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Award-winning B.C. hotel sells for $5.6M under a court-ordered sale

A North Vancouver real estate company is buying the storied property, and says they plan to re-open it next year
sooke-harbour-house-7015379-jpg
Sooke Harbour House. Photo by Sooke Harbour House Resort Hotel

A North Vancouver real estate company buying Sooke Harbour House for $5.6 million under a court-ordered sale expects to reopen in 2021 after upgrading the property.

“The hotel needs some love,” Alex Watson, chief operating officer with IAG Enterprises Ltd., said Saturday.

“As a family, we look for unique assets, things that you can’t easily replicate. It fits that bill completely. You’re not going to get many other chances to buy property with that kind of heritage, with that kind of waterfront, with that kind of infrastructure that’s already there, and the goodwill that comes with it.”

A B.C. Supreme Court order approved the sale of the 2.5-acre waterfront site for $5.632 million after foreclosure actions had been launched. The hotel is currently closed.

The hotel and restaurant went on the market in April, with an asking price of $5.6 million. The property has been the focus of several legal actions — including more than one foreclosure — as well as a battle for ownership.

All claims owed to federal, provincial and municipal governments and the secured lenders who have first, second and third mortgages on SHH Properties will be paid, the court order, dated Thursday, says.

No one is allowed to remove anything from the 2.5-acre property pending the completion of the sale, it says.

The only exception is for Frederique and Sinclair Philip, who are permitted to meet with IAG representatives to take their personal assets, which are listed in a court document.

Sooke Harbour House made a name for itself nationally and internationally after the Philips purchased the property in 1979. Their focus on locally grown food and seafood, support for local farmers, and a top-notch wine cellar earned them honours inside Canada and beyond. It has hosted movie stars and served as a movie-set location.

But the hotel faced money problems and in 2015, the Business Development Bank of Canada began a foreclosure action, saying it was owed $2.9 million.

The Philips found investment money and staved off the foreclosure, but the partnership soured and they have been in a legal dispute with Tim Durkin and Rodger Gregory over ownership.

Durkin was also fighting a 2017 deportation order from the Canada Border Services Agency after being indicted in the U.S. for alleged conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud. He denied he was part of those activities. The status of that matter was not clear on Saturday.

Since 2017, court documents state, three new mortgages have been taken out on the property, eventually leading to the foreclosure actions.

The Philips and Durkin could not immediately be reached.

IAG is buying the assets only, Watson said. The other companies are responsible for any debts.

He is not sure the exact date when the sale will close because the legal agreements are being drawn up.

Watson, who lives in North Vancouver now but grew up in Sidney, knows the Sooke Harbour House well.

“We want to make sure that we stay true to the character and heritage of the site.”

IAG, a real estate investment and holding company, holds assets including hospitality and agricultural land.

Its Pacific Gateway Wilderness Lodge in Bamfield is closed this year due to the impact of COVID-19, he said. IAG is a partner in the Pacific Gateway Hotel at Vancouver Airport and owns, and is renovating, the Richter Pass Hotel in Osoyoos, he said.

Watson is aiming to make the Sooke hotel a destination for food.

“We have already made some overtures to some high-end food groups to come in and manage the restaurant side of it,” he said. “There will be a well-known name, hopefully.”

IAG plans to operate the hotel as a boutique destination resort after improvements are completed, he said. The possibly of adding other activities is being evaluated.

“This is actually the ideal time because you are not working around guests. It’s an opportunity to really assess what needs to be upgraded and how you need to deal with it,” he said.

“We want to make sure that we stay true to the character and heritage of the site.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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