(Updates with comments, background, lawsuits)
By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, March 30 (Reuters) - An Ontario court judge on Thursday approved the sale of a downtown Toronto hotel and condominium high-rise bearing U.S. President Donald Trump’s name to the tower’s main debt holder, according to documents posted on the receiver’s website.
The troubled Trump International Hotel & Tower, situated in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, has been beset by issues since opening its doors in 2012. JCF Capital ULC bought the C$301 million ($226.11 million) owed on the tower’s construction loan last fall.
The court-run sale of the tower, which includes 211 hotel rooms, 74 residential units, as well as commercial, retail and amenity space, had received no bids apart from JCF Capital’s stalking horse offer of C$298 million.
“I think given the amount that was outstanding, it wasn’t surprising,” said Symon Zucker, the lawyer representing the developer, Talon International Inc.
Despite a booming Toronto market, Talon sold less than half of the tower’s residential condos since opening and the hotel’s occupancy rates have been lower than some investors in the rooms had hoped.
Some disgruntled unit buyers filed lawsuits against Talon and a class-action suit seeking the return of deposits was launched earlier this month against the tower’s developer.
“Everything was stayed during the receivership,” said Zucker of the lawsuits. “We’re in it for at least another year or more.”
The court process only indirectly involves Trump, whose sprawling business empire licenses its brand and manages the Toronto property on behalf of Talon.
Talon had previously tried to change the building’s name through arbitration. Lawyers representing Talon and the Trump Organization disagreed whether a new owner would be able to retain a different manager and change the hotel name.
JCF is represented by Jay Wolf, founder of Juniper Capital Partners LLC, an investment firm that says it targets distressed or out-of-favor assets with attractive valuations. Wolf could not be reached for comment.
$1 = 1.3312 Canadian dollars Reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker