A Miami investor with a history of developing and owning Ritz-Carlton branded hotels has added The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale to his portfolio.
RCFL Investor LLC paid nearly $66 million for the oceanfront 166-room hotel and 28 condominium-hotel units at 1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., according to Broward County records. The transaction closed on July 16 and was recorded Monday by the county.
Karim Alibhai is the president of RCFL, which obtained a $45.13 million loan from a group of lenders managed by SunTrust Bank, according to county records. Alibhai is the founder of 26-year-old investment and development firm Gencom Group. Through partnerships with large investors, Gencom has a history of developing or acquiring Ritz-Carlton and Hyatt properties, according to the company's website.
Calls to Alibhai were not returned by deadline.
An affiliate of Invesco Ltd. partnered with Gencom on the purchase, according to a written statement.
Castillo Grand LLC of Clearwater is the seller of the 6-year-old hotel. Calls to Castillo president and CEO Fred Bullard Jr. were not returned by deadline.
HFF L.P. senior managing director Daniel C. Peek, executive managing director Manny de Zárraga, directors Max Comess and Paul Hsu and analyst Chris Lingerfelt represented Castillo in the sale.
"The trade of the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale provides further evidence of the recovery of the luxury lodging segment and increased investor appetite for high-quality oceanfront resorts," Peek said in a written statement.
Resort amenities include four restaurants, a pool deck with private cabanas, more than 24,000 square feet of meeting space, an 8,500-square-foot spa and business center, according to HFF.
The Ritz-Carlton sale is South Florida's most expensive hotel transaction since the $117 million sale of the Miami Beach Resort in March.
At $66 million and nearly $339,000 per unit including the condo-hotel units, the purchase price represents a "good deal" for Alibhai's group, according to hospitality consultant Guy Trusty, president of Lodging & Hospitality Realty Advisors Inc. in Coral Gables. Trusty was not involved in the transaction.
RCFL would have had to pay significantly more to acquire a beachfront site in Miami Beach and construct a new Ritz-Carlton, Trusty said.
"Fort Lauderdale is not Miami or Miami Beach but has notched up another level in terms of the hospitality business in South Florida," he said. "It has cemented its place in the international hospitality world since the recession."
The hotel was originally operated as a St. Regis, which is a brand of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. But the relationship between Castillo Grand and Starwood deteriorated before the hotel opened in 2007, ultimately leading to several years of litigation in New York.
Castillo originally acquired the hotel site in 2000. Disputes over design and construction plans and personnel changes within the St. Regis team overseeing the project resulted in substantial completion delays and cost overruns.
Starwood terminated its management contract at the hotel in 2008, citing the lack of a $3 million project license fee payment from Castillo. One year later, Starwood affiliate Sheraton Operating Corp. filed a lawsuit accusing Castillo of several breaches of contract.
Castillo in November 2011 obtained a $44 million judgment against Sheraton in New York State Supreme Court. At the time of the judgment, Castillo attorney Todd Soloway called the case "a cautionary tale for the hotel industry."