Calmwater Capital takes control of troubled Banyan Cay project and its Jack Nicklaus course in West Palm Beach

Calmwater Capital, the lender to the troubled Banyan Cay Resort & Club, took control of the West Palm Beach project late last month. The move followed a failed bid to sell the property to an outside buyer in Banyan Cay’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

In a brief statement issued Wednesday, Calmwater Capital pledged to complete the unfinished hotel.

The Los Angeles-based lender said it has hired crews to complete the 150-room hotel and resort, which will feature three restaurants, a spa and fitness complex, wedding venue, meeting space and banquet facilities for up to 200 people. Calmwater said the resort also will include a resort-style pool and pickleball courts.

In addition to finishing the hotel, Calmwater Capital said the 18-hole, 130-acre Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course will reopen Sept. 30. The course closed in August after a would-be suitor, Westside Capital of Denver, failed to follow through on a $102.1 million purchase of the hotel and golf course.

The Jack Nicklaus-designed Banyan Cay Golf Club, part of a larger development in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Courtesy of Banyan Cay Resort & Club)

Westside’s decision not to close on the purchase left Banyan Cay with no choice but to let the lender’s $96.5 million credit bid stand. The amount reflects the debt extended to the hotel and golf club.

On Aug. 31, U.S. Banktrupcty Court Judge Erik Kimball approved the property’s transfer to a Calmwater Capital affiliate, U.S. Real Estate Holdings III.

The hotel was supposed to open as a Destination by Hyatt property, the company’s only Destination brand in Florida. Now it’s not certain the Hyatt brand will remain. In its statement, Calmwater said the brand and timeline for completion will be announced at a later date.

The ownership change marks the latest twist for the troubled resort and golf club, which is located just east of Interstate 95 off Congress Avenue and north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard.

The property previously was the site of the President Country Club, but the club fell into financial trouble and was sold to an investor group for $11 million in 2011. That investor group then flipped the property to Banyan Cay Dev LLC, led by Domenic Gatto Jr., for $26 million in 2015.

Construction of a resort hotel was beset by delays, to the dismay of The Lands of the President community, which overlooks Banyan Cay. In addition, residents in an adjacent new single-family community, the Residences at Banyan Cay by SobelCo, were supposed to be able to use the hotel’s club as part of the purchase of their homes.

Banyan Cay Resort was slated to be completed last fall after years of construction stoppages, a switch in hotel brands and legal woes for its developer, Gatto. In 2022, as Banyan Cay was hoping to finish construction and open in the fall, the project’s lender filed a foreclosure lawsuit.

In a July 16 complaint in Palm Beach County circuit court, U.S. Real Estate Credit Holdings III-A L.P., the Calmwater Capital affiliate, claimed Banyan Cay missed deadlines to open the hotel by April 30.

Calmwater Capital also sought repayment of two loans. One was a $61 million construction loan to build the Banyan Cay hotel. The other was a $24 million loan for construction of nearly two dozen unbuilt villas on the property.

By February, Banyan Cay had lost the lawsuit, and a judge issued two final judgments in favor of Calmwater Capital. The judgments totaled more than $95 million, an amount that includes the loans plus interest.

Banyan Cay filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in March in hopes of finding a buyer willing to pay a premium above the loan amount for the large, rare site.

The Jack Nicklaus-designed Banyan Cay Golf Club, part of a larger development in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Courtesy of Banyan Cay Resort & Club)

Westside was the sole bidder at a bankruptcy auction and was scheduled to close on the West Palm Beach project before July 31. In June, an enthusiastic Westside official said the project needed about $5 million more to finish construction, including completion of exterior amenities such as the pool deck.

But Westside did not close the deal. At the last minute, it left Banyan Cay in the lurch and unable to pay its insurance, maintain the property or pay employees, according to a 130-page court filing submitted Aug. 9 by the lender.

Westside’s failure to complete its $102.1 million acquisition means Banyan Cay lost millions when the property went back to its lender for the loan amount, said Joseph Pack, a Miami attorney representing Banyan Cay. Court documents indicate Banyan Cay believes Westside engaged in fraud and intentional misrepresentations.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek