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According to today's (Oct. 15) issue of the Borrego Sun, the Borrego Ranch Resort & Spa (formerly Casa del Zorro) and adjoining Montesoro Golf & Social Club (formerly Rams Hill) may close by November 30 if they cannot find an investor. The company that controls both entities, Lubert Adler, has formally informed employees that they may lose their jobs. San Diego's Copley Press, which had owned the resort since 1960, put it up for sale in late 2007, as one step in its liquidation process, now nearing completion. It was bought for a reportedly very low price by GH Capital of Sherman Oaks, which then was owner of the golf course and residential development Montesoro. GH put both up for sale in August and control moved to Lubert Adler, but GH is still managing both properties. The resort was extensively remodeled and reopened in mid-2008. Montesoro, which has been through bankruptcy twice while named Rams Hill, is having trouble sellling homes, and the resort does not have sufficient visitors. The whole area has a water problem. The possibility of closing now is a bit of a puzzle, because the Borrego tourist season is just beginning.

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Comments

Visduh Oct. 15, 2009 @ 6:56 p.m.

Whoa! As poor as the occupancy of the former Casa has been for the past few years, as I've personally observed, this means that things are REALLY bad in Borrego Springs. A "property" like that one, if transplanted to Palm Springs/Desert would be a premium sort of place, and would be worth many millions. The former Casa has a spa facility with an Olympic size lap pool, and every sort of treatment room and exercise machine known to man, built in just the past few years. It is a true four to five Diamond resort, offering everything you might want (if you are willing to pay the price.) It can only be years of mismanagement and failed marketing that has brought that operation to the brink of closure. It is such a wonderful place that it pains me to think of it being closed and going to ruin.

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Don Bauder Oct. 15, 2009 @ 8:26 p.m.

Response to post 1: Yes, it is sad. It is equally sad that the former Rams Hill is having trouble both with home development and, apparently, getting members to play the golf course and socialize. Possibly the water situation is affecting Borrego. Maybe that is a reason the developers find it tough to get financing, if that is one of their problems. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 15, 2009 @ 9:03 p.m.

Who is the owner, Luber Adler or GH Capital?

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Burwell Oct. 15, 2009 @ 10:27 p.m.

Real estate developments are usually organized as Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) or Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) to insulate the owners from liability for debts in the event the projects go under. Most of these LLCs and LLPs are organized in Delaware to hide the identities of the owners. GH Capital and Luber Adler have probably jointly formed an LLC or LLP to operate the properties with Luber Adler owning the lion's share.

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Don Bauder Oct. 16, 2009 @ 10:36 a.m.

Response to post #3: Lubert Adler has the ownership. GH still runs both facilities. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Oct. 16, 2009 @ 10:37 a.m.

Response to post #4: It may be a partnership shielded by fraud-friendly Delaware laws. In this case, I don't know. I understand that Lubert Adler controls it. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Oct. 16, 2009 @ 11:32 a.m.

It probably won't close, but the notion that an operation like that would even contemplate closing its doors is mind-boggling. However, the lack of customers I saw there just last winter was so stark that you would wonder why it was open. It had to be costing them tens of thousands of dollars a day to keep it open, such as it was. But would the place cut its rates? Fuhgeddabouditt!

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Don Bauder Oct. 16, 2009 @ 6:07 p.m.

Response to post #7: From what you say, it appears that the owners spent a bundle rehabbing the place, then thought they had to jack up prices to recover the investment quickly. That's bad pricing (and capital spending) strategy. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Oct. 16, 2009 @ 7:49 p.m.

Actually, the new owners probably needed to do little rehabbing of the former Casa. The operation had a spiffy, well-manicured look all the time. The main changes noted last winter were elimination of most, but not all, lawns and removal of a parking lot which changed the traffic flow through the operation (not for the better). As to the interiors of the rooms, I can't say because it had been more than five years since I'd stayed there. My impression was that the Copley Press kept the operation in tip-top condition right to the end.

The big bucks that were sunk into the overall operation went into the former Rams Hill, now Montesoro, development I'd suppose. But if they see the two operations as one big spread, the old Casa gets to bite the dust along with its nearby golf development.

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Don Bauder Oct. 16, 2009 @ 9:15 p.m.

Response to post #9: Copley Press was losing money on Casa del Zorro. Rams Hill (now Montesoro) has been through bankruptcy twice. Best, Don Bauder

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GlennS1 Oct. 19, 2009 @ 8:04 a.m.

The Vision for Montesoro Country Club homes and Borrego Ranch Resort and Spa has been spectacular and very upscale. But it had a few things going against success, even before the worst economy since the Great Depression: Location, Location, Location. And sinking tens of millions of dollars into re-doing a perfectly good existing golf course and making it private didn't help.

The vision, and the products (homes, golf course, and resort) are top drawer, upscale, classy, quality, desirable, and in any upscale location, in good times, would be very marketable.

