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Trump Tower hints at deal

SimDag, the troubled project's developer, has an "agreement" with a N.Y. hedge fund.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
Published October 4, 2007


After the Trump Tower Tampa condo project has been wracked by lawsuits and delays, developer SimDag LLC is telling potential buyers it may have found a willing lender. In this rendering, Trump Tower is the building on the left.
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For the better part of two years, Trump Tower Tampa developers have promised that a financing deal was just around the corner.

Now, at the 11th hour, after the condo project has been wracked by lawsuits and delays, developer SimDag LLC is telling potential buyers it may have found a willing lender.

In an e-mail sent to buyers last week, SimDag said an undisclosed New York hedge fund has reached a "commitment agreement" with tower developers to lend them $200-million.

SimDag's Eby Paul told buyers the lender is "ready, willing and able" to finance the 52-story luxury tower on the Hillsborough River.

Some of the project's critics, while still questioning whether the tower will rise, praised SimDag perseverance in its latest push for financing, 21/2 years after the high-profile sales launch in early 2005.

"Those boys, they always say there's hope around the corner. I give them credit for being optimistic," said Tom Long, a Tampa attorney representing two Trump buyers trying to recover their 20 percent deposit on a $1.5-million condo.

Paul deflected questions to the company's Fort Lauderdale attorney, Kathy Rentas. As of late Wednesday, Rentas hadn't responded to a call and e-mail.

A letter of commitment isn't a 100-percent loan guarantee. Such letters outline terms and list conditions borrowers must meet before funds are disbursed. SimDag turned to hedge funds, which usually charge higher interest rates, after traditional bank loans proved elusive in the housing downturn.

Construction would last more than two years, but won't happen unless SimDag can persuade condo buyers to stick with a project originally scheduled for completion in 2008. In that regard, developers are considering incentives such as guaranteeing they won't drop prices on units below what they charged earlier buyers.

New York tycoon Donald Trump is licensing his name to the deal in return for 50 percent of the profits on condos. Trump has sued to recover more than $1-million in fees unpaid by SimDag.

He agreed last month to postpone the suit for 45 days to try to seal a financing deal.

Trump has made no secret of his desire to nudge SimDag aside as lead developer in favor of the Related Group, a Miami developer that built South Florida Trump projects.

Long expressed hope that SimDag would get its loan, if only so his clients can get their deposit back.

But he's skeptical he'll ever see a Trump Tower at 111 S Ashley Drive.

"A lender is going to want a pound of flesh in this environment," Long said.

James Thorner can be reached at thorner@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3313.

[Last modified October 3, 2007, 22:59:29]


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