Thursday, April 7, 2005

Hotelier Andre
Tatibouet files
Chapter 11

The longtime Hawaii businessman
moves to block the foreclosure
auction of the Coral Reef Hotel

The founder and former owner of Aston Hotels & Resorts has filed for bankruptcy reorganization to block a possible foreclosure auction of one of his long-standing Hawaii properties.


Andre Tatibouet: Local hotelier is founder of Aston Hotels & Resorts

Andre Tatibouet had been facing a hearing yesterday on the foreclosure of the Coral Reef Hotel in Waikiki by Central Pacific Bank, which says it is owed $15.1 million.

He listed both his assets and debts as between $10 million and $50 million and said he made the decision Friday to file for Chapter 11 solely because of the looming hearing. The bankruptcy papers were filed Tuesday.

"It's the last thing I wanted to do," said Tatibouet, who owns the hotel but has it managed by Aston parent ResortQuest International. "I really regret it very much. It was not an action taken lightly or easily. There are literally hundreds of people that I know in this community that have been so helpful to me in so many ways over the decades and I want to acknowledge the support I've had from them along the way.

"I assure you I'll be back on my feet and back in business. I'm an island boy and my family has been here for over 95 years and I'm going to keep moving ahead."

Tatibouet, who said he had never before filed for bankruptcy, listed 58 unsecured creditors. The list was topped by Sterling Savings Bank of Portland, Ore., with an estimated claim of $10 million. Other big creditors include Chesterfield Mortgage Investors, with a claim of $3.9 million; Cendant Corp., $3.5 million; AEA Bank, $2.5 million; and Honolulu attorney James Bickerton, $1.2 million.

Tatibouet said Sterling Savings Bank's claim was for loans on five hotels and motels that Tatibouet owns with partners on the mainland.

"Those have not been sold yet so we don't know exactly how much money will be owed to them," Tatibouet said. "I expect it will be significantly less than $10 million."

Tatibouet said other than legal fees owed to Bickerton, money owed the other top five creditors are related to mortgages.

He said it will be business as usual at the Coral Reef for customers and the hotel's 45 or so workers.

"The employees were told (Tuesday) what was happening so it would not be a surprise to them," Tatibouet said. "Nobody is losing their job. Everything remains the same. The reason for taking this step is to ensure we will continue to do business in a very normal fashion."

Tatibouet, who bought the Coral Reef in 1973, announced plans to convert it into a hotel condominium in 2003 but those plans were quashed when the property's landowner, the Queen Emma Foundation, sued to stop the project. The foundation feared that if the project went condo, the city's lease-to-fee conversion ordinance could force it to sell its fee-simple interest.

In May 2004, a state judge ruled that Tatibouet could not sell units of the leasehold property as condominiums, blocking 247 tentative sales. The city's lease-to-fee conversion ordinance was repealed earlier this year after Mufi Hannemann took over as mayor.

Tatibouet also put his luxurious Diamond Head home up for sale last year with an asking price of $19.875 million. But he said placing the house on the market was unrelated to the hotel foreclosure suit. He and his wife, Jane, became empty nesters after his grown children moved out and his mother, who had been at the house with her caregiver, was moved to a hospice facility. She died in November.

The 13,400-square-foot, nine-bedroom, 8 1/2-bath house, which has been featured as the Wall Street Journal's "House of the Week," has seven wet bars, a two-story library and sits on 1.6 acres.

"There's a lot of interest in it," Tatibouet said.

Tatibouet, one of the state's most recognized hoteliers, formerly owned the Waikiki Gateway and Waikiki Beachside and was the developer and former owner of the Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki.

He founded the Hotel Corporation of the Pacific in 1968, later changing the name to Aston. Tatibouet sold the company to ResortQuest in 1998 for $30 million, and later left the business following disputes over the use of the Aston name.

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