Saturday night fever stalls Grove Farm sale

While there are at least six potential suitors seeking to purchase about 18,000

acres of Amfac land from Hanama’ulu to Wai’ale’ale for an asking price of $26

million, there is no deal – for now – for Grove Farm.

On Saturday night, a

confidentiality agreement expired, as did negotiations between Grove Farm Co.

Inc. and a would-be buyer the company won’t name, confirmed Hugh W. Klebahn,

Grove Farm chairman.

Speaking via telephone from his Puhi office yesterday

afternoon, Kiebahn wouldn’t rule out the possibility Grove Farm will entertain

other offers for its sale.

“We will explore that,” he said.

The company

owns around 22,000 acres from Kawaikini in the island’s interior to Puhi and

Maha’ulepu, including the Maha’ulepu coastline near Hyatt Regency Kaua’i Resort

and Spa and Po’ipu Bay Resort Golf Course. Grove Farm also owns Puakea Golf

Course and Kukui Grove Center.

The company is, plainly, land-rich and

cash-poor.

“Grove Farm’s financial condition, I think, is a matter of

record. Like most companies in Hawai’i, we have suffered through many things,”

Kiebahn said. “And being on Kaua’i, we’ve suffered even further, given the

hurricane and various other things. We have been very slow to recover, and our

debt burden is exceedingly high.”

There are residential and commercial land

developments of Grove Farm, though most of the acreage is leased to

agricultural tenants.

There was an offer on the table to purchase all of

the company’s shares from 160 current shareholders, most of whom are members of

the company’s founding Wilcox family.

“We regret that we were not able to

conclude an agreement,” Kiebahn said. “We are currently evaluating our

alternatives.”

He would not disclose the estimated value of the company’s

holdings, nor the number of shares the shareholders own.

Like the Amfac

acreage’s 13 different parcels being sold as one, Grove Farm’s holdings fall

into many different tax-map-keys.

Of the Grove Farm holdings, between 30

and 40 appeals of real property tax assessments were recently settled with

Kaua’i County, said Eugene Jimenez, deputy director of the county Department of

Finance.

Realtor Bob German, of Aloha Island Properties, confirmed

yesterday that at least six parties – some individuals, some groups – have

expressed interest in purchasing what in essence is all of Amfac’s Kaua’i land

holdings.

As the negotiations are in their infancy, German was not able to

tell whether the same company that tried to buy Grove Farm had also shown an

interest in the Amfac acreage.

Business editor Paul C. Curtis can be

reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) and [

HREF=”mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net”>pcurtis@pulitzer.net]

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