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Longboat Key Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 8 years ago

Colony wants to remain independent

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Longboat Key resident Manfred Welfonder, owner of MW Development & Investment Advisory Inc., a Sarasota-based real-estate development and investment company, says an international hospitality company is still interested in purchasing The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort and all of the owner’s assets for a teardown and rebuild of the entire property.

But Colony President and General Manager Katie Moulton said she and her father, Colony Chairman and owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber, will do whatever it takes to keep a national flag from ever flying on the resort grounds.

The international hotel chain, Welfonder said, is still interested in the property, despite the fact that Klauber rebuffed the original undisclosed offer almost two years ago.

Welfonder originally proposed and presented a total renovation and funding proposal to Klauber and the resort’s association board in December 2007.

The client, whose name Welfonder said he cannot disclose, is “a major hospitality company” that is interested in a complete teardown with fractionalized opportunities.

“We are working on a revised proposal,” said Welfonder, who said the proposal to both Klauber and the association board would not include the numbers originally proposed. “Obviously, the closure of the resort and the foreclosure proceedings will result in the numbers not being the same.”

Welfonder’s company received a professional opinion from Sarasota architect Bruce Franklin two years ago, which recommended against a renovation of the current facilities, because if the units were found to need further repairs once work began, it would require future assessments from unit owners.

Last year, however, Klauber told The Longboat Observer that Welfonder’s proposal “won’t happen in my lifetime.” Klauber also believes that his resort’s 237 condominium units can be renovated and do not need to be torn down.

Klauber, who wants to renovate the facility with investors who are aligned with his vision for the property, says he has no intention of selling the property he has owned for more than 35 years.

Despite Klauber’s claims, Welfonder said his client will continue its pursuit of the resort, which shuttered its hotel operations in September.

“A leading international hospitality company continues its pursuit of the property,” said Welfonder, who said his client is willing to work with all involved parties, which now include Bank of America, the bank attempting to foreclose on Klauber’s assets and property on resort grounds.

Welfonder said he is upset the Colony has closed its doors, explaining that his client’s previous offer would have allowed Klauber to continue to operate the hotel for two full seasons or more before construction would begin.

“The closure of the Colony was avoidable,” Welfonder said.
Moulton, however, said she has not spoken to Welfonder in more than a year and is unaware of any future proposals from his client.

“We are working with a number of very qualified and viable financial-investment partners and continue to receive inquiries on a daily basis from interested parties,” Moulton said.
Moulton also confirmed that she and her father are only interested in offers that will allow the resort to continue to operate independently.

“Most of the investors we are speaking to understand the importance of maintaining an independent brand as opposed to putting a national flag or brand on the property,” said Moulton, who explained that having a national hotel chain run the property comes with a significant price tag. “Because our property is so unique, it makes sense to try and maintain the brand we have cultivated.”

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