Florida Based Timeshare Firm Plots Growth Strategy

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Florida Based Timeshare Firm Plots Growth Strategy
« on: March 09, 2004, 13:36:04 »
Florida Based Timeshare Firm Plots Growth Strategy

Orlando-based Celebrity Resorts, a time-share company formerly known as Resort World, is growing again and looking for more deals.

The privately held company recently bought the management rights and unsold inventory for six properties from Las Vegas-based Leisure Resorts, giving the company nine properties from Florida to Hawaii.

The $18.3 million acquisition roughly doubles the company's time-share ownership base to about 50,000 people and boosts employment by about 125 workers to a total of 450 to 500, Chief Executive Officer Jared Meyers said.

"We're pretty excited about this," Meyers said. The company is also preparing to move into a new headquarters in leased space on the sixth floor of a new office building near the Mall at Millenia.

Celebrity Resorts is owned by Meyers' father, retired dentist Neil Meyers, and the general counsel is one of Jared Meyers' uncles. The family got into the time-share business in the 1970s in the Caribbean and then in the Orlando area in the 1980s, when Resort World was one of four main players in the region.

But while the other three players -- Orange Lake, Westgate Resorts and Vistana -- expanded over time, Celebrity Resorts, or Resort World as it was known then, sold off much of its holdings to Sunterra.

Resort World changed its name and rebranded itself last year, Jared Meyers said, after some of the family-member partners split because of differences over the direction of the company. Another of Jared Meyers' uncles, Hillel Meyers, for example, continues to own and operate Star Island vacation ownership in Kissimmee, originally part of the Resort World group.

"We're now ramping up for growth," Jared Meyers said, in part by taking on veteran industry executives. Chuck Rybos, a former Marriott Vacation Club financial officer, is now the chief financial officer for Celebrity Resorts, and Ron Leventhal, a former senior executive with several time-share companies in the region, is chief strategic officer, in charge of looking for new acquisitions. Chief operating officer is C. Craig Lewis.

Celebrity Resorts' existing properties are in Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista and north of Daytona Beach in Palm Coast. The newly acquired sites, purchased out of bankruptcy court, are in Honolulu; Reno, Nev.; New Jersey; Indian Shores, just south of Clearwater Beach; and two properties in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

The company took on debt to close the deal, Jared Meyers said, but took on no debt from the acquisition itself, which includes mortgage receivables. The unsold inventory at the new properties, Meyers said, ranges from 4 percent to more than 50 percent.