's Mark.
"Right now we have no comment. We're restricted by confidentiality," said Kline. "We certainly can talk with you at the end of the month."
HBE chairman, president and CEO Fred Kummer was unavailable for comment.
City officials and downtown business leaders have been murmuring about a potential Adam's Mark deal for days.
"It's an investment group that's buying it, and Hyatt would put their flag on it and manage it," said Toney Sleiman, owner of the Adam's Mark's next-door neighbor, The Jacksonville Landing. "Everyone in town is talking about it."
Sleiman said he was interested in purchasing the Adam's Mark last year and that he has "been talking to them all along" about the property. According to Sleiman, the hotel's current asking price is about $100 million.
City Council President Elaine Brown said a news conference about the proposed deal was scheduled, but that the event never materialized.
"I had heard that it is a Hyatt flag and that the deal is done," said Brown. "It was supposed be announced on Monday."
A Hyatt Corp. spokeswoman did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Local publications The Financial News and Daily Record and The Jacksonville Business Journal posted articles on their Web sites Tuesday afternoon confirming that the deal between HBE, Oxford Lodging and Hyatt was done, citing unnamed sources.
Local developer Charles "Bucky" Clarkson, who once opposed the Adam's Mark's construction because it conflicted with his own plans for a downtown hotel near the Prime Osborn Convention Center, said Oxford is just one of the companies looking at the Adam's Mark.
"I've been aware that there have been ongoing discussions and negotiations, and Oxford is definitely one of the ones involved in the negotiations," said Clarkson. "If it comes to fruition, and it's Hyatt, Marriott, or Westin, it becomes very positive for downtown. It's a very important next step for downtown."
Susie Wiles, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office, said Oxford Lodging's meeting with Peyton was "very cordial," and "just a courtesy visit." She would not elaborate on the details of the meeting or confirm whether the group discussed possible city incentives with the mayor.
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