New developer to move ahead on Kenwood resort
The Yucaipa Companies, a Los Angeles private equity firm founded by billionaire Ron Burkle, has purchased 358 acres in Kenwood with plans to develop a resort at the base of Hood Mountain.
The property, formerly owned by the Chinese developer Tohigh Property Investment, already has county approval for a 50-room hotel, spa and restaurant.
No changes to Tohigh’s plans are expected and work may begin almost immediately, said Frank Quintero, a principal with Yucaipa. He declined to disclose financial terms of the deal, which closed Aug. 5. Tohigh paid $41 million for the land in 2014.
The son of a grocer, Burkle made a fortune investing in Ralphs, Food4Less, Fred Meyer and other companies. He founded Yucaipa in 1986, completing more than $40 billion in mergers and acquisitions, according to the company’s website.
Burkle, who serves as managing partner of the firm, was immediately drawn to the Kenwood property because of its serenity and proximity to San Francisco, Quintero said.
“The beauty of this particular property only comes along once in a lifetime,” said Quintero. He described Burkle as a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright.
“He believes in organic architecture and integrating buildings into nature,” said Quintero. “The project will be in line with the ethos of Sonoma.”
Quintero, who will serve as the voice of the project, plans to move to the Sonoma Valley as soon as he finds a property.
Yucaipa, named after the town where Burkle grew up, specializes in the hospitality and entertainment industries. The company will develop, own and operate the resort which is planned for 52 acres across more than a dozen parcels on Campagna Lane off Sonoma Highway, near Lawndale Road.
Yucaipa developed and now operates the luxury NoMad hotels in New York and Los Angeles. The company also has a majority stake in Soho House private clubs, which has facilities around the world.
While the property itself is large, as resorts go in Sonoma, the size of the planned Kenwood resort is relatively small. Sonoma Mission Inn has 226 rooms on 13 acres. The Lodge at Sonoma has 182 rooms on 10 acres.
No timeline is yet available for the Kenwood project but Quintero said the company has already begun to meet with local contractors and builders.
“We will build what has been entitled (approved),” said Quintero. Future plans might include a winery or home sites, but they are not part of the discussion as this time, he said.
The name of the resort has not yet been decided, but the new holding company created for the acquisition is Kenwood Ranch.
Darius Anderson, managing partner in Sonoma Media Investments, which publishes the Index-Tribune, worked as the chief of staff for Yucaipa in the 1990s before founding his government relations and lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors. He was not involved in the acquisition of the resort property, Quintero said.
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