Nearly $50 Million Offered to Buy Ambassador Hotel

Times Staff Writer

A group of San Francisco-area investors said it has offered nearly $50 million to buy the landmark Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and plans to spend at least $50 million more to refurbish the 66-year-old, 500-room hotel if the bid is successful.

The group, led by restaurant operator James Sochin, made its second, sweetened pitch to the Ambassador's owners last week and expects to have a response by the end of next week.

A spokeswoman for the Ambassador's owners said she could not confirm or deny any offers for the hotel, but added, "Certainly (the owners) have had contact with interested parties and those offers have been screened, reviewed and rereviewed. . . . It's a lengthy process."

Demolition Delay

The bid from Standard Hotel Development Co., a partnership formed for the purpose of buying the Ambassador, is the first to surface since the hotel's owners signed an agreement with the Los Angeles Conservancy not to demolish the hotel for one year while a buyer willing to refurbish it is sought.

A spokesman for the J. Myer Schine family, which has been gradually liquidating its hotel and theater empire, has said that in the 2 1/2 years it has been attempting to sell the 23.5-acre property on Wilshire Boulevard at Alexandria Avenue, no such buyer has been found.

Several buyers, however, did express an interest in tearing down the hotel, site of the legendary Coconut Grove nightclub, and erecting office towers on the property.

Still, Howard Heitner, president of the conservancy, said he has been contacted by five groups interested in purchasing and operating the hotel, since the agreement with the Schine family was signed earlier this month. As part of that agreement, the Los Angeles City Council voted not to declare the hotel a historic landmark while private efforts to save it continued.

Councilman's Viewpoint

Councilman Nate Holden, in whose district the Ambassador lies, said he hopes a buyer can be found, but added that he believes the Standard Hotel bid is unrealistically low. Earlier estimates of the property's value ranged from $50 million to $100 million.

Sochin, who owns San Francisco-based Standard Soup Co., which operates a five-location chain of Salmagundi soup restaurants, said his group plans to create an "urban resort hotel" at the site of the Ambassador, with 18 tennis courts, extensive gardens, a business conference center and "a full-blown health spa."

He said his partners, including several prominent San Francisco families, made a lower and unsuccessful offer for the Ambassador in July.

Sochin said he was then told by the owner's agent, the Brooks Harvey Co. of New York, that a winning bid would have to be in the $50-million range. In his latest bid, he "offered between $45 million and $50 million" in cash, Sochin said.

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