The Miami Herald
June 14, 2006
Rainbow Room Operator Enters Condo-Hotel Market
The Cipriani family, best known for Harry's Bar in Italy, will jump into Miami Beach's hotel business and lend their name to a fancy new resort at the old Saxony site.
By Douglas Hanks III
The operator of New York's Rainbow Room and scion of the family behind the famous Harry's Bar in Venice hopes to take on the Setai, Ritz-Carlton and other luxury resorts in Miami Beach.
Giuseppe Cipriani, who runs glitzy catering halls and restaurants in New York, will lend his name to the shuttered Saxony Hotel, which is being transformed into a condominium complex and a 170-room condo-hotel.
In branding their $250 million project the Cipriani Resort and Residences South Beach, the developers have linked the oceanfront complex at Collins Avenue and 32nd Street to a name best known for high-end entertaining in the Big Apple.
But Cipriani also brings a thin portfolio of hotel experience to the deal, even as he promises to set a new bar for five-star service in Miami.
''There's nothing I see like we're going to achieve there,'' Cipriani said, before ticking off the faults of some of the region's top hotels.
Cipriani, 41, enters South Florida's real estate and lodging industries after running well-known party spots in New York, most notably the Rockefeller Center's Rainbow Room. His biggest claim to fame comes from his family's connection to Harry's, a bar favored by Ernest Hemingway and still run by Cipriani's father.
While European hotels bear his family's name, those are owned by other companies. Cipriani, whose company will serve as the Cipriani Resort's operator, said his only hotel experience comes from a resort he and partners built in Uruguay. Cipriani said he sold his stake in the project after running the property for about two years.
Cipriani, who plans other hotels across the country, came to the Saxony project about three months ago. He and Miami developer Ugo Colombo were shopping for a Miami Beach project, and Saxony owner Patrinely Group brought them both on as one-third partners.
CHANGE IN ATTITUDE
Last fall, Colombo seemed to swear-off condo-hotel projects, where unit owners can use their rooms or rent them out for a share of the profits. In announcing a traditional hotel structure for the 450-room Epic in downtown Miami, he told the Miami Herald that he ``never believed in condo-hotels.''
''It's a great system for developers,'' he continued, "but not a great system for buyers. And I don't want to fool buyers.''
On Tuesday, Colombo said his previous comments only applied to downtown hotel projects, where the condo-hotel financials ''don't work.'' But given the Saxony site -- 400 feet of oceanfront in an area only six blocks north of South Beach -- room rates should be high enough for unit owners to feel good about their purchases, he said.
''If you run the numbers in South Beach,'' he said, "they work.''