Westin Diplomat Resort at 3555 S. Ocean Dr., Hollywood
Westin Diplomat Resort at 3555 S. Ocean Dr., Hollywood ()

The United Association, a 370,000-member plumbers and pipefitters union, has sold the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood in a blockbuster half-billion-dollar deal to Annapolis, Md.-based Thayer Lodging Group.

Thayer paid $460 million for the 1,000-room, oceanfront hotel with spa, infinity pool and tennis courts on nearly 10 acres at 3555 S. Ocean Drive.

It also snagged a neighboring 18-hole golf course for $20 million and spent $55.5 million for several adjacent parcels at 3451-3690 S. Ocean Drive.

Thayer made the deal through three affiliates, Diplomat Hotel Owner LLC, Diplomat Golf Course Venture LLC and Diplomat Landings Owner LLC, according to a deed recorded Thursday in Broward County.

It paid $535.5 million to Diplomat Cos. L.P. linked to the plumbers union.

A previous version of the landmark hotel opened with much pomp in 1958 as a 750-room celebrity hotspot.

In 1982, Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed Al-Fassi rented two floors at the hotel but was later arrested for failing to pay his $1.4 million hotel tab. Outraged, he retaliated by unsuccessfully suing the hotel for $1 trillion.

Judy Garland played there, as did Liza Minnelli and Sammy Davis Jr., who drew record attendance for their first joint concert. In 1965, U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy; his wife, Ethel; and his mother, Rose, attended a memorial ball in memory of slain President John F. Kennedy.

Two decades later, a series of arson fires caused $30 million in damage and led to a $20 million renovation. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan visited to address the International Longshoremen’s Association, and actor Bob Hope performed at the New Year’s Eve gala in 1984.

But by 1987, the property was in deep financial straits that would lead to sale talks about a decade later with the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia. The hotel would later be demolished and rebuilt as a 1,000-room resort with luxury suites, a golf course, tennis courts, grand ballroom and 209,000-square-foot convention center.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. took over management in 2001, repositioning the property as one of its Luxury Collection resorts and rebranding it the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa and the Diplomat Country Club & Spa.

The sale is one of the largest in the South Florida hospitality market, where growing occupancy rates have fueled a frenzy of multimillion-dollar deals.

In August alone, investors spent more than $100 million for properties across South Florida. Claremont Co. Inc., for instance, completed a $21.65 million transaction for the 104-room Il Lugano Hotel & Residences in Fort Lauderdale, while Blackstone Group acquired Marriott’s Residence Inn Boca Raton for $12 million. Days later, HHR Eat Downtown Miami LLC paid $57.5 million for b2 Miami Downtown Hotel and a neighboring retail center.

Thayer’s purchase of the Westin Diplomat is among the latest and largest deals for the company, which has spent upwards of $750 million on hotel acquisitions in the last decade through various investment funds and partnerships. Its other South Florida holdings include the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel and the DoubleTree Hotel in Palm Beach Gardens.