BLAINE - A spokesman for the Upper Skagit Tribe says there is still a good chance that the Semiahmoo Hotel can find a new owner and reopen in time for this summer, but one possible buyer has taken his firm out of the running.
Richard Warnick, president of Warnick + Co. of Phoenix, confirmed via email that his firm is no longer interested in making a deal for the hotel, which shut down Dec. 1, 2012. Warnick declined to offer further comment.
Harry Chesnin, attorney for the tribe, said the 200-room hotel has attracted a significant amount of interest from other potential buyers. The tribe is majority owner of Semiahmoo Co., which owns the hotel.
"Probably a substantial amount of that interest is more in the nature of kicking the tires than anything credible," Chesnin said, but some potential investors have shown serious interest and have been touring the property.
"We're hopeful of finding a buyer in the short term," Chesnin said. "We continue to put a maximum amount of effort into finding an appropriate buyer. We hope we're getting close to that prospect."
Chesnin believes a buyer still could emerge in time to reopen the hotel for the summer season. The nearby golf courses remain in operation.
Warnick Co. had been identified in bankruptcy court documents as a likely buyer for the hotel in August 2012. The hotel has been snarled, to some extent, in the bankruptcy reorganization of David Syre, the founder of Trillium Corp., who developed the hotel and adjacent Semiahmoo properties in the 1980s. Trillium is minority owner of the hotel, and Syre personally guaranteed $15 million in loans to the hotel company.
Those loans were made by Horizon Bank of Bellingham, which failed in January 2010. Washington Federal has assumed those loans. In bankruptcy court filings, Washington Federal attorneys have contended that Syre is liable for any shortfall if the hotel's sale does not bring in enough money to pay off the loan.
Chesnin said that situation does not pose a serious obstacle to the sale at this point, and the tribe and the bank have "an understanding" about the matter.
"I think we are pretty much unsnarled," Chesnin said.
Andre Molnar, whose Molnar Group of British Columbia owns the Hotel Bellwether in Bellingham, says he has hired a few of the 200 people who lost their jobs when the Blaine hotel closed its doors.
Molnar thinks it will be a struggle to get the Semiahmoo Hotel back to its former glory.
Molnar said he was impressed with the place when he stayed there as a tourist about 10 years ago, but on more recent visits, he saw evidence of a serious decline in housekeeping and service standards.
"The issue here is that the Semiahmoo Hotel has been through a systematic deterioration," Molnar said. "It's been slowly going down the hill, furniture neglected, everything. ... Somehow it started to slide and nobody stopped the slide. ... We polish the furniture here every day."
Molnar doubts that the sellers are going to get an attractive price.
"Anybody who buys that has to commit to a major, major capital expenditure," Molnar said. "If you buy it cheap enough you can make money. You have to steal it, basically. ... Anybody who overpays will be punished. They have to go from zero to 100 percent. It will take them two or three years to get back."