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New management at Maui Prince


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POSTED: Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Maui Prince Hotel Makena Resort, facing a shutdown after its owner went into foreclosure and its management company pulled out, has gotten a reprieve after a court appointment of a receiver and the proposal of a new management company.

Circuit Judge Shackley Raffetto appointed Hawaii attorneys Miles B. Furutani, Steven Mau and Anna Elento-Sneed and hotel industry executive Peter Herndon to the receivership team yesterday. Furutani choose Benchmark Hospitality International, which has operated Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu since 2001, as property manager. Benchmark, which would take over Sept. 17 pending court approval, is expected to rename and re-brand the troubled property.

Wells Fargo Bank, the trustee of the mortgage lender for the resort, petitioned for the appointment of a receiver and a new management team to keep the asset open after owners Everett Dowling Co. and Morgan Stanley real estate fund walked away from their $200 million-plus investment. Meanwhile, mezzanine lenders, who had advanced $227 million, did not step in to cure the defaults. Maui Prince Hotel LLC, whose parent company Seibu Railway Co. Ltd. sold the hotel to its current owners, notified lenders last week that it would cease managing the resort next Wednesday due to funding issues.

“;We are pleased the resort hotel has taken the next step in its transition while it continues to operate normally for guests and employees,”; said Barry Sullivan, an attorney for Wells Fargo Bank. “;Our goal has been to facilitate this transition, keep the resort operating and save as many jobs as possible.”;

Willie Kennison, Maui director for ILWU Local 142, said the union will work with the new managers to preserve jobs and keep the prop-erty running.

“;Our main concern is to preserve Maui jobs, keep the hotel and golf course open and continue welcoming visitors who want to come to Makena,”; Kennison said.

Burt Cabanas, chairman and chief executive officer of Benchmark, said the resort has tremendous potential.

“;We feel confident that our track record in the Hawaii market will enable a smooth, reliable transition for the hotel and help elevate this resort to a new level of success,”; he said.

Still, given the property's struggles in the current economic climate, Sullivan previously said some layoffs are expected.