|By Camilla Cohee, Santa Barbara
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 12, 2006 - Intent on setting new standards for luxury vacationing on the South Coast, Ty Warner has brought in the prominent Rosewood Hotels & Resorts to manage his historic San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito.
The change comes just as construction crews are closing in on a multimillion-dollar restoration of the 540-acre ranch, which Mr. Warner purchased in 2000.
Construction -- hindered by heavy rains, a fire that destroyed the kitchen, and some accounting complications last summer -- is expected to be completed by the end of the year, said managing director Duncan Graham, a native of England who ran the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., before taking over at the ranch two years ago.
Always looking to keep neighbors happy, Mr. Warner had gift packages sent out to those in the area to thank them for their patience during renovations to 40 white clapboard cottages -- a $40 million endeavor scrutinized by the Beanie Babies billionaire.
"It's very important that we remain part of the wonderful community that is part of Santa Barbara," Mr. Graham said. "Of course, we make sure we take care of our guests first."
He said the popular Stonehouse Restaurant and the Plow & Angel Bistro are set to reopen this fall, and that neighbors can once again enjoy the perk of ordering in off the menu.
By carrying the Rosewood name, Mr. Graham said, the ranch will be able to take its proper place amongst the world's finest vacation destinations.
Founded in 1979 by Caroline Rose Hunt, a member of the legendary Hunt family of Dallas, Rosewood manages resorts and hotels throughout the world, including the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Texas, The Carlyle in New York and Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos, Mexico, also one of Mr. Warner's properties.
Bringing in Rosewood is "about sharing a philosophy and sharing best practices and in marketing and sales," Mr. Graham said. "They don't come in and change the staff. Mr. Warner was very impressed with Rosewood when he purchased Las Ventanas, which is probably one of the most successful hotels in the world. There's a synergy between what that hotel has accomplished and what we'll be able to do here at the ranch."
Luis Fernandez, chief operations officer of Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts, called Rosewood and the ranch a "perfect match."
"One of Rosewood's strengths is that it only partners with hotels and resorts that, like the ranch, are unique, individual, often historic, and hold a position of distinction in their community," he said.
Under Mr. Warner's ownership, management of the ranch has been handled directly by Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts.
Last summer, a group of contractors working on the project contacted the News-Press complaining that they were not getting paid on time. Mr. Warner's representative, Greg Rice, said at the time that all bills submitted to his office had been paid. It was never clear what, if anything, had gone wrong.
Complicating the renovation project is that the ranch has stayed open during much of the construction, functioning without a kitchen, which burned down two years ago and has remained closed.
Mr. Graham said involving Rosewood will not change the essence of the ranch, only enhance such things as guest services and amenities.
"I honeymooned here 18 years ago," he said. "This place means so much to me that I don't want it to change. It's just the most magnificent place, like something somebody has sprinkled pixie dust all over."
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Copyright (c) 2006, Santa Barbara News-Press, Calif.
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