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Potential buyer for Belleview Biltmore steps forward

BELLEAIR — A man who introduced himself to the mayor as the "next and final owner" of the Belleview Biltmore said he will close on the historic hotel this week.

"Trust me," Thomas Gavin wrote in an e-mail late Friday to Belleair Mayor Gary Katica. "I am in contact with the present owners of the Biltmore and ready to sign a contract this week to purchase and close this year."

Gavin described himself as the chairman of Lifestone Capital Corp., a company that is not listed in Florida corporation records.

He said he has stayed in the presidential suite at the Biltmore, an experience that gave him "the full appreciation of the presence and the need to preserve the legacy of such a grand hotel."

Gavin said he doesn't want to destroy the hotel, but complement it. He was unavailable for comment Monday, but participated in a 15-minute conference call with Katica and Town Manager Micah Maxwell.

Katica, who said he would be thrilled if Gavin closed this week, said Gavin repeated his desire to restore the hotel.

"When you get something exactly the way you want it," Katica said, "you hope that it's true.

"They just want to take the pagoda entrance down, make a five-star hotel, enhance the golf course, be a good neighbor."

The Biltmore's mortgage is held by former owner Urdang & Associates. The company declined to comment.

Three years ago, Latitude Management, formerly known as Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, bought the property for $30.3 million. That agency could not be reached Monday night.

The Biltmore closed more than a year ago for a three-year, $100 million makeover. But lawsuits and the lagging economy have stalled the project.

Interest in the Biltmore waned until September, when Tampa lawyer Ron Weaver called officials and inquired about commercial and residential possibilities.

Miami brothers Daniel and Raphael Ades flew in this month to find out what development the community would allow.

Then on Friday, Gavin became the third interested buyer.

"I think every one of them has said that they had a contract on it," Maxwell said. "We have yet to see any movement on it. People can say whatever they want, and we'll just see who ends up with the hotel."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Potential buyer for Belleview Biltmore steps forward 10/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 25, 2010 11:10pm]
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