Compromise will keep Naples Bay Resort open, obtain loan and pay debt

Daily News file photo 
 Deliveries are made at the Naples Bay Resort in 2011. The bankruptcy trial for Naples Bay Resort began Monday and will continue into next week.

Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo

Daily News file photo Deliveries are made at the Naples Bay Resort in 2011. The bankruptcy trial for Naples Bay Resort began Monday and will continue into next week.

Jack Antaramian on NewsMakers

Jack Antaramian on NewsMakers

FORT MYERS _ With some last-minute haggling, attorneys reached a compromise Tuesday on a plan that will keep Naples Bay Resort open and pay back its creditors.

About a dozen attorneys involved in the bankruptcy case spent more than an hour huddling outside of the courtroom in Fort Myers to resolve objections before presenting a final plan to the judge, who plans to approve it in an order that could be signed by the end of the week.

“It’s a big step,” remarked Diane Jensen, a Fort Myers attorney and trustee for the bankruptcy case, in court.

Under the plan, a Texas-based investor, EFO Financial Group, will provide a $7.1 million loan to get the resort out of bankruptcy. It’s the same group that made a $4 million capital infusion nearly a year ago to keep the troubled resort from closing.

“It cleans up a lot of outstanding issues and also provides a clear direction for the employees of the resort,” said Renzo Renzi, a manager for EFO.

That direction is that the struggling resort, with more than 100 employees, will remain open. The 20-acre project, near Tin City in Naples, includes 85 hotel rooms, 30 residences and 97 boat slips.

The confirmation hearing started nearly an hour late after the warring sides worked privately to tweak the plan to address various concerns, including the release of certain claims involving the project’s feuding partners.

By the time the hearing got under way, most issues had been resolved, but another break was needed later to hammer out the final plan, which will put the resort in the hands of Naples developer Jack Antaramian, one of the partners in the project.

The bankruptcy case excludes parts of the project such as the clubhouse and its promenade of shops. The club is still entangled in a foreclosure case pending in state court.

The bankruptcy case has pitted Antaramian against his former friends and longtime business partners in Basil Street: Fred Pezeshkan, chairman of Manhattan Construction (Florida), and investors Raymond Sehayek and Iraj Zand, who live in Switzerland.

“From the perspective of the Naples Bay Resort, the outlook is certainly better than it has been in some time, now that we are past Jack suing his partners and the resort is going to be coming out of bankruptcy,” said Miami attorney Robbie Landon, who represents Pezeshkan, Sehayek and Zand.

Separate from the plan, he said, he will seek more than $2 million in attorneys fees and other expenses for his clients.

Fred Pezeshkan

Fred Pezeshkan

Antaramian fought to collect on $45 million in loan guarantees his other partners made for the project, but U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Caryl Delano recently ruled against him after an eight-day trial in Tampa.

The judge, however, ruled that Antaramian could collect on the $36 million mortgage he took over for the project. Based on that ruling, the amount of his claim put Antaramian in a controlling position to block any competing plan to get the project out of bankruptcy.

In his plan, Antaramian promises not to receive any distributions on his unsecured claim until the other unsecured creditors are “paid in full.”

“That is the right thing for him to do,” Landon said.

Delano described the hearing as anticlimactic after so many objections were filed to the plan. With a few changes in the plan’s language, all sides were able to come to an agreement.

The plan includes paying Benchmark Hospitality, the resort’s management company, a little over $1 million from the proceeds of the loan, which was part of the compromise.

The loan also will cover the trustee’s costs, pay the Collier County Tax Collector and refinance the earlier loan from an EFO affiliate.

Under the plan, the resort will be sold to Antaramian Properties, which will pay back the loan.

Once the plan is confirmed by the judge, there will 14 days to appeal her order.

If all goes as planned, a closing on the sale of the resort is expected by late March.

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