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Pierpont purchase caps hotel investment spree

By   /   Friday, September 21st, 2012  /   Comments Off

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A Los Angeles County-based hotel management firm is betting more than $30 million on the Ventura County hotel market, with its purchase of the Pierpont Inn & Spa last week bringing the company’s total number of properties in the region to six.

Brighton Management, a real estate firm headquartered in Diamond Bar, purchased the historic Pierpont Inn for $6.5 million at an auction held Sept. 14. The acquisition comes two months after the company said it was in the process of buying two troubled Marriott properties in Oxnard out of foreclosure. Brighton bought the Courtyard by Marriott Oxnard on East Esplanade Drive for $11.4 million in a deal that closed on Aug. 1, and it’s part of a group that’s purchasing the Residence Inn by Marriott on Vineyard Avenue.

“We love Ventura,” Michael Schaefer, senior vice president of full service hotels at Brighton, told the Business Times. “We’ve been very successful in the area, so we want to keep our eye on the winning formula.”

The real estate company also owns Country Inn & Suites — soon to be rebranded as a Holiday Inn Express — in Port Hueneme, which was lender-owned when Brighton bought the hotel in July. That hotel had an estimated value for tax purposes of $9.2 million in 2011, according to county property records. Brighton has owned Four Points by Sheraton in Ventura Harbor and Holiday Inn Express in Ventura for the past six years.

With half a dozen Ventura County properties under its belt, Brighton is focused on marketing the region as a tourism destination. “We like the county, and we also like business opportunities,” Schaefer said. The hotel management company is branding the coastal county between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles as “the real California,” he said.

Schaefer said Brighton has had its eye on the Pierpont Inn, a 77-room hotel set on 6.2 acres on Sanjon Road, for the past six years. The hotel went on the market in January for $8.5 million, an asking price that was two million dollars more than it fetched at auction nine months later. “We think we got a great deal,” Schaefer said. “The Pierpont is one of the treasures of Ventura. With a little TLC, there’s opportunity to bring life back to the hotel.”

There’s no word yet on whether Brighton will replace the hotel’s management staff, he said.

Historic hotel

It’s been more than 100 years since Josephine Pierpont commissioned an architect to design the hotel bearing her name. Since the Pierpont Inn was built in 1910, it’s had a storied history.
While the coastal Craftsman-style hotel was once a favorite getaway for presidents and movie stars, it has struggled to recapture its identity in the twenty-first century. Brighton’s purchase marks the fourth time the Pierpont Inn has changed hands since 1998.

Most recently, the Patel and Panchal families sold the Pierpont Inn for an estimated $12.8 million in 2009 to a family trust involving Grace Ahn. At that time, the hotel was listed for as much as $16.5 million, $10  million more than Brighton paid for it three years later.

According to court documents acquired by the Business Times in 2011, the Pierpont started to struggle when the Ahn family took over ownership. Starting in January 2010, 11 lawsuits were filed against Pierpont Group LLC in Ventura County Superior Court. Most of them involved payment disputes with suppliers and employees.

In July 2011, the Garrett Family Trust — which public documents indicate had retained a substantial second trust deed to the property at the time — filed a notice of default against the Ahn family because they had failed to repay one of the loans used to buy the hotel. According to court documents, the Garrett Family Trust had the right to sell the property in a court proceeding if the hotel’s owner didn’t repay the loan within three months.

The hotel officially went up for sale for $8.5 million in January 2012, two months after the Ahn Family Trust and trustee Grace Ahn filed for bankruptcy protection. It was initially listed on the commercial real estate market until the Los Angeles Bankruptcy Court ordered it to go on the auction block.

The auction was originally set to take place in June, but was rescheduled several times. Marcus & Millichap, a national commercial real estate brokerage firm, handled the auction.

Jim Luttjohann, former executive director of the Ventura Visitors & Convention Bureau, said in 2009 that the Pierpont still has the potential to be an attractive destination. “It should be one of our highest-demand hotels in the city because of its very special and unique character. It needs to be managed and marketed with that philosophy,” he told the Business Times then.

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