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Maui Prince Hotel Under New Management

Benchmark Hospitality International to manage Maui Prince Hotel

Sep 10, 2009

Benchmark Hospitality International — which manages the Turtle Bay Resort — yesterday was chosen to take over management of the Maui Prince Hotel and golf course next week.

The preliminary appointment came after Maui Circuit Judge Shackley Raffetto appointed a receiver for the property yesterday. A group of lenders foreclosed on the Maui Prince Hotel last month and asked the court to appoint a receiver to take over resort operations and keep the property open in the wake of reports of mounting losses.

Raffetto selected Hawai'i attorney Miles B. Furutani as receiver; Honolulu attorney Steven Mau as receivership general counsel; Honolulu attorney Anna Elento-Sneed as receivership labor counsel; and industry executive Peter Herndon as the hotel management and transition adviser. The mortgage lender agreed to continue to provide funding at the direction of the court.

Barry Sullivan, attorney for lender Wells Fargo Bank, said the team selected Benchmark, which is expected to be formalized today in court.

He said the move came after the previous managers of Prince Resorts Hawaii reported losses of $1 million a month.

"We now look forward to the next steps to return the hotel and resort to profitability," Sullivan said.

Prince Resorts Hawaii president Donn Takahashi said his company was preparing to hand over management of the hotel and its employees Sept. 16. "I definitely want a very smooth transition. They're getting a great facility; a great group of employees. I wish them much success."

But that transition faces some hurdles. Yesterday, the Maui Prince Web site would not accept reservations before or after the 16th, even though the occupancy has been running about 50 percent:

"This property is unavailable for your requested dates. We are pleased to offer the following properties for your consideration," the hotel's Web site said.

Sullivan said he hopes the Maui Prince will reconsider this move. "We hope they start accepting reservations on the property ... as they are legally obligated to do."

Bob Boyle, vice president and regional director of operations for Benchmark Hospitality International, will oversee all operational and marketing issues at the Maui resort. Boyle is responsible for overseeing the 443-room Turtle Bay Resort and the Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., the company's two largest resort properties.

Benchmark Hospitality has operated Turtle Bay Resort since 2001 and was part of the development team that oversaw the North Shore property's $63 million renovation.

Boyle spent yesterday on Maui learning about the 310-room hotel and 300 regular employees.

He described the chance to take over the 23-year-old resort as a "great opportunity." He said the hotel is "undermarketed and underperforming" but has a "lovely staff."

Boyle said the hotel will begin rehiring employees and will have a new name on Sept. 17.

The owner of the hotel, a venture between Everett Dowling Co. and a Morgan Stanley real estate fund, bought the property in 2007 from Seibu Railway Co. Ltd. and invested more than $200 million. Additionally, it borrowed $227 million from other lenders.

Benchmark Hospitality International to manage Maui Prince Hotel
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