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Doral Resort & Spa: Not under Donald Trump's golf umbrella yet

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MIAMI, Fla. -- The Doral Golf Resort & Spa, a Marriott Resort, should be ready to party, showcasing its 50th anniversary in 2012.

Instead this iconic 693-room resort, with five courses in south Florida, is operating under the cloud of bankruptcy. It received a jolt of publicity when it was reported that Donald Trump wanted to purchase Doral and four of its five courses (the Great White reportedly wouldn’t be included). But it’s hardly a done deal.

Paige Koerbel, Doral’s general manager since January, said nothing official has been signed. He said Trump is in the “driver’s seat” when it comes to the negotiations. He doesn’t expect anything final before February, 2012.

“He says he owns it but that’s premature,” Koerbel said, as we talked about the potential sale in the Bossa Nova Lounge last night. “He could walk away right now and not a nickel would change hands.'

Morgan Stanley’s CNL Hotels & Resorts Inc. pulled the plug on five golf resorts, including Doral, the 780-room Grand Wailea resort in Hawaii and the 739-room Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, in January when a billion-dollar bond came due. Doral has been operating in bankruptcy protection since February.

Today, the resort was hopping with several large groups, including one that brought in Raymond Floyd for a clinic. I’m sure other resorts wish bankruptcy looked so good for the bottom line.

Koerbel was cautious when talking about how Trump might change the resort should the purchase go through. He declined to talk about the TPC status of the famed Blue Monster course, home of Doral’s World Golf Championship event in March. The three-year contract expires next year. Whether Doral remains under the Marriott flag would also be in question. 

But Koerbel did say Trump could be good for the resort. It has been reported that Trump has committed to invest $150 million in Doral. Trump owns and/or operates nine other golf properties.

“In all likelihood, Trump would be good for the courses,' said Korbel. 'He’s a golf nut. He would love to be a part of the PGA Tour.'

Doral, built in 1962, has experienced many upgrades to its rooms, spa, golf courses and restaurant scene in recent years. Yet there’s much more to do. One guest I was interviewing brought up how the property looked “aged” without me even broaching the subject.

Darrin Helfrick, the resort’s golf general manager, said Doral has a bright future.

”Everyone (who has offered to purchase Doral) has talked about $30 to $35 million dollars in upgrades. That’s rooms, golf, hotel,” he said. “Either way, we are excited for the sale to happen.”