CARLSBAD — A Japanese firm has agreed to purchase the La Costa Hotel & Spa, the internationally known resort in North San Diego County that has lured the rich and famous for more than two decades.
Officials of Sports Shinko Co., an Osaka-based firm that owns dozens of country clubs in Japan, have signed a letter of intent to buy the renowned hotel and spa for $250 million, resort operators said Wednesday.
Allard Roen, manager and one of three principal owners of the spa, said a final agreement should be worked out within 60 days.
Under terms of the deal, the resort on the southern flank of Carlsbad will be operated for Sports Shinko by a management firm, San Diego-based Global Hospitality Corp. The company operates the 1,000-acre Grenelefe Resort & Conference Center in Central Florida, which also was recently purchased by Sports Shinko.
Sports Shinko officials said they were eager to acquire a West Coast site to go along with the Florida property as well as the 26 country clubs it owns in Japan and two in Hawaii.
"We chose La Costa as an important addition to our company because of its exceptional facilities, its dramatically beautiful location and its status as one of the world's finest resorts," Toshio Kinoshita, Sports Shinko president, said in a prepared statement. "We are committed to maintaining the high standards of service and facilities that have made La Costa renowned the world over."
Since its opening in 1965, La Costa has built an image as a playground for the rich, drawing presidents and oil barons, captains of industry and Hollywood stars.
The resort has played host to movie stars Bette Davis and Barbra Streisand, former Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Along the way, it was haunted by rumors that it was somehow connected to organized crime. Investigations were launched by the FBI, as well as state and local authorities, but none of the probes resulted in any allegations being filed against the resort's owners.
La Costa features seven restaurants and three bars, two 18-hole golf courses and 23 tennis courts. It also includes a private track, an aquatics center and a 180-seat theater that features first-run movies each night. The spa itself has Roman baths, rock steam rooms and Swiss showers. Guests are treated to herbal wraps and massages.
Rates at the 482-room hotel range from $185 a night to $1,200 for one of the complex's two presidential suites.
The pending sale marks the end of an era at La Costa. Through the years, the resort had remained in the hands of the same men who first carved it from the rolling coastal hills--on-site manager Roen, builder Irwin Molasky and Merv Adelson, chairman of Lorimar-Telepictures.
Roen, said he planned to keep his house overlooking the resort and to continue serving as chairman of the annual Tournament of Champions golf event at La Costa.
The spa and hotel recently underwent a $100-million renovation, prompting some residents of the surrounding community to speculate that the operation may be hurting financially.
Roen, however, said the sale has nothing to do with financial troubles. After the remodeling was completed, several firms approached the partners about buying the spa, he said. Sport Shinko's offer seemed "a good business deal for them and a good business deal for us."
"We're all getting up there in our '60s now," Roen said, speaking for his partners. "It's been like a baby to us, of course. We developed it and have grown with it. There's a great deal of pride of ownership.
"We felt that Sport Shinko along with Global Hospitality could carry out what we would want for the resort in the future. I feel good about that."
Donald Stephenson, president of Global Hospitality Corp., said his firm would evaluate the current operation at La Costa before deciding what changes need to be made.
Stephenson, a former top executive with the Sheraton hotel chain, predicted that La Costa would continue to draw visitors from throughout Southern California and the world.
"It's not the intent of Sports Shinko or ourselves to make this an exclusive hotel for Japanese," Stephenson said. "It's just not in the cards."