Bittersweet deal for Lord Sugar

LORD SUGAR still cannot get to work on the Byblos, the Mijas hotel he bought almost three years ago.

The 144-room luxury hotel, where Princess Diana and the Rolling Stones once stayed, closed at the end of May 2010 after almost a quarter of a century.

The multimillionaire bought the repossessed hotel’s spa building and tennis courts for €1.5 million in July 2009.

Two previous auctions failed to find a buyer and Lord Sugar was the only bidder at the third.

He also offered owners Aifos €1,499,486 for the hotel plot. Under Spanish law, it was his if no-one else stepped in with a higher bid within 10 days.

No further bids were received.

The five-star Byblos should have been another acquisition for the business magnate, television personality, political adviser and – since 2009 – peer.

But Sugar, who founded his fortune on Amstrad computers and electronics and found media fame with The Apprentice, is being hindered at every step, he maintains.

Now his patience is running out. “I just want an end to this situation where Aifos challenges every court ruling,” he told a local Spanish daily.

It was time for all the interested parties to sit down in search of a lasting solution, Lord Sugar said.

The previous owners are thwarting plans to restore the 144-room hotel to its former glory and create employment. The Byblos is emblematic of the Costa, said Sugar, and he wants to bring it back to life.

Aifos has lodged at least 10 appeals against decisions from the Fuengirola court although the bid from his company Amsprop was legal as well as the highest.

“Last March the court ruled in my favour, but Aifos appealed in April. My hands are tied, and who knows for how long?,” he is quoted saying by Diario Sur.

Technically Aifos are still the proprietors. “We might have the rest but it would be senseless to open the spa without the hotel,” declared Sugar.

The transaction has cost him around €8 million, explained the magnate, and the hotel was deteriorating after lying empty for two years.

“It has been burgled several times,” Sugar said. “I estimate it will need between €4 and €5 million in repairs.”

If a verdict arrives this summer, the hotel could reopen in March, he believes.

“Then I shall have to call the hotel’s union representative to apologise,” he admitted.

“At the time of the auction he asked me when the staff could start work. ‘In two weeks’ I answered. And nearly three years have gone by instead.”

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