|By Tim Bryant, St. Louis
Post-DispatchMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
February 10, 2009--Now that the bondholders are in charge at the Renaissance Grand & Suites, the next task for the new owners is to find a permanent owner of the debt-ridden hotel.
The bondholders -- through their trustee, UMB Bank -- were the only bidders Monday at the foreclosure auction at the Civil Courts Building. With about a dozen spectators on hand, UMB Senior Vice President Victor Zarrilli submitted the only bid: $98 million, an amount equal to the debt held by the bondholders.
Pam Blase, a UMB spokeswoman, said the bank will, for now, maintain ownership of the nearly 1,100-room hotel next to the America's Center convention center. But she noted the bondholders have no interest in owning the hotel permanently.
Blase declined to divulge a minimum price the bondholders would accept for the complex but said the bank has received "numerous inquiries" about the property. The Renaissance Grand includes a new hotel tower, the renovated Statler building, the renovated Lenox building, plus ballrooms and meeting spaces in a separate building.
The hotel complex, the region's largest, has been fully open for six years. It turns a small operating profit but has made little headway against its long-term debt.
In the past, owners -- including a Kimberly-Clark Corp. subsidiary and Historic Restoration Inc. -- chipped in to cover shortfalls in the hotel's twice-yearly debt payments.
But the bondholders sought foreclosure after the owners defaulted in December on a $3.5 million payment. That led to the auction Monday.
Dan Boyer, head of the hotel's sales and marketing, said he was not surprised no other bidders had come forward.
"Quite honestly, I think we anticipated the bondholders would essentially assume the ownership," he said. "It's fair to say they're not in this for the long term."
Boyer and UMB officials said the hotel will remain open under the operation of Marriott Corp. While hotel occupancy is expected to drop slightly this year, to 58 percent, the slump "is an industrywide situation right now," Boyer said.
"We're all in a wait-and-see mode with the economy," he added.
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