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Mall of America Owner Triple Five Corp. Divests itself of Ramada Mall of America
 Airport Hotel, Once the Thunderbird Hotel, for $15.75 million

By Jennifer Bjorhus, Star Tribune, MinneapolisMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

August  31, 2010 --As the Mall of America gets ready for construction on a new luxury hotel on its south side, mall owner Triple Five Corp. has shed a hotel it owned to the north.

Triple Five has sold the Ramada Mall of America Airport, once the Thunderbird Hotel, to a bank in Kansas City, Mo., for $15.75 million. The deal, first reported in the Business Journal, closed Aug. 10, according to David Frances, chief workout officer for Bank Midwest.

Frances said he couldn't discuss how or why Minnesota Hotel Properties Acquisition, an entity managed by Bank Midwest, took title to the property from Triple Five. Bank Midwest plans to market it internally for a short time before opening to a wider audience.

"We've had a great deal of local interest for the property," he said.

Triple Five, based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and run by the Ghermezian brothers, bought the Thunderbird around 2005.

Maureen Bausch, Mall of America vice president in charge of business development, also declined to discuss circumstances of the deal. Bausch would only say Triple Five "decided to divest itself of the Ramada property to pursue other ventures."

She said the hotel was owned by a Triple Five entity separate from the Mall of America, and that the sale won't negatively impact the mall or its expansion. Triple Five doesn't own any other hotels in Minnesota, she said.

Triple Five has been working for years to develop an upscale hotel on the mall's south side and recently got a major boost from the 2009 federal stimulus bill that enabled the Bloomington Port Authority to issue $40.3 million in desirable tax-exempt bonds for the hotel project. The bonds will be repaid with hotel revenue. Typically, tax-exempt bonds are used for public projects such as roads and bridges.

A source familiar with the Bank Midwest deal said it involved several other Triple Five properties outside of Minnesota.

The hotel is managed by Rhode Island-based HVS Hotel Management. HVS co-president Kirby Payne said the hotel's operations are profitable and that it's doing a little better than its competitors in terms of occupancy.

Jennifer Bjorhus --612-673-4683


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