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Sale of Dunes resort glides forward

July 24, 2002

Paul Clinton

Orange County supervisors on Tuesday endorsed an ownership group

bidding to purchase the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort and approved

a transfer of the lease when the deal is finalized, paving the way

for new owners at the Back Bay institution.

Supervisors unanimously approved the lease transfer as part of a

package in which the incoming operators would set aside $200,000 per

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year for maintenance.

"Everything looks good," Supervisor Tom Wilson said in a statement

after the approval. "Adjustments that we are asking for are being

made."

Even with the approval, the deal is not yet final. Culver City

real estate company Goldrich & Kest Industries and Tahoe Shores are

still in escrow with the current owners to buy the resort's lease,

buildings and marina.

The new group plans to run the resort as the subsidiary Newport

Dunes Marina, once escrow closes. That is expected to occur in

August. Current owner Newport Dunes Partnership has stayed nearly

silent about the deal. That stance continued Tuesday.

"We really can't comment on the sale until it's completed," owner

Tim Quinn said. "Obviously, [the county's action] is good news."

Preliminary estimates of the deal's price tag have come in at as

much as $50 million, according to Eastdil, the Los Angeles real

estate company handling the transaction. The county has put the value

of the lease at between $15 million and $20 million.

County officials with the Public Facilities and Resources

Department wrapped up an audit of the two prospective buyers last

week. That audit showed that the two concessionaires have the

financial muscle to operate and run the resort, county officials have

said.

City leaders have taken a wait-and-see approach to the deal and

hope to meet with the concessionaires when the is done.

"I'll be anxious to hear the details," Councilman Gary Adams said.

The consortium of potential new owners has not disclosed whether

it would exercise an on-the-books option that would allow them to

build a 275-room "family inn" on the site.

A plan for a larger hotel with room for conferences was a major

target of the initial Greenlight activism, which successfully placed

a slow-growth law on Newport Beach's books.

Greenlight leaders and other activists contend any new owners

would need to take even the 275-room hotel to voters, in keeping with

the spirit of the law's regulations.

Susan Skinner-Caustin formed the activist group Stop the Dunes

Hotel to halt any expansion. Skinner-Caustin's husband, Bob, who

formed Defend the Bay to help clean up the Back Bay, has joined her

in that cause.

"I'm hopeful that the new owners truly intend on operating it as a

family-oriented, public-oriented venue," Bob Caustin said. "I'm

hopeful they leave it like it is."

* PAUL CLINTON covers the environment and politics. He may be

reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail at paul.clinton@latimes.com.

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