The Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach has a new managing partner, one that owns a site for a new hotel nearby.
Ocean Properties Ltd. bought a 50 percent stake in the luxury hotel Thursday from Greenfield Partners of Norwalk, Conn., which provided funding to build the 3-year-old hotel, said Michael Cheezem, CEO of JMC Communities of St. Petersburg.
JMC developed the Sandpearl and still owns a share of the resort along with Cheezem and the Hunter family of Clearwater Beach.
Ocean Properties and its affiliates own and manage more than 100 hotels in the United States and Canada, including a Treasure Island Residence Inn and a SpringHill Suites in Tampa.
The Sandpearl opened in 2007 as the first new beach resort in Tampa Bay in 25 years. The hotel has 253 rooms and features a spa, two restaurants and a lagoon-style pool. It was among just four Pinellas hotels to earn a four-diamond AAA rating for 2010. No hotel in the county scored higher.
The company is taking over management of the Sandpearl from Coral Hospitality with "very few personnel changes," said Cheezem. Otherwise, the change in ownership should be invisible to guests, he said.
Sandpearl will keep the same name and continue operating without a major hotel brand affiliation. Keeping rooms filled can be a tough job without the worldwide reservations systems and customer loyalty programs brands provide. But the Sandpearl has performed well as an independent property unfettered by standards imposed by hotel chains, said Cheezem.
"We've been committed since day one to create a unique and very special hotel environment," he said. "We have a level of personalized service and community involvement that brands don't have the flexibility to do."
No one at the Ocean Properties headquarters in Delray Beach was available to talk about the transaction Friday. Cheezem said he couldn't disclose how much the company paid for its stake in the property.
In 2007, Ocean Properties bought the former Adam's Mark hotel site in Clearwater Beach. The company's plans for a 230-room hotel on the 2.5 acres stalled as financing for hotel projects dried up.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard hopes the company's new stake in the Sandpearl will hasten its development of another luxury property on the old Adam's Mark site when construction financing loosens up.
"They have a depth of experience and (strength) in the financial sense, too," he said. "You need to have deep pockets and experience both."
Steve Huettel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.