Alan Fuerstman no sooner announced his company's purchase of The
Laguna Beach Colony resort than he began house hunting in Laguna Beach.
"I am excited to be here, a part of this community and helping to
create a resort community that the residents will be proud of," Fuerstman
Fuerstman's company, Montage Hotels and Resorts partnered with
developer Athens Group and unnamed investors to buy the 30-acre
oceanfront property for $190 million, a number that must have Merrill
Lynch real estate trust investors shaking their heads. The trust sold the
property for an estimated $47 million.
The most recent sale was announced June 21. Fuerstman declined to name
"Athens and Montage are the active participants, the other investors
are passive," he said.
Athens Group will continue to oversee development of the 30-acre
resort, which includes a 260-room hotel, 14 condominiums, 14
single-family lots, restaurants, a ball room, a public park and parking
on what is considered by many to be one of the most spectacular sites in
the world. Fuerstman's company will operate the resort.
Fuerstman founded Montage Hotels & Resorts in January. He is the
president and chief executive officer. The company was originally called
the Platinum Hotel Group and renamed just before the purchase of the
Laguna Beach property closed, according to Montage community liaison Ned
The name is expected in time to conjure up the image of a montage of
hotels and resorts that are very special.
Montage will have offices in Laguna Beach as well as the one in
Nevada, where Fuerstman previously worked as a vice president of
operations of a Las Vegas hotel.
"This will be the first hotel I've ever owned, but I have operated
some terrific properties," he said. "I was the managing director of the
Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz., and vice president of hotel operations
at Bellagio in Las Vegas."
Fuerstman left the Bellagio in September 2000 to form his own
hospitality group, the foundation for Montage.
Fuerstman spent his early years in the industry with Marriott
International Inc., from whom his company bought the Laguna Beach
However, he is no stranger to Orange County. Fuerstman worked from
1978 to 1984 at the Newport Beach Marriott hotel, during which time he
lived on Balboa Island where he met and married his wife, Susan, a
"I've been meeting some people and everyone has been very welcoming,"
The Laguna Beach project was well underway when Fuerstman's company
bought the property and he sees no reason to tamper.
"Athens Group had done the heavy lifting," Fuerstman said. "They
provided the road map for the theme of the resort. They have done a
terrific job and the hotel will be completed as planned. I am pleased
with the results so far and I am looking forward to finishing the
The resort theme is craftsman-style, lifted from the bungalows that
dot the Laguna Beach landscape. A craftsman-style trellis shelters the
entrance and leads to a lobby with a drop-dead panorama of the Pacific
Although nothing outshines the natural splendor of the site, the
potential profits are breathtaking. Sale of the condominiums and
single-family lots will begin this fall and are expected to generate from
$70 million -- if the condos sell for a measly $2 million each and the
estate lots go for a mere $3 million each -- to $120 million at $3
million per condo and $5 million per lot. In cash.
"I would like to see the resort open in January, but I am comfortable
saying the first quarter of 2003," Fuerstman said. "I want to tie down an
actual date to set up ceremonies and properly introduce the resort to the