Fairmont Newport Beach hotel sold and rebranded as it awaits renovation and another new name

The Fairmont Newport Beach hotel has been sold for $125 million and is being temporarily rebranded as The Duke Hotel.

The buyer has not been disclosed, but in a news release Fairfax, Va.-based Crescent Hotels & Resorts announced it will be managing the 444-room hotel at 4500 MacArthur Blvd., which is now affiliated with the Marriott hotel chain.

Crescent said it plans to renovate the property and convert it to the Renaissance Newport Beach hotel by early next year.

The Fairmont — distinctive for its temple-like architecture and three terraced guest room wings jutting out from a main atrium — had been owned by Sunstone Hotel Investors, a lodging real estate investment trust based in Aliso Viejo.

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The hotel's amenities include 54 suites, a rooftop pool with cabanas, an 8,000-square-foot spa, a bocce court, tennis courts, a wedding gazebo, a fitness center, a restaurant and bar and more than 30,000 square feet of outdoor and indoor meeting spaces.

Sunstone acquired the property, then called Sutton Place Hotel, in 2005 for about $72 million. Before being rebranded as Sutton Place in 1995, it was known as Hotel Meridien, according to the Los Angeles Times.

During a gala opening for the still-unfinished, 10-story Hotel Meridien in late 1984, many considered it Newport Beach's answer to the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel that had opened earlier that year, The Times reported. The article called its design "a fascinating ziggurat shape, inspired by Assyrian and Babylonian temple designs."

A later Times story called its architecture "reminiscent of a Mayan temple."

Early advertising materials, however, pushed the hotel as a place of European elegance, particularly French. An ad published in The Times in 1984 called it a "charming little French villa available in Newport Beach" that "just happens to be a world-class hotel."

The $65-million, 7.5-acre property formally opened to the public in 1985, according to The Times. Early on it sought business clients with amenities such as in-room telephones with "hold" buttons and IBM personal computers that could be leased by the hour.

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Bradley Zint, bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @BradleyZint

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