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CALIFORNIA

Beanie Babies' Warner Buys Santa Barbara Four Seasons

May 24, 2000|DAVID KESMODEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ty Warner, the creator of Beanie Babies, is starting to snap up premier hotels the way fans have collected his wildly popular stuffed animals.

In his second major hotel purchase in the last 15 months, Warner has acquired the renowned Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara from investment group Maritz, Wolff & Co.

Terms of the deal, which closed May 11, were not disclosed. But analysts said the 217-room waterfront resort likely sold for more than $100 million, or about $460,000 per room, which would make it one of the costliest hotel transactions this year.

"Without a doubt, you have [what may be] the most expensive transaction if not in the country this year then in California, probably for the entire year," said Alan Reay, president of Costa Mesa-based hotel brokerage Atlas Hospitality Group.

Warner, the famously reclusive chief executive and owner of Beanie Babies maker Ty Inc., acquired New York's landmark Four Seasons Hotel for $275 million in March 1999.

Built in 1927, the 20-acre Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara has 217 guest rooms and three oceanfront restaurants, with room rates starting at $435 a night.

Warner has a home in nearby Montecito and has long enjoyed spending time in Santa Barbara, said Craig Stevenson, executive vice president for Keystone Advisors Inc., the firm that represented Warner in the Biltmore purchase.

"When the opportunity came up to buy it, he was very excited to take a run at it," said Stevenson, who declined to confirm the purchase price.

The recent hotel deals are part of Warner's long-term strategy to buy quality hotels, but acquisitions are being made on "a very, very selective basis," Stevenson said.

The Biltmore will continue to be managed by Four Seasons, and no immediate changes are planned, Stevenson said. The Warner-owned entity that now owns the resort is 1260BB Property.

Executives at Maritz, Wolff, which is based in Los Angeles and St. Louis, could not be reached for comment. Maritz, Wolff's holdings include the Miramar Sheraton Hotel in Santa Monica, which it bought last year for about $90 million.

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