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School Board Seeks Millions Used as Deposit for Hotel Site

June 11, 1996|AMY PYLE | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

The Los Angeles Board of Education gave its attorneys the go-ahead Monday to seek up to $52 million from the owner of the now-closed Ambassador Hotel, which the district had planned to demolish to build a high school.

The district had placed $45 million in a court-administered account six years ago as a deposit on the property, while the school district and Ambassador Associates, which is associated with New York magnate Donald Trump, wrangled over the cost and conditions of the proposed deal.

Garrett Hanken, an attorney representing Ambassador Associates, said the company would not be paying L.A. Unified anything in the near future. "We don't think anything is due now or maybe ever," he said.

The company withdrew the money from the account in 1991, but in 1993--after the two sides failed to agree on a price--the district dropped its bid. An appellate judge recently upheld a lower court ruling that the school district is entitled to recover its deposit, plus interest.

The school district and Ambassador have been battling in court, before the state legislature and in public hearings over the site since 1990. At that time, the district began negotiating to build a high school campus on the site to relieve overcrowding at mid-Wilshire area schools, and the company countered with a plan to build a hotel-office complex on the land.

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