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NZ’s Mahana Estate winery and hospitality business put up for sale

Nelson-based Mahana Estates has been put up for sale a week after a High Court judge ruled against a bid to freeze the company’s assets as two American investors take legal action against owner Glenn Schaeffer.

Image: Bayleys Marlborough

News of the sale by agents Bayleys Marlborough, which is accepting tenders up until 13 July, comes a week after a bid to freeze Mahana’s assets was rejected.

American investors James Murren (chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International) and Daniel Lee (CEO of Palms hotel-casino in Las Vegas) are suing the owner of Mahana, Glenn Schaeffer, for $3.5 million. The pair initially brought their case to the New Zealand High Court in Nelson in 2015, claiming that Schaeffer committed “negligent misstatement, deceit and fraudulent misrepresentation” of the investment deal in Mahana.

According to the court documents, Murren invested US$1.6 million while Lee shelled out US$700,400. As part of their bid, they hoped to freeze a maximum of $4.4 million in assets of the vineyard and winery.

Responding to the bid, judge Justice Peters said: “The evidence to which I have referred is insufficient to substantiate the real risk of dissipation required to make a freezing order. Much more is required before it is proper to make a freezing order”.

Image: Bayleys Marlborough

According to Bayleys Marlborough salesman Mike Poff, in addition to its own vineyards, Mahana leased a 20-hectare site and in 2017, the combined plantings produced 268 tonnes of grapes, with 153 tonnes bottled under the Mahana label.

“The winery is currently operating below capacity – choosing to concentrate on quality of product over quantity,” he added.

According to the Bayleys Marlborough website, the portfolio includes 30 hectares of organic certified vineyards including 21 hectares situated at the winery site (planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Rieslign) and another 9-hectare vineyard planted with Sauvignon Blanc in Hope. In addition, the sale includes the four-story winery, which was designed by Oregon architect Larry Ferar and is capable of processing 500 tonnes of grapes, and a seven-bedroom villa complete with wine cellar, library and art gallery.

Also in the sale is the restaurant, function cellar and tasting room as well as the hospitality business which was licensed to host 22 large-scale functions every year.

The estate hosted Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in 2015 during their visit to the country.

Schaeffer was the former chief executive officer and president of Fontainebleau Resorts, leaving the company in 2009 when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after failing to secure $800 million in construction funding to complete its $2.9 billion property on the Las Vegas strip.

Image: Bayleys Marlborough

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