Hotel Europa facing plenty of competition for purchasers

One of the best-kept secrets in Cost Rica is that the Hotel Europa is for sale.

The Europa is the three-star hotel in downtown San José that was given to an investor trust by Luis Milanes as part of his criminal court case. A court-appointed appraiser said at the time that the hotel was worth $10 million. Investors in the defunct high-interest scheme run by Milanes are now hoping for half that price. But there seem to be no takers.

Milanes surrendered the hotel and other properties in a deal so that he would not be prosecuted. A lot of investors who agreed to this deal are now having second thoughts.

A Canadian real estate broker who used to live here reported he had difficulty in getting specifics on a possible transaction. He was offered a non-exclusive listing agreement, but there appears to be no financial details, such as income and expenses, on the hotel operations.

A local lawyer also sought information on the business and food licenses.

The hotel is in a trust managed by a firm called Global Trust Firm S.A. The interests of the investors are supposed to be considered by a court-appointed committee. The chairman of that committee, Leonardo Gómez, declines to make public comments because he said that Costa Rican judicial rules prohibit it. One of the major sources of income for the hotel is a casino run by Milanes who rents part of the ground floor. Investors also wonder about what will happen to the casino if the hotel is sold.

The Europa attracts budget-conscious travelers with a rate ranging upwards from $42 a night. Trip Advisor lists it in 62nd place of 87 Costa Rican hotels. Customer reviews are about average although there are a few scathing ones.

Many hotels are for sale now in Costa Rica. One real estate Web site lists 27. None of them is the Europa. In fact, there does not seem to be any advertising effort with the aim of selling the hotel.

Some other investors declined the deal involving the Europa. One group obtains ownership of a large home, but that has not sold either.  This is not unusual considering the state of the real estate market.

Meanwhile, there are reports that Milanes and even groups of some of his creditors are headed back to court to renegotiate the various agreements.

Milanes, who was the key figure in a $200 million collapse of his Savings Unlimited, has been hoping for a deferred prosecution or what amounts to probation. He only served briefly in jail when he returned in 2009 after being a fugitive since November 2002.

Milanes continues to operate his casinos in the Central Valley.

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