March 3, 2006 – The former Renaissance Grand Beach Hotel could be on the way to being restored to its former glory, according to its previous manager.
John Murphy, who served as Renaissance general manager for five years from 1995 to 2000. Murphy is back on St. Thomas doing the pre-purchase groundwork on behalf of a group of potential owners.
He said Friday, "We have a purchase agreement and I am here doing our due diligence on behalf of the potential owners who hope to acquire the hotel." Murphy said it was too early to divulge the names and details of the deal, but the hotel would eventually be managed by InterContinental Hotels and Resorts if the deal goes through.
It has been rumored that the brick and mortar is being purchased by a group of local investors, but that has not been confirmed.
Murphy was very cautious about raising hopes for the immediate reopening of the hotel, which has been all but deserted by the Mexico-based Palace Resorts, who purchased the property for a reported $9.7 million from Marriott Resorts in the fall of 2003. The hotel was closed by the new owners less than a year later. (See "Palace Resorts Officials: Grand Beach Won't Reopen").
Murphy did say, "We are making positive progress and we're excited at the prospect of moving forward."
When the hotel closed in August 2004, it left about 300 people jobless.
Hotelier Nick Pourzal, who said Friday he is not involved with Murphy's group, expressed sorrow for the loss of jobs. "I feel sad for the staff and employees."
Pourzal was effusive about InterContinental, saying the company was "a major class act."
"The reason you don't hear much about them here is they are a worldwide company with first-class hotels in most major cities," he said.
This is not the first attempt made since the closure to purchase the property. In January 2005 there was buzz that the property was being spruced up for purchase by a multi-media entertainment company, The Future Limited Inc., spearheaded by Dexter Chappelle, brother of comedian Dave Chappelle, who appeared to be setting up shop at the East End resort, but that deal fizzled almost as quickly as it started. (See "Grand Beach Palace Back on the Market").
There have been other more quiet moves by a variety of groups to purchase the property, but none have gone through.
Meanwhile, the once-lovely resort that was often booked to capacity in season is falling more and more into disrepair and local business people are anxious to see it re-open – as is Murphy despite his caution about raising hopes.
He said Friday if he has his way, "Everybody is going to be very proud of the hotel again."
One observer noted, "There must be something going on because it [the property] looks gorgeous. I go by here all the time; the trees have been pruned; the grass is cut."
Laurdes Rodriguez, chief operating officer for Palace Resorts in Miami, did not return a call placed for comment on the pending sale.
It is reported the current owners were at one time asking in the neighborhood of $20 million for the property.
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