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Ashford Walks Away From Recently Acquired Manhattan Hotel

A room at Embassy Suites by Hilton in Manhattan.

After months of failing to meet loan payments across its portfolio, Ashford Hospitality Trust has sold the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Midtown it has owned for less than two years in order to meet demands from lenders.

Ashford filed notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday that the 310-room hotel at 60 West 37th St. had been sold to meet its debts. With the sale complete, Ashford said it no longer has any obligations to its lenders on the property, which it bought for $195M in January 2019 from AIG and developer Hidrock Realty.

The sale price and the purchaser of the property were not disclosed in the filing and not made clear in city records. Representatives for Ashford could not be immediately reached for comment.

In announcing the acquisition last year, Ashford said it had scored a $145M nonrecourse loan, which was its first hotel in New York City. According to its SEC filing, the property was secured by a $108.7M senior mortgage and two mezzanine loans of $26.3M and $10M, respectively. It is unclear who owns the mezzanine loan on the 41-story hotel.

Back in May, Ashford notified investors that, following defaulting on a payment in April, Wells Fargo, the CMBS servicer, had issued the company with an “acceleration” notice. Wells Fargo wanted the full $108.7M, per the filing, and multiple other costs, including $60K for legal fees.

Ashford told lenders for all its properties in March that the public health crisis was damaging business, and while its loans did not contain forbearance rights, it was seeking relief. The company made principal or interest payments on almost none of its loans in April and was trying to find workout solutions.

The hotel sector, particularly in New York City, has been badly hit by the crisis, with many predicting it will take years for it to recover and many shuttered locations likely never reopening.

By May, Ashford had suspended operations at 23 properties and put 93 other properties to reduced operating levels, Bisnow previously reported. The firm cut its planned capital expenditures by about $95M, according to the earnings report from May.

Ashford Inc. and its hotel affiliates, Ashford Hospitality Trust and Braemer Hotels & Resorts, had received some $59M under the federal government’s paycheck protection program but returned the money after criticism and threats of a congressional investigation. 

Multiple global real estate companies are reportedly delinquent on their debts right now, even as they raise billions for new investment opportunities. Colony Capital Inc. is no longer meeting obligations on many of its hotel bonds but has already started raising $6B for a fund that will focus on digital real estate like cell towers and data centers. Starwood Capital Group is behind on payments for more than half of its 30 retail properties, which account for nearly $2B in CMBS debt.

Those types of loans are often nonrecourse, meaning the ramifications of failing to pay are minimal and borrowers are able to hand them over without putting other assets in jeopardy.