The judge authorizes the purchase of Room Mate by a US fund

The judge authorizes the purchase of Room Mate by a US fund

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Kike Sarasola, founder of Room Mate, in a file image.

Green light to the change of ownership in Room Mate. The judge responsible for the bankruptcy proceedings presented by the Spanish hotel chain has authorized this Thursday the offer presented by the Angelo Gordon fund and the manager Westmont, according to the newspaper. Expansion. This is the only firm proposal that was on the table, with an amount of 57 million euros and to which some creditor banks presented arguments. That amount covers pending payments to workers (with the commitment to maintain the 600 current jobs) and other debts of the company, as well as the transfer of exploitation of 21 hotels.

The decision comes before a month has passed since Room Mate, founded by Kike Sarasola and 30% owned by Sandra Ortega, daughter of the founders of Inditex and the richest woman in Spain, voluntarily requested bankruptcy . In the decision weighed the litigation that the two shareholders maintain and initially it seemed that the solution that the Madrid businessman was looking for was to replace his partner, who had expressed interest in selling his part. However, it will ultimately involve the purchase of the chain (not other Sarasola hotel businesses, such as the BeMate holiday apartment chain) by US investment fund Angelo Gordon and Canadian tourism manager Westmont Hospitality Group.

Both know Spain, although timidly. Angelo Gordon is an investment firm with assets under management of 50,000 million and that focuses on operations of indebted companies or real estate opportunities. In 2018 they bought BBVA’s headquarters in Bilbao, the Torre Bizkaia, whose sale to a Basque investment group was completed this year. The operation achieved a capital gain of more than 60 million, according to the market figures that were handled at the time. And in recent times it has also closed several operations, with real estate of lesser value, in Madrid. Westmont, which manages some 500 hotels in America, Europe, Asia and Africa, has so far focused its Spanish business in Barcelona, ​​where it runs the Hilton hotel and once tried to open an establishment in the Torre Agbar (the current Torre Glòries).

The solution found leaves in suspense what Sarasola’s role will be from now on in the chain he founded. EL PAÍS has tried to contact the company to find out its version of events. It is known that the agreement does not contemplate the two hotels in the US, one in New York and the other in Miami, in which Sandra Ortega has demanded the eviction of the hotel chain for non-payment of rent. The origin of the confrontation between the hitherto partners dates back to guarantees (comfort letters, according to the anglicism used in financial jargon) with which Sarasola requested loans from several banks, putting as collateral the personal fortune of the richest woman in Spain. She said that it was done without her consent, in a maneuver orchestrated by her then trusted man, José Leyte, whom she fired. A court in A Coruña provisionally dismissed the case last May after not finding enough evidence.

The total amount of these loans amounts to about 150 million euros. The operation announced this Thursday, which includes half of that amount, does not cover this contingency and focuses on dealing with the chain’s pending payments with suppliers, lessors or other clients. In the latest accounts presented by her estate company, Sandra Ortega renounced reserving money for that litigation, alleging that she has “solid evidence” that she never gave permission for those guarantees. In its day, the banks tried to claim the debt judicially, although the Provincial Court of A Coruña refused to investigate it in a procedure that confronted Ortega and Leyte, leaving the door open for it to be done in a new process. Room Mate, for its part, tried to solve its financial problems by going to the SEPI pandemic rescue fund, but its request was not heeded. The hotel accounts already showed losses before the coronavirus.

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