The Santa Barbara Independent has learned that the Bacara Resort is on the verge of being sold by Bay Area-based Ohana Real Estate to the Orange County-based Pacific Hospitality Group. Calls and emails to both organizations were placed this morning, but neither party has returned the inquiries with official confirmation.
Located at the western edge of the City of Goleta on the fringe of the Gaviota Coast where Hollister Avenue ends, the Bacara is a 360-room, 35-acre resort with a spa, restaurants, and many ballrooms. It’s a frequent home-base for celebrities who visit the Santa Barbara area and also frequented by the uber wealthy, perhaps most prominently during the annual ECO:nomics event, where titans of industry converge there for a Wall Street Journal-sponsored conference.
Originally owned by the developer, Alvin Dworman, who fought for more than a decade to build the resort — and earned a reputation for being hostile to many in the community along the way — Ohana purchased the property in July 2011 for about $105 million. The new owner immediately set about making it more friendly to its neighbors, ripping out all the “Bacara Guests Only” signs, calling the nearby beach Haskell’s again, and putting on hold the idea of building time-share condos near the beach parking lot.
But rumors that the hotel was again on sale started just six months after that purchase, with some reports claiming that there was an unsolicited offer for more than $140 million from a hotel chain. At that time, Ohana president Chris Smith explained to the media that his company was an investment firm, and that turning the property for a profit would always be the goal.
If the sale is true and goes through — the terms of which are unknown right now — the buyer is expected to be the Irvine-based Pacific Hospitality Group, which was founded in 1997 and operates seven hotels, all in Southern California except for The Meritage, a luxury resort in Napa Valley. It’s CEO and founder, Tim Busch, made his original fortune on Busch Markets, the largest independent grocery chain in Michigan, and also owns a winery called Trinitas Cellars in Napa. He’s an avid supporter of Catholic causes.