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Flashback: Not for Penny Pitchers

Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa

Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa

“Retirement Systems of Alabama Plan a Resort Plunge,” the cover story of our March 2000 issue reported, telling of the RSA’s purchase of the first of what has become a portfolio of eight resort properties.

The Grand Hotel, a historic luxury hotel on Mobile Bay at Point Clear, drew a bid of $30 million by the RSA. Another $25 million was budgeted for a complete makeover of the faded beauty.

“They’ll pay off. No doubt about it,” RSA CEO David Bronner told us of his plans for an Alabama resort chain. For starters, he’d raise the nightly room prices at the Grand to $100. “People who stay at the Grand aren’t penny pinchers, if you know what I mean.”

RSA financed the purchase through a holding company — Alabama Real Estate Holdings — that handles the RSA’s real estate investments. In 2000, those properties included eight golf complexes of the Robert Trent Jones Gold Trail, five Montgomery office towers and a New York City skyscraper — 55 Water Street, the second largest privately owned office tower in the world.

RSA invested in bonds on the skyscraper, which houses computers of the New York Stock Exchange in its basement. When the property owners went into bankruptcy, RSA wound up owning the building.

The man who steered RSA in that office building deal, Edward Kulik, was picked by Bronner to head up Alabama Real Estate Holdings. Point Clear Holdings Inc., another subsidiary of RSA, was set up to manage the resort properties.

Today, RSA’s chain of resorts, besides the Grand, include The Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center; The Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, in Hoover; The Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel; The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa; the Montgomery Marriott Prattville Hotel & Conference Center at Capitol Hill; The Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel & Conference Center at Grand National and The Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa.

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