Mohamed Hadid is back in Aspen, looking for deals
December 25, 2008
ASPEN ” Developer Mohamed Hadid was an important man around Aspen in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Then he left town and, for all intents and purposes, disappeared from the eyes and minds of most Aspenites for nearly a decade and a half.
But recently he was back in Aspen, looking for ways to spend what he termed “a vulture fund” and capitalize on what might amount to a fire sale of high-end properties, prompted by the ongoing national and international financial meltdown.
“I hope for the best for everybody, but I think there must be some opportunities … not residential, or anything like this. I think in the corporate world, some of the hotels,” he said in an interview in The St. Regis Aspen, a property that he built.
This is the man who in 1986 beat Donald Trump to the punch and bought 88 acres of prime Aspen real estate out of foreclosure, climbing the steps of the Pitkin County Courthouse to hand the county treasurer a check for $57 million for properties that included the Hans Cantrup empire.
Out of that bold act came the Ritz Carlton Aspen (now The St. Regis Aspen); the redevelopment of the old Continental Inn (now the Hyatt Grand Aspen); and the Silver Circle Ice Rink.
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He also turned over to the Aspen Institute the deed to the Aspen Meadows property on the northwest side of town, which came with the foreclosure deal. This went a long way to guarantee that the Institute, which had once threatened to leave Aspen for more hospitable quarters, would stick around.
In the process, ever the sharp businessman, Hadid won the right to build a group of high-end homes along the southern edge of the Meadows’ historic “racetrack.”
Then, things shifted. Hadid, a Palestinian by birth who spent his formative years in Washington, D.C., and already had something of an international reputation as a developer, brought in a partner. As he described it, he sold half his Ritz ownership to Saudi Arabian businessman Sheik Abdul Aziz Bin Ibrahim Al Ibrahim, and was then ousted by Ibrahim in a dispute over the management of the property.
At that point Hadid, who had a home in Aspen as well as one in Virginia, started looking for other places to do business and ended up in Los Angeles. He has been there ever since, while developing what he termed “high-end homes” in the L.A. area, as well as projects in Mexico, Europe and North Africa.
Now 60 and finishing a divorce from his second wife, Hadid recalled being “beaten up very badly” by the city’s development review process and his own partners, although he said it with a broad smile and a laugh as he added, “Now I want to come back to see if I can be beaten again.”
“I feel there must be some opportunities that I can pick up here in Aspen,” he said, adding that he had found some prospects but declining to give details.
When asked if one of them might be the St. Regis, Hadid responded, “It could be. I mean, after all, I know it well. I have blood right underneath there [pointing toward the floor], I am sure.”
The St. Regis, owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Inc., is up for sale for an undisclosed price. Hadid said he has not yet talked with Starwood about the property,
and that he did not know the asking price.
“I would really like to come back, to invest some of my energy and my cash here, because I think this is a town with a lot of soul … different than the other places. In the other places you invest just to get something monetary in return, but this place is different. I have friends, I have people; I walk down the street and greet people. I feel good that this town’s gonna survive and do well.”
He said he is not necessarily looking to partner up with existing companies or businessmen, though he said there are some “I could do business with.”
But, he confided, “Right now I have a fund that can come in and do some things, more like a vulture fund.” He said others have invested in this fund, as well as him, but he declined to give the formal identity of the fund while he is still in the early stages of seeking out deals.