When Ty Meets Caruso

Understanding Ty Warner, Rick Caruso, and the Future of the

I met Ty
(pictured) in the summer of 2000. He had just purchased
the Biltmore
Coral Casino
. ty%20small.jpg I invited him to tour a Santa Monica
beach club that had undergone a renovation similar to what he
envisioned for the Coral Casino. Meeting in Santa Monica,
our time was brief, but revealing. In our two-hour
expedition, I got a partial key into understanding Warner’s
exuberance for pouring millions of dollars into Montecito’s
hospitality business.

I found Warner to be extremely polite (he attended a military
prep school); pleasantly articulate (our chat ranged from paddle
tennis to Montecito restaurants; he favored, at the time, the
), and, most importantly, he allowed me a glimpse at the
creative mind that paved his way to billionaire-land. As he toured
the Santa Monica club he spouted innovative ideas at every turn,
his entourage dutifully capturing his rapid-fire thoughts. But, the
most revealing thing I discovered at our meeting was,
cuddle-toy-trade aside, the Beanie Baby mogul was no softy
and, for him, business was no game.
Which brings me to
January 2007 and Rick
(pictured). Caruso is Montecito’s newest
savior-in-escrow, here from L.A. to extricate and
deliver the Miramar Hotel from Potter’s-Field-rot
. Rick%20Caruso%20Web.jpg Caruso, who I met last Friday at a
media breakfast at Cava, is a high-end
shopping center developer. A handsome man — a six-footer with
neatly trimmed dark hair, a chiseled jaw, and trustworthy dark
brown eyes — Caruso suited up to meet the press in impeccable
Montecito chic: silk sports coat, gray gabs, starched open-collared
dress shirt. His demeanor was pliant, casual, open,
straightforward, humorous, enthusiastic, and personal.

Stepping from his Lincoln
(the requisite developer-mobile), he
told me he drives his kids to school each morning — a joy that he
rarely misses. And he said his children are teaming with exciting
ideas for the Miramar. “They want the raft back and a
he revealed, barely containing his own enthusiasm
for the project.caruso%20crayons.jpg “This is going to be a family hotel, a
local resource, a place where people can come with kids on the
weekend,” he said, as he grabbed some kiddy
to demonstrate his concepts on the restaurant’s
paper place mat.

Caruso plans to clear-cut all the existing
. “They are run-down, there is mold, and they are
not legally safe,” and then he added, in a reassuring tone, he has
no plans to add extra rooms. “If anything we will reduce
,” he explained, saying families today want larger
accommodations. To meet that demand Caruso says he might merge a
number of the Miramar’s compact style motel rooms, thus
reducing the number of rooms. He says, even with reduced
keys, he believes he can turn a profit. “We think we can be
profitable if the hotel is community-oriented,” he

And with the community being known as
developer’s stumbling-block-hell
, Caruso has done his homework.
In less than three weeks — since he discovered the property was for
sale — he has met with many of the community influencers. After
meeting with Supervisor Salud
, Caruso said he feels reassured that he will not get
caught in the infamous permit quagmire. Carbajal pledged to do all
he could to help Caruso’s team to navigate through the
treacherous straits between neighborhood protectionists and
county regulations
. “He is a great leader,” Caruso said,
referring to Carbajal, “and I think things might have gone
differently if I hadn’t met him.”

But it was Caruso who quickly learned which Montecito-centric
buttons to hit. “There is really nothing here more special than the
Miramar,” he said, reinforcing a perspective locals love to hear.
He says he’ll keep the beach club for local’s use and rebuild the
tennis courts; he’s going to replace the blue
(if the community wants them), and he says he even
likes the train that runs smack through the Miramar property. “I
think the railroad is part of the history and
and I think we can do some fun things with that,” he

On his “fix-it-list,” he admits he sees no special significance
in of the two story “Motel Six” buildings currently decaying on the
Miramar site, and he thinks the roadway could use some
reconfiguration, in the hopes of blocking some of the 101’s traffic
noise. He intends to hire local, he says, and he will be setting up
an office in the Santa Barbara area shortly after he closes on the
property later this week.

While the sale price has not been disclosed, Caruso is already
ready to re-open his checkbook. He said he hopes
initial plans will be ready in “a couple” of months and he
forecasts a year-and-a-half of construction before
the hotel will celebrate a grand opening.

While Caruso has met with several dozen locals, he indicated he
wants to meet more Montecito residents. At the top of his
“Must-Meet” list is Ty Warner — the
billionaire who closed the multi-million dollar Miramar deal
without ever having a face-to-face meeting with Caruso. (Montage
hears he is traveling in the Orient). Montage
predicts when the two finally shake hands, a powerful connection
will occur because they are both challenge-driven
who have shot the development rapids of
the rigorously protective residential village of Montecito. They
will be bonded in that perilous experience and will have amazing
adventure stories to tell about the high-risk ride.

