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Developer Caruso said to be buying Miramar Hotel

January 23, 2007|Ashley Surdin | Times Staff Writer

In a kind of developer dating game, Bachelor No. 3 is about to try his luck restoring the landmark Miramar Hotel in Montecito.

Rick Caruso, who built the popular outdoor Grove shopping center in Los Angeles, is expected to finalize a deal this week to purchase the dilapidated seaside hotel, said a person familiar with the discussions.

Caruso's proposal to buy the hotel from Beanie Babies tycoon Ty Warner is the first step in a long-simmering plan for the retail developer to enter the hospitality industry, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the transaction was still being negotiated.

The proposed deal was reported Monday on the Santa Barbara Independent website.

The alternative weekly newspaper said Caruso, 48, offered to purchase the blue-roofed Montecito hotel from Warner, known for collecting resorts in Santa Barbara County.

Warner bought the shuttered Miramar for $43 million in 2005 from New York hotelier Ian Schrager, whose plan to put a high gloss on the funky 213-room hotel was stalled for six years because of a lack of funds.

At the time, Warner predicted that the hotel would become "one of America's premier resorts." Late last year, Warner announced he was selling the property -- with offers from prospective buyers said to be as much as $50 million -- because of "extreme bias" against him by two influential community groups.

One of those groups, the Montecito Assn., met with Caruso last week about his planned purchase of the hotel.

"The description that Rick and his team provided seemed like a terrific project," said President Robert Collector, whose group represents 1,100 households in the area. "They intend to include the public in their plans, and they described it as a family-friendly hotel that is closer to what the old Miramar was than Mr. Schrager or Mr. Warner was intending."

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ashley.surdin@latimes.com

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