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The 475 room Palm Springs Riviera Resort and Racquet Club Set to Change
 Ownership in January 2006; Future Uncertain for 338 Hotel Employees

By Kimberly Pierceall, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Nov. 5, 2005 - Palm Springs Riviera Resort and Racquet Club, a one-time getaway for celebrities and headquarters for pageants, will be sold early next year, creating uncertainty for the hotel's 338 workers.

An Arizona-based investment firm is expected to complete the deal for the 475-room hotel by Jan. 3, according to a letter Wednesday from the hotel's management company to the Riverside County Economic Development Agency.

The city's largest hotel has an uncertain future. Once a hideaway for entertainers such as Elvis Presley and Liberace, the hotel could become condominiums or another type of development.

Palm Springs Economic Development Director John Raymond said it would be unlikely the new owner would take the time to change the land-use designations for the property.

"It'd be a pretty ambitious endeavor," he said.

The hotel's union employees were warned they will either have a new boss or lose their jobs.

James Manion, the Riviera's general manager and chief operating officer for management firm Harbaugh Hotels, sent the letter as required by the federal and state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

"The uncertainty is tough," said Ed Svitak, the Riviera's vice president of sales and marketing.

Svitak, a 12-year employee with the hotel, said he does not know who the buyer is but employees were given the impression that the property would remain a hotel.

Other hotel officials would not comment about the buyer or the sale price.

The Wyndham Palm Springs, a comparable-size hotel adjacent to the Palm Springs Convention Center, was sold to Highland Hospitality for $57 million in July.

Svitak said that the Wyndham's prime downtown Palm Springs location likely played a role in its sale price.

The Riviera's owners could benefit because it owns the 16-acre property, while the Wyndham sits on tribal-owned land that is leased for several decades.

The Riviera has become less of a rat-pack getaway and more of a pageant destination in recent years, hosting the Mrs. America, Miss California and Miss California Teen events.

Southwest CPT Holdings Inc., the pension fund for the United Brotherhood of Union Carpenters, owns the Riviera.

Harbaugh Hotels currently manages the property and three other hotels, including the San Bernardino Hilton.


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