$40M deal in works for Jerome | AspenTimes.com

$40M deal in works for Jerome

The owner of the Hotel Jerome said he is willing to sell Aspen’s signature property only because he has found buyers who are capable of boosting it to five-star quality while preserving its historic importance.Jim McManus said negotiations with the Gaylord family of Oklahoma City have relieved any apprehension he had about parting with the hotel after owning it for 20 years.”These people are going to be wonderful for the town, wonderful for the hotel and wonderful for the staff,” McManus said.He bought the crumbling structure with Dick Butera for $6 million in 1985. “We saved it from the wrecking ball,” McManus said.John Gilmore had received approvals for renovations but ran out of money. McManus, the head of a successful marketing company, and businessman Butera spent $27 million on renovations. Butera later sold his share to his partner.McManus said he always felt the hotel belonged to Aspen more than it belonged to him.”I don’t feel like an owner of the hotel. I feel like a trustee,” he said. “I wanted to preserve the trustee-ship of the hotel.”I would not have sold the hotel to a chain,” McManus added. “This is a special trophy hotel.”Wasn’t seeking buyerMcManus said he wasn’t shopping the hotel. He said the man that oversaw the property for him was contacted by a representative of the Gaylord trust periodically for the last seven or eight years to see if it was for sale. It never was.McManus said he returned a call himself from that representative on Feb. 1 this year, and it made him consider the Jerome’s future. McManus said he is 71 years old and none of his seven children wants to run the hotel. He talked to his wife, Betty, about running it and they decided to meet with the Gaylords. McManus said he owns 99 percent of the hotel; his wife 1 percent.McManus said he remained quiet about the preliminary negotiations but word somehow leaked. Five other bidders emerged although one wasn’t qualified.The Gaylords’ Oklahoma Publishing Co., which owns the famed Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, emerged as the strongest bidder.McManus said that during a conference call with four Oklahoma Publishing officials in mid-March, the values they described and their goals for the hotel matched his own. After another two days of pondering, the deal was essentially sealed.Oklahoma Publishing has a letter of intent to purchase the hotel, confirmed Broadmoor spokeswoman Allison Scott, a former public relations representative at the Aspen Skiing Co., Snowmass Resort Association and Sport Obermeyer.McManus said he expects the deal to close in June. McManus wouldn’t disclose the sales price. A source familiar with the deal said McManus was seeking $40 million. Another source, who asked to remain anonymous, said the Gaylords are paying close to that price.Investment for five-star qualityMcManus is in the middle of investing $4.5 million in the hotel, including refurbishing the last of the 92 rooms that need attention. He said he would have done more if he could. “We needed to put some dough in the hotel,” he said.The Gaylords have committed to do just that. McManus said family members told him they will spend an additional $10 million in upgrades. He believes that investment will bring the Jerome up from four-star to five-star status, the highest.”Their goal is to be the best five-star hotel in Aspen,” McManus said.The Gaylords have a proven record. The Broadmoor, which they acquired in 1989, has been a Mobil Five Star property for 18 years. One change that won’t occur is condominiumization and fractional ownership. McManus said he questioned each bidder about their intentions. New “clubs” featuring fractional ownership are popping up all over Aspen and venerable old properties are getting converted.While a prohibition against fractional ownership isn’t part of the real estate sales contract between McManus and the Gaylords, McManus said he took their word on the issue.Butera said Aspen will lose one great owner of the Hotel Jerome but gain another. “He’s been a great custodian,” he said of his longtime friend McManus. “But I think the town got lucky again.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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