Hotel Online  Special Report

Indiana Companies Cook Group and Lauth Group
Join Forces to Develop $240 Million French Lick
Casino and Resorts Project
FRENCH LICK, Ind. - April 11, 2005 -- Two companies with deep roots in Indiana today announced plans for the formation of a joint venture that will apply for the contract to develop a destination resort, casino and conference center in the historic Indiana towns of French Lick and West Baden. The joint venture will be formed by CFC, Inc., an affiliate of Cook Group Inc. in Bloomington and Lauth Group, Inc., a national real estate development and construction company headquartered in Indianapolis.

Organizers will conduct a public meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 12, at the French Lick Springs Hotel and Spa to discuss the hotel acquisition and development plans. Top executives from Cook Group, Lauth and others will be available to answers questions from hotel employees, the news media and other interested parties.

"Our vision is to develop the Midwest's finest destination resort, casino and conference facility by bringing together two of the most historically significant grand hotels in the Midwest and linking them with the casino project approved by Orange County voters in 2003," explained Cook Group chairman Steve Ferguson.

In addition to a complete makeover of both the French Lick Springs Resort and Spa and the West Baden Springs Hotel, the plan calls for restoring the area's dramatic Donald Ross-designed golf course. It will be returned to the original design that hosted the 1924 Professional Golfers of America (PGA) Championships, one of the sport's major championship events.

With more than 3,000 acres available for additional development, long-term plans include a second championship golf course and world-class instruction academy, plus numerous other amenities aimed at drawing visitors to this secluded, beautiful, historic community.

"We intend to bring back this under-valued region economically by providing jobs and a wealth of new economic development," Ferguson said. "By establishing a close working relationship with both towns, the county, the state and existing attractions such as the railroad museum, Ski Paoli Peaks and Patoka Lake we believe we can achieve this vision and benefit all parties."

"We are pleased to partner with the people at Cook Group on this important economic development project for French Lick, West Baden, Orange County and the State of Indiana," said Robert L. Lauth, Jr., chairman and CEO of Lauth Group, Inc. "We are both committed to making Orange County the premier vacation and tourist destination in the Midwest, and this team is uniquely qualified to make that happen."

The joint venture will own and renovate the French Lick Springs Resort and Spa, as well as the West Baden Springs Hotel. The joint venture brings together two of Indiana's most successful privately held companies to revitalize French Lick and West Baden as destination resorts. The new enterprise will be owned by Lauth Resorts & and Casino, LLC and Orange County Holdings, Inc., a charitable, non-for-profit organization.

Orange County Holdings, which will be one-half owner of the joint venture, will fund charitable and philanthropic purposes such as:

  • Programs to promote economic growth and the quality of life in and around Orange County and other parts of Southern and Central Indiana
  • Education programs, including those that conduct actual instruction for students at the university, college, secondary or elementary school level
  • Projects to support historic preservation and restoration
The casino that will be proposed by the joint venture will be the only Indiana casino project that will be entirely Indiana owned, and will direct one-half of its profits to charitable and philanthropic purposes within the state, officials stressed.

CFC, Inc., the Cook real estate development affiliate that restored the common areas of the West Baden Springs Hotel to their historic splendor, has agreed to purchase the French Lick Springs Resort & Spa and contribute it to the casino joint venture for complete renovation as part of the master plan. The purchase will close on April 13, 2005. The joint venture will then completely renovate the French Lick Springs Resort & Spa.

Restoration costs are estimated at approximately $30 million for the West Baden Spring Hotel, and up to $80 million for the French Lick Springs Resort and Spa, which will include restoration of the hotel and the historic golf course.

"We have been involved with the vision for French Lick for eight years and believe that combining the casino with the two historic hotels is the only way to make the vision a reality," Ferguson said. "The joint venture ensures the historic preservation and restoration of two of the most significant historic assets in Indiana, the French Lick Springs Resort and Spa and the West Baden Springs Hotel. Orange County has a rich tradition of tourism and gaming. We look forward to partnering this new gaming facility with the area's existing landmarks and recreational attractions to create a total vacation experience we believe will be unmatched in this part of the country."

Benchmark Hospitality International, one of the nation's top hotel and conference facility management companies, has been selected to manage the French Lick Springs Resort and Spa. Based in Texas, Benchmark has more than 25 years of experience operating award-winning luxury resorts, hotels and conference centers.

About Cook Group and CFC

The world's largest privately held medical device manufacturer with international headquarters in Bloomington, Ind., COOK(R) ( is a leading designer, manufacturer and global distributor of minimally invasive medical device technology for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Cook Group also owns and operates real estate, retail management, and transportation and travel services businesses.

CFC is a real estate development and management company with special emphasis on preserving architecturally significant buildings in Bloomington and south central Indiana. The company works with local business and government officials to help strengthen the community fiber of downtown Bloomington and the surrounding areas through the development of valuable commercial, office and residential properties.

About Lauth Group

Since 1977, Lauth has developed billions of dollars worth of facilities throughout the United States. A licensed general contractor in 49 states with projects completed from coast to coast, Lauth is one of the nation's leading development and construction firms. With offices in Indianapolis, Charlotte, Denver, Nashville and Orlando, Lauth delivers all types of facilities including healthcare, industrial, office and retail properties.

Additional Lauth information is available at People. Trust. Experience. (SM)

About Benchmark Hospitality

Benchmark Hospitality International, one of the world's leading independent resort and conference center management companies with headquarters in The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, operates resorts, conference centers and hotels both domestically and internationally. The company manages 29 projects in 13 states and Japan, including Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii, Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center in Arizona, The Chattanoogan in Tennessee, Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado, Del Lago Resort in Houston, Landsdowne Resort in Washington, D.C. and the Founders Inn in Virginia Beach, to name a few. The company also operates private conference centers for use by major corporations and foundations.

For locations of Benchmark Hospitality properties and for additional information, visit Benchmark's website at


Cook Group and CFC

Lauth Group

Also See: Donald Trump Withdraws from Casino Development Near the French Lick Springs Resort in Indiana / March 2005
Donald Trump Beats out Larry Bird for last Indiana Casino License; $108 million Casino to be Built Next to French Lick Springs Resort Hotel / July 2004
Historic West Baden Springs Hotel, Once a National Tourism Destination, Receives $30 million Offer Contingent on Casino License / January 2004

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