An iconic Mendocino County resort with sweeping views of the rugged coastline will be reopening in June, four years after it shut down amid financial and legal problems.
The Heritage House has "100 percent new ownership," said Bill Heaney, a hospitality consultant who is overseeing the reopening for the new owner, Heritage House LP. He refused to divulge the name of the buyer but said the resort is American owned.
"I think he wants to keep his privacy for awhile," Heaney said.
Workers are scurrying to clear brush, make repairs and spruce up the 66-unit luxury resort, which includes a main building, cottages, spa and restaurant along Highway 1 in Little River. It sits on a 37-acre parcel overlooking the ocean.
At least 20 of the cottages will be ready for occupation in June, Heaney said.
Heritage House LP purchased the resort in March for $8 million, almost $20 million less than the price sought at auction in 2008, according to county and court records. It previously was owned by German bank WESTLP AG, which foreclosed on the former property owner, Lantana Mendocino LLC.
The bank lowered the auction price to $18.2 million but there were no takers at that time.
Lantana owed the bank $27 million, according to a lawsuit filed by the bank. Lantana co-owner David Wilk also owed more than $300,000 in taxes to Mendocino County. He collected bed taxes from guests but did not turn them over to the county, officials said.
Wilk was charged with misappropriation of public funds and grand theft embezzlement in 2008. The charges were dropped in 2009 after he paid the county about $210,000, said Mendocino County Treasurer and Tax Collector Shari Schapmire.
Lantana purchased the resort from former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor in 2005 for $19.5 million. It then borrowed another $4.5 million from the bank in 2007 for an ambitious remodeling project that some say stripped the resort of its coastal character.
Heaney said the new owner wants to return the resort to its former glory.
"Our intention is to bring back what we would characterize as a very special place," he said.
The resort opened in 1949 after Lauren Dennen, a Mendocino Coast native, returned home and converted the original 1877 New England-style farmhouse into a small inn. It grew over the years to include dozens of cottages.
In 1978, the resort was the setting for the film "Same Time, Next Year," starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn.
Maureen O'Connor, the wealthy widow of Jack-in-the-Box founder R.O. Peterson, bought the Heritage House in 1998.
In its heyday, the resort was rated by affluent travelers as among the world's best.
In 2008, it was one of four upscale places in the United States and Canada to receive a Grand Award in Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report, a publication for connoisseurs of world travel.
While it's been closed for several years now, people continue to call the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce, hoping to stay there, said chamber director Debra De Graw.
"We had a lot of disappointed people. Folks are excited it's going to be open again," De Graw said.