7 September 2017 – La Voz de Almería
The future of the Gran Hotel Almería, the most iconic hotel in the city, which has been closed for almost three years, has been in the hands of a US investment fund since August.
The fund in question is Blackstone, the financial group chaired in Spain by Claudio Boada, which, based on a decision by Banco Santander, has been awarded the entire real estate portfolio that it inherited from Banco Popular, including Aliseda. The portfolio contains, amongst others, the legendary Almería hotel, which has housed many stars from the spaghetti westerns, amongst others.
The portfolio sold to the fund by Ana Botín includes 100% of the sales platform that it received from Popular just a few months ago. The ownership of Aliseda will now be shared between Blackstone (51%) and Santander (49%), in a deal that saw Botín’s bank receive €5,000 million from its new North American partner. Previously, Santander had purchased that stake from the private equity funds Värde Partners and Kennedy Wilson Holdings.
Altogether, the properties transferred – including the Gran Hotel Almería – have a book value of €30,000 million, which is whereby removed from Banco Popular’s balance sheet. The portfolio contains a range of assets from retail premises to homes, industrial warehouses, hotels and plots of land, the majority of which are located in Andalucía.
Miguel Rifá, the Tax Authorities’ largest debtor in Almería, with an overdue balance of €27.5 million, is still the official owner of the Gran Hotel. The property has remained closed for more than two years, during which time Banco Popular decided not to execute the embargo order because, according to financial sources, it did not have a clear project or a solvent buyer (…).
A spokesman for Aliseda in Madrid declared yesterday to La Voz de Almería that “the Gran Hotel Almería file is still with the loan management department; it is no longer on the balance sheet of Banco Popular; and negotiations are being held with the owner to find a solution for the property”.
All indications are that the role of Blackstone is going to be key over the next few months if the Gran Hotel Almería is to be unraveled from this financial web in which the establishment is immersed. Stars of film and music have stayed there including Sergio Leone, Harrison Ford, Claudia Cardinale, Steven Spielberg, Brigitte Bardot and Ringo Starr.
Santander’s aim is for the weight of Popular’s real estate ballast to be insignificant within two years. Blackstone has extensive experience in Spain in the management of delinquent mortgages.
In 2014, it was awarded a portfolio containing 40,000 contracts by Catalunya Caixa. On 3 December 2012, Miguel Rifá filed for voluntary creditor bankruptcy for the companies Hotel Almería S.L.U., Predios del Sureste and Vosges due to insolvency. Nevertheless, he excluded the Gran Hotel Almería asset from that procedure, of which Banco Popular was the principal creditor.
The combined debt of the Miguel Rifá’s bankrupt companies amounts to €54 million.
Original story: La Voz de Almería (by Manuel León)
Translation: Carmel Drake