But Borrego Springs, the town and valley, isn't an upscale classy location. Surrounded by the Anza Borrego State Park, and about two hours drive from major population centers (over winding roads) it is a focal point for desert denizens who hike, bike, sightsee, birdwatch, dunebuggy, photograph, walk, or just sit in an isolated place and enjoy peace-quiet-solitude. The town can supply the visitor and resident with ample conveniences and necessities including cell phone, high speed cable internet, wireless wide-area internet and cable TV services (and there is still plenty of water for a couple of generations) but it is not an upscale shopping mecca that would appeal to very upscale resort visitors or a lot of upscale homeowners.

The original Rams Hill Country Club and homes built by DiGiorgio were marketed to the middle class and slightly above. Those with higher net worth bought lots and acreage and had custom homes designed and built. Instead of following this development model the current developer tried to build and sell homes in the $800k to $1.2mil range in a non-upscale relatively isolated location, and virtually eliminated the custom home market. For that much money most people, who don't like to live in relative isolation, would go to La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, but not Borrego Springs.

Borrego Springs isn't "funky" or "bohemian", it is just a simple mix of American and international tourists, local working people, second home working people, retired local one home people and retired second home people. With a summer population of around 3,000 and a winter population of around 6,000 it is small, yet very active.

With millions of "baby boomers" on the (delayed) verge of retirement, many of whom don't like snow or Florida, it is quite probable that the population of the winter mecca of Borrego Springs could easily double in the next few years; but it will be a population of budget conscious retirees and middle class working people to support that population. For a resort and home sales plan to succeed it needs to appeal to volume, more clients, and to achieve that in Borrego Springs one needs to be more mid-scale than up-scale.

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Don Bauder Oct. 19, 2009 @ 11:51 a.m.

Response to post #11: This appears to be an excellent analysis. Borrego Springs is simply not glitzy and never has been. For the most part, the people who want to show off their million dollar home and Mercedes Benz want the company of other like-minded, affluent people who live on conspicuous consumption. Such a person will, as you say, go to La Quinta or Rancho Mirage -- two places that I, personally, find repugnant for the very reasons you cite. Best, Don Bauder

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valueinvestingisdead Oct. 19, 2009 @ 12:04 p.m.

Reply to #12 - Probably no $10,000,000 Halloween parties going on out there.

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Don Bauder Oct. 19, 2009 @ 9:31 p.m.

Response to post #13: That's a reference to a glitzy Halloween party given by Charles Brandes of Brandes Investment Partnerss a couple of years ago.Your Brandes portfolio should have come back a bit. However, some of those investments were really deeply in the hole, given what Brandes paid: GM, Gannett, McClatchy, Royal Bank of Scotland, etc. and some have no chance to come back, such as Countrywide and Washington Mutual. Best, Don Bauder

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ExDiegan Oct. 21, 2009 @ 6:59 a.m.

When making a reservation, potential guests are greeted with this warning:

"*Borrego Ranch is an adult oriented property, we welcome guests 18 years of age and older. Should you cancel within 7 days prior to your arrival - your deposit will be forfeited. A one night deposit is required at the time of reservation for all rooms and casitas."

Not exactly the kind of warm, welcoming message and generous terms that will attract visitors to a troubled business. With room charges of $250 to $500 per night, I'd say they are doing everything exactly wrong.

No one wants to lose $500 if they get the flu a few days before vacation, and no mother wants to be told that she can't take her 16-year-old daughter on a spa getaway.

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Don Bauder Oct. 21, 2009 @ 7:22 a.m.

Response to post #15: I was not aware of this factor. I agree: the facility is on the brink and should welcome families. The pricing strategy is questionable. Best, Don Bauder

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tranny63 Oct. 21, 2009 @ 8:25 a.m.

sad ,sad, very sad......I worked @La Casa del Zorro from 1974-1986.I saw Borrego Springs go through many many changes during that time.the late ' 70's Sun Air airlines was in Borrego (headquarters). We also had Borrego Air Lines with daily flights.When Rams Hill was being built, The late Helen Copley began the first phase of a major expansion @La Casa.New state of the art Conference Center,Priv.Pools @each Casita,New foyer/Lobby area was built new state of the art master kitchen & entertainment space to theFox Den Lounge.The new landscaped entrance to the grounds was a masterpiece in itself to see .When I heard David had sold the resort, The Copley " touch "would be gone forever........To change the name to Borrego Ranch......I thought it was a horse farm... And to allow no guests under 18, Tragic!!!!!Its always been a family resort

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Visduh Oct. 21, 2009 @ 8:56 a.m.

To post #15, what you say is outrageous. Under 18 years of age are unwelcome? When staying there years ago, I noticed that the casitas often were taken by families with kids. That offered the opportunity to economize on food consumed, and also kept the antsy smaller ones out of the dining room.

