The rumor mill has been working overtime in recent weeks with speculation about potential new owners for Naples, the beloved property at the eastern end of the Gaviota Coast currently owned by a bank. Though all parties involved remain tight-lipped about actual details, this much is certain: There are currently two groups kicking the tires on Naples, one of which is far enough along in the process that they ponied up an undisclosed amount of cash earlier this month as part of a still-unfolding escrow period.
The folks with actual money on the table to potentially buy the property from Missouri’s First Bank (which has owned Naples since Matt Osgood defaulted on some $63 million in loans back in 2010) are a team composed, at least in part, of a New York–based investment hedge fund named Cerberus Capital Management and a Los Angeles developer by the name of Phil Ram. Land use consultant Mark Lloyd, who worked closely with Osgood over the years, is also believed to be working in some capacity with the new Naples group but refused to say as much this week. “I am not in the position to confirm or deny [those rumors] at this time,” explained Lloyd. It is believed that Ram and company could close escrow as early as mid-June.
The other group that is reportedly interested in Naples, and one that has been linked to area real estate magnate Jack Theimer, is Freestone Capital Management from the Seattle area. Theimer confirmed this week that he has been working with Freestone and First Bank since late last year to try and get a deal done. But that deal, though once quite close to being realized, has been put on ice thanks to the emergence of the Ram team. According to Theimer, the Freestone Group was interested in buying the land as more of a family legacy/possible preservation play than a full-scale development approach.
Interestingly enough, Santa Barbara County officials said on Tuesday that they — though engaging in various degrees of sit-downs with members of both hopeful buying groups — have yet to get an official request from the Ram camp to be placed on a future agenda of the Board of Supervisors. Since the supes’ 2008 condition-based approval of Osgood’s Naples development dreams remains valid, any prospective buyer must be vetted before the supes and prove their ability to actually deliver the terms of approval before the development entitlements can be transferred.