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Tired of Waiting Around, Marriott International Enters Bankruptcy Fight
Over Sawgrass Marriott Resort Filing its Own Reorganization Plan
to Push the Case Forward and Give Creditors a Meaningful Choice

By Mark Basch, The Florida Times-Union, JacksonvilleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 12, 2011--The Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case has dragged on for nearly a year and half, but now the case may finally be on the fast track to resolution.

The two Irish investment partnerships that own Sawgrass Marriott, RQB Resort LP and RQB Development LP, expect to file their reorganization plan next week, said Stephen Busey, a Jacksonville attorney representing RQB. And RQB expects to have a confirmation hearing on the plan in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville in about two months, he said.

Meanwhile, the resort's franchiser has grown tired of waiting around. Marriott International Inc. filed motions on Wednesday in bankruptcy court seeking to file its own reorganization plan to push the case forward and to give creditors "a meaningful choice," the company said in a court filing.

After getting several extensions, RQB is facing a Sept. 1 deadline to file a plan. RQB currently has the exclusive right to file a plan, but Marriott International wants the court to terminate RQB's exclusive rights.

"This bankruptcy case has gone on too long and cost too much money," Marriott International said in the filing.

"The Sawgrass Marriott Resort is too important to its employees and business partners and the greater Jacksonville economy to permit the pre-petition equity owners to hold hostage the reorganization process in order to obtain personal economic advantage," it said.

RQB filed for Chapter 11 in March 2010 and has been battling mainly with its primary lender, Goldman Sachs Mortgage Co., to resolve the case. Marriott International has largely stayed on the sideline until now.

Marriott International also filed a motion seeking to find out if RQB intends to continue its franchise agreement and if a right-of-first-refusal clause will remain in effect. That clause gives Marriott International the right to buy the resort if the franchise agreement is canceled or the property is put up for sale.

Marriott International also said its reorganization plan would provide "the best opportunity for a fair, equitable and prompt exit from bankruptcy." But Gardner Davis, a Jacksonville attorney representing Marriott International, said he could not comment further on the hotel chain's plan.

Busey also said he could not comment on RQB's plan.

Busey did say that the court has already scheduled a hearing for Sept. 15 to approve RQB's disclosure statement that will describe the plan. And the confirmation hearing on the plan will be scheduled for the week of Oct. 17, he said.

RQB bought the Sawgrass Marriott for $220 million in 2006 and still owed $193 million on the mortgage from Goldman Sachs when it filed for bankruptcy. The current value of the property has been pegged at $132 million in the bankruptcy case, so RQB has to file a plan to repay that amount.

The Sawgrass Marriott includes a hotel with 348 guest rooms and three restaurants, golf villas with 160 rooms and a beach club with three restaurants. It also has an exclusive partnership that gives resort guests access to the golf course at the neighboring Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass. But the PGA Tour's golf club is not part of the resort., (904) 359-4308


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