In walling themselves off from anyone with a kid in the group, I'd guess they cut their market down by more than half. The swimming pools at the Casa got used by the younger guests--teens and preteens are the ones that really make use of pools. (Our boys always did.)

That "welcoming" message is likewise outrageous. If the operation was always full, or nearly full, there might--I stress MIGHT--be some slight justification for such a deposit forfeiture policy. But with nearly all of the rooms and casitas empty anyway, they could afford to be flexible and accommodating. Has the accomodations industry forgotten that their business is delivering satisfaction?

What were those operators thinking of? Whatever it was, it now has brought them to the brink of failure.

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Don Bauder Oct. 21, 2009 @ 12:18 p.m.

Response to post #17: I agree it is sad that the resort may have to close. Copley sold it for a very low price, I understand. I don't know that it doesn't allow people under 18. It apparently doesn't encourage their visits. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Oct. 21, 2009 @ 12:24 p.m.

Response to post #18: Certainly, dubious management is involved in the resort's current woes. It wasn't doing well in the Copley years, either. The company's chief operating officer (effectively chief executive officer), Chuck Patrick, considered Casa del Zorro something akin to leprosy. But it had emotional, sentimental appeal to both Helen and David Copley. After he had his heart transplant, David is said to have promised one of the workers at Casa that he would never close it. Best, Don Bauder

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ExDiegan Oct. 22, 2009 @ 7:39 p.m.

From the Borrego Ranch Resort & Spa web site:

"Borrego Ranch Resort & Spa is Southern California's newest luxury resort destination offering a blend of simple pleasures and extraordinary experiences for adults only."

No kiddies, it seems. Some resort.

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Don Bauder Oct. 22, 2009 @ 9:49 p.m.

Response to post #21: That strategy is certainly reducing the potential market. Sounds quite misguided to me. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Oct. 23, 2009 @ 10:38 a.m.

Discouraging kids and prohibiting them are two different things. If they are actually prohibiting non-adults, that may be illegal. For an operation that once was kid-friendly and for an operation that needs every possible guest it can get, the whole notion is aburd.

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Don Bauder Oct. 24, 2009 @ 9:57 p.m.

Response to post #23: It looks more like discouraging them to me. In any case, if the place may be closed Nov. 30, I would think the strategy would be altered to see if a new approach would work. Best, Don Bauder

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ReaderWriter Nov. 1, 2009 @ 7:43 p.m.

When the Borrego Ranch, nee Casa del Zorro, re-opened about a year ago, only "guests" at the resort could dine there. The public was no longer welcome to their award-winning restaurant. It appeared that the new owners were so interested in making the resort and Montesoro development exclusive, they missed the point that under such a scenario, recovering investment costs would become more elusive. Also, it appeared that a major focus for their resort was to use it to lure potential property buyers to Montesoro. "Comping" potential buyers at the resort probably added to their inability to recover operating costs. The developers invested a substantial sum of money in the Borrego area, to their credit, or debit, as the eventual case may be. The permanent and temporary residents and visitors to the area will be less served by their absence, if that happens. Even though the sluggish economy continues to play a major part in the lack of success of the development, the developers did not appear willing to accept reality compromises to their original grand plan that included many who would have enthusiastically and financially supported them, but were turned away.

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Visduh Nov. 6, 2009 @ 3:28 p.m.

I heard it said in town--Borrego Springs that is--that one could not dine there if one was not a guest. But in February we walked in one evening and were admitted to the dining room. Upon our arrival there was one table occupied, so we made it two. Then a half-hour later a couple arrived, shortly before the departure of the earlier group. Gosh, three tables taken at once! Just jumping.

Exclusivity comes when you can get away with rationing the operation and limiting access. The usual clientele of the Casa dining room was well-heeled, well-dressed, and house-broken. BRR was turning them away? Ridiculous. Their prices were always right up there with the "finest" in San Diego, such as Mr. A's, Grant Grill, Mille Fleurs, etc. BRR really was on a track to la-la land as far as turning business away, business it sorely needed to stay viable. It is all still hard to believe, although their missteps were true.

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valueinvestingisdead Dec. 29, 2009 @ 12:11 p.m.

The prices they charge are out of sight for a town that is hardly upscale. Ever been there in July? Ugh! 125 in the shade!

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cremebrulee Feb. 26, 2010 @ 7:28 p.m.

Well, it's closed now, I went today 2.26.2010. That entire area is a disaster.It is like a bad movie... Also what is happening with the De Anza golf course, it is half yellow, as if they had only kept a center belt to play and the rest is left to rot away ? I know they are running out of water there but , does that means they will not be asking for 800K for the homes around the course ? Those prices were for Palm Springs or Rancho Mirage and now even Indian Wells, so the Borregos ? I don' think so...

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