Michael DeGruy
(pictured) goes natural this week as the director of Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s
natural history films series, Reel
. Michael%20DeGruy.jpg A splendid natural history filmmaker
himself, Michael tells Montage that making a natural history film
is popular among some top Hollywood filmmakers. People like
(Titanic) have become fans and there is some
strong competition among Hollywood super-producers to capture the
beauty, depth, and mystery of nature. Cameron will be on hand to
present the Sir David
Attenborough Award
to Al
and Davis
An Inconvenient Truth
on Friday at 8 p.m. at the
. Michael will moderate the event. Insider SBIFF
tip: Catch the Reel
exhibits on the big screen, to see a real natural

PLOW AND ANGEL OPENS: Montage is thrilled to
announce that the Plow and Angel will
re-open for dinner on Monday, February 5 from 5 until 10 p.m.
Montecito has not been herself without our comfortable old standby,
so we’re glad she’s back. Staff assures us the interior ambiance
will be familiar, just slightly more comfortable, and the menu will
have the old standbys: Mac and Cheese, ribs and burgers. Plow and
Angel will be on a non-reservation-first-come basis, so go early
enough to take a peek at some of San Ysidro Ranch’s
redone public rooms that were part of Ty Warner’s $150
million renovation
. P.S. A few readers have asked me if
the Ranch is serving lunch. Neither restaurant is serving lunch at
this time, but we’ll keep you posted.

Dick Shaikewitz
(pictured), was out for his 10 a.m. Friday
constitutional on Coast Village Road and he smelled morning coffee
at Cava, which is normally closed for breakfast. Shaikewitz%20Mug.jpg Curious, Dick sauntered into the
restaurant to check things out. “I saw all these nice people and
just walked in,” he explained.

His presence, however, sent off a fury, as he had stumbled into
Rick Caruso’s media conference. It was an event
that the warring Montecito homeowner’s factions (Montecito
Association/Voices of Montecito
) had marked as a demilitarized
zone. Shaikewitz poured some coffee, made a few observations on
behalf of MA in favor of the Caruso project, and departed, leaving
the dismayed Caruso staff stammering to offer an explanation.

“We want you to know we did not invite him,” said Caruso VP
, getting his first taste of Montecito’s strong,
dark brew. Salud Carbajal said he was also
surprised to see Dick. “Who invited him?” the Supervisor asked

Montage, of course, is always happy to sleuth and we solved the
coffee-crasher mystery: Dick was taking a walk to drop off mail and
it was by lucky coincidence he found the
. One curious note: In the past,
Shaikewitz has been Montecito’s most vocal opponent against a
Montecito train quiet zone (the law limits horn
blaring, which Shaikewitz thinks is dangerous). However, during the
press conference when Caruso blessed the new law as aid to his
Miramar project, Shaikewitz found his own quiet zone and
uttered nary a negative word.

BILTMORE TURNS 80: Montecito was well
represented at Saturday’s
Four Season’s Biltmore Birthday Bash
, which later parlayed into
the mod SBIFF Scott
-designed $200K-plus super party. One hundred of the
Biltmore’s closest friends dropped by to toast the octogenarian and
cheer the completion of her renovation. biltmore%20sharps.jpg Isadore Sharp,
founder, chairman, and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels, was on hand for
the event along with his wife Rosalie (pictured)
to cut a ribbon to indicate the relaunched Biltmore was once again
a fully complete resort.

Greg Rice took the bows for Ty Warner, who
missed the event due to his travel schedule. Revelers included
Dallas and Peter Clark, Lee Luria, Parker Montgomery, Gene
Montesano, Eric Friedman
(pictured, representing
Supervisor Salud Carbajal who was in Washington D.C.), biltmore%20friedman.jpg Andy and Dollie Granitelli,
Melissa and Ralph Iannelli, Mary Belle and Tom Snow, and Nina
. Anne and Michael Towbes were
there (Michael left early, but Anne stayed on to applaud her son,
who was the DJ in the disco party room). Penny
was saw the ribbon cutting but she was without
beau Greg Hackenthal, who was home nursing a
broken leg.

END NOTES: Supervisor Salud
tells us he received three applications to fill the
Planning Commission
slot left empty by
Dick Thielscher
. Carbajal told Montage he was surprised, after
extensive recruiting, how few applications he received. However, he
said he received three excellent candidates:
J. W. Colin
, a retired business executive; Stephen Murdoch, writer;
Jack Overall
, VP, Montecito Association. Carbajal said he is in
the process conducting interviews and reviewing applications and
will announce his appointment in several weeks…..

The Westmont
College February 7 President’s Breakfast
, featuring writer
Thomas L. Friedman,
sold out in three hours….

The February 6 Board of Supervisors’ Agenda will consider a
appeal on Westmont’s major expansion
and look for another large
Montecito turn out…

Julian Nott will be the featured
speaker at UCSB’s Institute for
Theoretical Physics
on February 7 at 8 p.m. Don’t let the
physics part scare you off. Julian is a leading figure in manned
balloon design and he is not full of hot air — he tells fascinating
stories so don’t miss this high-flying event! For reservations,
call 893-4111.


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