Turtle Bay back in Starwood sights
An advisory group commissioned by Gov. Linda Lingle is seeking an alliance with Starwood Hotels & Resorts to help with her plan for the state to acquire the Turtle Bay Resort.
Eric Gill, head of a subcommittee of the group focused on the resort's long-term viability, said he is reaching out to Starwood to try to revive its interest in buying part of the North Shore property.
Starwood had offered to acquire part of the 850-acre resort a year ago, but backed away last July.
"Starwood would be a good partner. If we can rekindle their interest it can be useful," said Gill, secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 5, the union representing Turtle Bay's workers.
Keith Vieira, Starwood's senior vice president of operations for Hawaii and French Polynesia, said the company is always interested in acquiring viable properties, Turtle Bay being one of them.
"It depends on what the situation is -- if everything could be worked out certainly we'd be interested in it," Vieira said. "Certainly the credit markets have changed, but there is a lot of debt on that property. If they (the state) are able to work out a plan, we would be interested in being involved, but they've got to work out their plan."
Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said that state officials have been approached by a number of parties interested in partnering on an acquisition of the resort. An independent appraisal of Turtle Bay is underway, he said.
Circumstances surrounding a deal with Starwood would be different today than a year ago, both because of problems in the credit markets and also because the state's involvement could mean a faster zoning and permitting process for redevelopment.
Kuilima Resort Co., the Oaktree Capital Management L.P. subsidiary that has owned Turtle Bay since 1988, had plans to develop up to 3,500 hotel and condominium units, but is trying to resolve a $283 million foreclosure suit filed by lender Credit Suisse Group in December.
Describing the discussions with Oaktree, William Paty, the advisory group's chairman, said, "They were open to having someone bail them out as best as they can, including the state of Hawaii."