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Sept. 23--A group controlled by a Florida investor who owns hotels, health plans and real estate nationwide bought Cheyenne Mountain Resort and Country Club of Colorado and has hired Wyndham Hotel Group to operate it as a Dolce Hotel and Resort, Wyndham's top brand.

Wyndham is retaining all of the resorts' 430 employees, said Scott Marn, the hotel's managing director. A Wyndham spokeswoman said Friday in an email that the Parsippany, N.J.-based hotel giant "will honor all existing contracts and reservations and will continue to offer the same level of exceptional service."

Cheyenne Resort Acquisition Group LLC, controlled by Dr. Kiran Patel, a Zambian immigrant and former cardiologist who expanded into health plans, hotels and real estate, bought the hotel Thursday from an entity controlled by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. for an undisclosed price.

The 316-room hotel is one of the largest in Colorado Springs. It opened in 1984 at 3225 Broadmoor Valley Road, and two years later acquired the Country Club of Colorado and its 18-hole course designed by Pete Dye. Both were sold in 1996 for $45 million to Massachusetts Mutual and have been managed by Benchmark Hotels & Resorts since then. The resort is one of three Colorado Springs hotels rated four diamonds by AAA; the others are the Mining Exchange in downtown and the Cliff House at Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs.

Patel expanded into hotels in a big way in 2011, when he bought a 712-room Hilton in Pittsburgh that was later converted to a Wyndham Grand Hotel. He also bought the 241-room Westward Look Resort in Tucson, Ariz., and developed a 450-room Wyndham Grand Hotel in Clearwater Beach, Fla., that opened early this year. He acquired a 231-room Marriott Hotel in the Minneapolis area earlier this year and the 294-room Hyatt Regency Sarasota a year ago. He also owns medical office buildings, surgery centers and other office buildings nationwide as well as condominiums and villas in Florida.

Patel made his fortune by buying what is now WellCare Health Plans Inc. in 1992 for about $5 million and growing the health maintenance organization into a Medicaid giant before selling it in 2002 for about $200 million. He bought Freedom Health Inc. and Optimum Healthcare Inc. in 2008 for about $50 million and the health plans now generate $1.5 billion in annual revenue. He announced plans late last year to spend $50 million to build an osteopathic medical school that he hopes will open in about a year and has donated $26 million to the University of South Florida.

The $175 million Wyndham Grand in Clearwater Beach was developed as a vehicle for overseas investors to gain U.S. residency by investing at least $1 million in a business that creates at least 10 U.S. full-time jobs. The EB-5 investment visa allows overseas investors to apply for a two-year conditional green card that can be converted to permanent residency if the investor can show the U.S. investment was sustained and jobs were created. The investor can apply for U.S. citizenship five years after gaining permanent residency.

Dolce Hotels & Resorts is Wyndham's top brand, targeted at the "upper upscale" market with 19 hotels, resorts and conference centers in the U.S., Canada and Europe, including the 98-room Aspen Meadows Resort. Wyndham Hotel Group operates 7,410 hotels, resorts, conference centers and other lodging properties under more than 55 brands worldwide, including Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Microtel, Super 8, Travelodge and Tryp. The chain's brands have 19 hotels in the Colorado Springs area, including The Mining Exchange and The Antlers, operated under the Wyndham Grand and Wyndham hotel brands, respectively.

The resort last month canceled a three-day conference in April planned by the white nationalist group VDARE, which had sparked outrage and planned protests in the wake of a racially charged, deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., earlier in August. Mayor John Suthers had issued a statement that the city would not support the conference in any way.


Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

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