By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO (Reuters) - The court-run sale of a downtown Toronto high-rise bearing the name of U.S. President Donald Trump received no initial bids and ownership will likely fall to its main debt holder, a letter from the receiver showed.
The court process only indirectly involves Trump, whose sprawling business empire licenses its brand and manages the Toronto property on behalf of the developer, Talon International Inc. But the Trump International Hotel & Tower's new owner will need to navigate an unresolved dispute over whether they can get out of that arrangement.
No qualified bids apart from a stalking horse offer of C$298 million ($222.5 million) were received for the luxury hotel and condo property by an initial deadline, the receiver, FTI Consulting, said in a letter dated Feb. 21 and seen by Reuters on Monday.
"As a result, the Receiver has determined that the Stalking Horse Bidder is the Successful Bidder," the letter said.
With no rival bidders emerging, the hotel's ownership will likely fall to JCF Capital ULC, which on Sept. 29 bought the C$301 million owed on the tower's construction loan, before quickly moving to initiate the sale process.
A hearing to approve the sale is expected on March 30, a lawyer for JCF said.
JCF is represented by Jay Wolf, founder of Juniper Capital Partners LLC, an investment firm that says it targets distressed or out-of-favor assets with attractive valuations.
While the building in Toronto's financial district has been beset by problems since it opened its doors in 2012, the broader Toronto hotel market has boomed.
The property offers a buyer "substantial unrealized potential," CBRE, a commercial real estate company retained by FTI Consulting, said when it kicked off marketing in January, citing the recent sale of the 259-room Four Seasons Toronto for $225 million, or $869,000 per room.
The Trump tower sale includes 211 hotel rooms and 74 residential units as well as most of the commercial, retail and amenity space in the property, which includes some parking spots, a spa, and the ground-floor Calvin Bar.
Since its opening, less than half of its residential condos have been sold by Talon and the hotel's occupancy rates have been lower than some investors in the rooms had hoped.
Some hotel unit buyers have said they were misled into investing and have filed lawsuits against Talon, which Talon has said are without merit.
($1 = 1.3393 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)