Chicago businessman Robert Falor, a mover and shaker during the height of the condo-hotel craze in the middle years of this decade, apparently is a man on the run. The 41-year-old Chicagoan failed to appear in Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court on Thursday morning for arraignment on a theft charge, and the county issued a warrant for his arrest. He faces up to five years in prison if he’s convicted, and not showing up for arraignment isn’t a very good way of extolling your innocence.
It truly is a case of how the mighty have fallen. From 2004-2006, Falor was the poster child for condo-hotels, supposedly buying up nearly every available property in sight in Chicago and South Beach with the stated intention of turning them into condo-hotels. You remember those, don’t you? They were the darlings of the industry at the time in which developers convinced investors to buy units in a building that was going to contain hotel rooms and condominiums. South Beach, Chicago, Vegas, New York—you name the city and there were condo-hotel projects on the drawing board. Owners could rent the condos when they weren’t using them, and the big draw for developers was they generally didn’t have to shell out a penny to get a project financed. Certainly there were successful projects that lived up to, and in some cases, exceeded expectations. But for every home run in the condo-hotel arena, there was also a strikeout.
Falor was keeping fast company with millionaire developers, high-profile Hollywood types and other jet-setters. Who can forget his ill-fated attempt to develop two Nicky O. hotels in Chicago and South Beach with Nicky Hilton, one of the (in)famous Hilton sisters, who were considered hot commodities back them. The hotels never got off the ground, and they foreshadowed the problems Falor would eventually have to face—or maybe run from.
(For an in-depth New York Times article about Falor that was written last August, click here.)
Perhaps it was foreshadowing the huge financial crisis that we’re now in the midst of, but institutions such as Credit Suisse actually lent this guy money.
So did Michael Voll, a Cleveland-area businessman who lent Falor more than a million bucks to become part of the condo-hotel bonanza. The short story is that Falor allegedly took the money and ran, and has never paid back any of it to Voll.
Falor wasn’t the only problem with condo-hotels, but he exemplifies the attitude that many hotel industry executives believed at the time: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. And while most major hotel companies raced to get into the condo-hotel game, it’s a game that has essentially ended, save for a few high-end projects here and there.
But the game apparently isn’t over for Falor. The civil lawsuit in Ohio goes on with or without him, and it’s most likely that he’s going to end up behind bars at some point, which further sullies the reputation of condo-hotels.