Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Aurora's very bad two months and latest snag in Gaylord Entertainment deal

Just two months ago, Aurora was looking at the dawn of a new economic era. The Colorado Economic Development Commission had just recommended the proposed Gaylord Entertainment hotel/resort/convention complex receive $81.4 million from the state'sRegional Tourism Act program, on top of the $300 million in subsidies that Aurora had already voted for the project.

But at the very end of May, Gaylord announced that it was selling four hotel/convention complexes to Marriott International for $210 million -- and did not plan to building any more...including the proposed Aurora development.

Then GE revealed that it was postponing its planned solar plant in Aurora for at least eighteen months...and maybe forever.

And then James Holmes walked into the Century 16 last Thursday night...and shot Aurora's image all to hell.

Now comes word that there could be a snag in the Gaylord/Marriott deal. Last week, TRT Holdings, a Texas-based outfit that owns Omni Hotels and 22 percent of Gaylord, sent a letter to shareholders urging them to vote against it next month, the Washington Post reports.

"The proposed transaction does not appear to be in the best long-term interests of Gaylord and its stockholders," TRT said. "The agreement is biased in favor of Marriott and appears to have been poorly negotiated by Gaylord."

Gaylord fired back with a statement, pointing out that TRT had been one of the four buyers interested in the deal that went to Marriott. "TRT's actions represent an attempt to derail a process that is in the best interests of all of our stockholders," said Colin V. Reed, Gaylord's chairman and chief executive. "We were surprised by [the] letter given TRT's involvement in every stage of the process, including participating in the bidding process for the management contracts and exploring an offer to acquire Gaylord Entertainment."

Reed himself had come to Colorado to pitch the original Aurora project in June 2011. And he'd again pushed it as recently as May, when the RTA announcement came: "We remain enthusiastic about the potential for our proposed Aurora development," Reed said at the time. "We look forward to working with the commission over the coming months to finalize the details."

The commission still has that file, but there's time on the clock to finalize those details...just no one to finalize them with. Although its plans to convert to a real estate investment trust rules out any possibility of Gaylord resurrecting the project, an outside developer could still do the deal...but right now, it's looking dark in Aurora.

Read about the history of Aurora's economic development push in Melanie Asmar's "Wish You Were Here."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun