U.S. judge approves financing for troubled Naples Bay Resort

A federal bankruptcy judge has approved more than $3 million in new financing to keep the Naples Bay Resort open through the end of the year.

At a hearing on Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffery Hopkins agreed to sign off on an order that will provide the troubled resort with a much-needed infusion of cash. The money will come from a Texas investment group.

As long as an appeal isn’t filed, new financing from Family Access Exchange LLC is expected to come through in about two weeks — enough time to keep the resort from closing its doors and laying off its employees.

“Whether I get money this week or next week doesn’t matter. It’s whether they file an appeal,” said Jerry McHale, the court-appointed receiver who has been operating the resort.

The judge shot down a last-minute financing offer by a competing group, saying it was too late to even consider it. Hopkins grew impatient as an opposing attorney argued the court should approve the new offer because it was the better deal, costing $800,000 less with a lower interest rate.

“The fact is it’s late in the day,” the judge said with frustration. “That’s an irrefutable fact that is really the linchpin in this court’s decision.”

Last week, Hopkins delayed his ruling on financing, as the two sides fought over whether the project’s “commercial components,” including a club, should be used as collateral for the loan. That will be decided another day.

The bankruptcy case has pitted well-known Naples developer Jack Antaramian against his partners in the resort project: Fred Pezeshkan, president and CEO of Manhattan Construction (Florida), a general contractor in Naples, and foreign investors Iraj Zand and Raymond Sehayek. Together, they formed Basil Street Partners to develop the project, near Tin City in downtown Naples.

Alan Perlman, the attorney representing Antaramian’s three partners, brought forward the last-minute financing offer by Gulfwater Investments, saying it had more favorable terms and was supported by his clients. Hopkins didn’t seem happy about the fact that it came from a company whose managing members include the sons of two of Antaramian’s feuding partners, Pezeshkan and Zand.

Perlman pointed out that the judge approved $650,000 in temporary financing from Gulfwater Investments back in November, enough to keep the resort open through season.

Hopkins questioned why the Naples group took so long to come forward again with an offer for more financing and said he would support the trustee’s judgment on the other offer.

In court, Perlman said he wouldn’t recommend an appeal to his clients, but that it would be up to them to decide.

Naples Bay Resort has more than 100 employees. Some have left over the past few weeks. Employees were told they could lose their jobs by June 14 if new financing didn’t come through.

Because of the uncertainty hanging over the resort, it has seen two wedding cancellations. A post on the online website, TripAdvisor, warns travelers to beware when making reservations.

“As the court knows, we need this done yesterday,” Leslie said at the hearing, referring to the new financing. “There is no more time.”

After the judge’s ruling, Greg Champion, chief operating officer for Benchmark Hospitality, which is managing the resort for the receiver, described it as good news, though it may not be the final word.

“Obviously it’s in nobody’s best interest for the resort to close. The resort is actually doing quite well this season. It’s our best season ever,” he said.

Louis Amato, the attorney representing Family Access Exchange, said the group may wait out the 14 days that are allowed for an appeal before it loans any money to the resort project. Otherwise, he said, the group is ready to fund.

Antaramian and several other creditors filed an involuntary petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy against Basil Street on Oct. 19.

His partners are fighting the bankruptcy, but when Antaramian filed it he said it was the only way to get new financing to keep the resort open.

“We are as concerned as anyone about the employees and their jobs,” he said.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 1

mkc writes:

Jack,

You could give a RATS a-- about the Employees and There JOBS...

ONLY Person you Care about is Yourself...

This Place has the Highest CAM charges in the Country.

The Court should take this Project back and it should be made affordable without Management robbing all of the owners and commercial tenants in outrageous Cam Fees.

ALL are GREEDY PIGS...

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