There was a lot of talk of a slow recovery settling over the hotel industry during 2010 and 2011 at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit this year. But the overflow crowd attending an ALIS breakout panel devoted to providing information on what to do during a bankruptcy served as a stark reminder that, while the future might hold better times for the industry, the present remains challenging.
Attendees of the panel were packed shoulder-to-shoulder inside a conference room at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront and listened as panelists explained bankruptcy terms, such as exclusivity (the 120 days a debtor is allowed to put forth a reorganization plan) and gave examples of what bankruptcy won’t cover, such as operating costs.
• Hotel real estate terms you need to know
While sitting in on the session “Distressed Hotel/Workout Track: Navigating through Bankruptcy—Getting in and Getting Out,” I took the time to look around the room. Like the gentleman sitting next to me, some were busy jotting down notes.
And then there were the people who had “I-can’t-believe-it’s-come-to-this” written across their faces.
Still, even though there’s no doubt some of the attendees might not have wanted to be there to listen, the lesson in Bankruptcy 101 was an important one to hear.
“Lenders don’t scare easily. They’re not afraid of bankruptcy,” said Dean Gloster, partner at law firm Farella Braun + Martel. “Mezzanine lenders simply do not go away. Guarantors simply do not go away. If you are solvent, they will come knocking.”
In other words, it is important to know what the steps are if the worst happens. So explanations of when guarantees kick in (which would be if a bad act, such as fraud or a voluntary petition for bankruptcy) were lessons that those in attendance needed to learn.
While much of the breakout session was geared toward familiarizing attendees with bankruptcy terms and procedures, roughly a third of the crowd was there for another purpose.
They wanted information on how best to purchase a distressed hotel.
Jeff Diener, an associate in the real estate department at law firm Paul Hastings, spoke of the “strong stomach” it takes to be a “stalking horse bidder” or the initial bidder on an asset.
“When clients call me and say they want to buy a hotel in bankruptcy, I get excited,” he said. “It’s one of the funnest things I do in my practice.”
Fun is just a matter of perspective, I suppose.