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Monarch Alternative Capital wins bankruptcy auction showdown for the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Hotel

The 14-story, 400-room Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Hotel sold at a bankruptcy auction for $35.7 million.
The 14-story, 400-room Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Hotel sold at a bankruptcy auction for $35.7 million. (Fisher Auction Company)

After showdown of bidding rounds, London and New York-based private investment firm Monarch Alternative Capital won the bid for the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Hotel at a bankruptcy auction.

The 14-story, 400-room hotel at 7800 Universal Blvd. in Orlando’s tourism corridor sold at auction Tuesday for $35.7 million, more than $7 million above the “stalking horse” bid, or the baseline offer that sets a minimum price for an asset owned by a company in bankruptcy.

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Monarch’s MAC New Opportunities LLC was the winning bidder, superseding the next highest bid from a company tied to real estate owner, developer, operator and adviser Tishman, based in New York.

The owner of the hotel, Universal Towers Construction, Inc., filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last summer in the Middle District of Florida. The company was represented by Christopher Thompson and Eric Golden, with the law firm of Burr & Forman LLP.

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At the time of the sale, the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Hotel saw occupancy levels exceed 90% over the weekends.
At the time of the sale, the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Hotel saw occupancy levels exceed 90% over the weekends. (Steven Graffham/Fisher Auction Company)

Lamar Fisher, president and CEO of Fisher Auction Company, told GrowthSpotter the auction ran 52 minutes overtime with seven bidders and 56 bidding rounds.

“The bidding was spirited,” he said. “[The amount of rounds] were unusually high.”

Fisher noted that the property was well marketed to a worldwide audience who could participate with just a click of a button.

“Over 53 different districts, states and countries inquired the property,” he said. “The exposure was truly worldwide … I believe that the bankruptcy estate achieved the highest offer possible.”

The longtime owners of the property implemented an extensive $25 million-dollar renovation to upgrade the formerly distressed property.

The online platform also offers bidders a greater degree of privacy than a public auction, he adds.

Monarch Alternative Capital focuses primarily on the debt of distressed and bankrupt companies, according to its website.

Paul Sexton, senior vice president at HREC Investment Advisors said he believes the selling price exceeded expectations because the auction tied well with the rollout of vaccines and recovery of the economy, whereas in the beginning of the marketing cycle, there was still a lot of risk.

“Things got more optimistic,” he said, adding the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Hotel had been operating at over 90% occupancy the last two weekends.

The hotel was built in 2002, near Universal Studios Orlando and Walt Disney World, as well as I-4, Florida’s Turnpike and the 528 Expressway.

Sexton said the amount of interest seen from investors in the Northeast and upper Midwest surprised him and Fisher.

“It helped being in Orlando,” Fisher said. “Mickey Mouse wasn’t moving anywhere. Ultimately, tourism coming back, the [rollout of] vaccines, all that played a role into what we achieved.”

In addition to hotels, Fisher Auction Company also handles auctions for several multimillion-dollar mansions and private islands. In the past, it handled the auction for the former Versace Mansion and Miami Arena.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at arabines@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-5427, or tweet me at @amanda_rabines. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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