Posts filed under 'Orlando'

The Queen of Versailles, David Siegel, and Timeshare Resale Values at Westgate Resorts

It has been said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and perhaps that’s true for David Siegel, self-proclaimed “Timeshare King” and CEO of Westgate Resorts. After all, how many other CEO’s of timeshare companies can you name?

What is not so clear, however, is to what extent publicity received by Siegel has negatively affected resale values of Westgate timeshares. Perhaps this is one the reasons most timeshare developers prefer to keep a low-profile.

When Siegel and his wife Jackie decided to build America’s largest private home, a 90,000 square foot palace aptly named “Versailles,” they attracted the attention of filmmaker Lauren Greenfield. Over the course of three years, Ms. Greenfield filmed interviews with the Siegels and their staff – including behind-the-scenes footage of Westgate Resorts operations. The resulting documentary film, The Queen of Versailles, was well received; winning the U.S. Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. (Now available on Netflix.)

The timing, of both the construction of Siegel’s home and the filming of the documentary, happened to coincide with the recent financial crisis; turning what might have been just another story about the excesses of the rich into a saga of survival. Ezra Kline, of the Washington Post, dubbed The Queen of Versailles “the single best film on the Great Recession.” When Siegel is unable to procure financing for Westgate Resorts’ receivables, construction on Versailles is halted and the very fate of the company appears to hang in the balance. In a candid moment, Siegel declares, “this is almost like a riches-to-rags story.”

Needless to say, The Queen of Versailles became a PR nightmare for Westgate Resorts. Siegel was so concerned about negative fallout that, the day before the film’s premier, he sued the filmmaker for defamation; claiming Westgate Resorts was depicted “in an array of defamatory, derogatory and damaging ways.” According to Siegel, by the time filming concluded Westgate Resorts was as profitable as it ever had been. The lawsuit has since been dismissed, but Siegel remains in damage control mode; appearing earlier this year on CNBC with his wife to announce “record profits” for Westgate Resorts and continuing construction of “Versailles.”

There’s no reason to doubt that both Siegel and Westgate Resorts are now financially solvent, but numerous other timeshare developers have gone bankrupt over the past 5 years. (e.g. Celebrity Resorts, Consolidated Resorts) When timeshare developers fail, the underlying real estate (individual timeshare interval) is not directly affected, but the resulting negative “buzz” often has lasting effects on perceived resale value. And speaking of perceptions, The Queen of Versailles portrays Westgate timeshare owners as victims of the same predatory sub-prime lending practices blamed for crashing the economy. Overall, it’s easy to conclude that Siegel’s PR mistakes have damaged the value of timeshares owned by hundreds of thousands of Westgate owners (at least temporarily.)

That said, now may well be the perfect time to buy a Westgate timeshare resale. Westgate Resorts makes a terrific product: Its timeshares are really, really nice. The properties are located on prime real estate. The maintenance fees are reasonable. And, for now, the prices are artificially low! Take this Westgate Lakes Resort and Spa resale, for example, located on some of Orlando’s best real estate and featuring leather furniture, granite and stainless kitchen, private patio, lock-out floor-plan, and large jetted-tub in master – priced thousands under cost.

westgate-lakes-resort-and-spa-living-room

Siegel has described Westgate Resorts as the “Rolls Royce of timeshare companies,” designed to allow ordinary Americans to “vacation like a Rockefeller.” Love him or hate him, if you’ve stayed in a Westgate timeshare, you have to agree with him.

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3 comments October 17th, 2013

Orange Lake’s Holiday Inn Club Vacations Becoming Timeshare Giant

Consolidation seems to be the order of the day in the timeshare industry, with many small and independent resorts being acquired by a few key players. For the past 30 years, Orange Lake Resorts was known predominately for its popular flagship property near Orlando, Florida; the brainchild of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson. With the ambitious launch of the Holiday Inn Club Vacations brand in 2008, Orange Lake set out to become a timeshare industry giant.

So far, Orange Lake’s new vacation club concept seems to be a resounding success: Holiday Inn Club Vacations has re-branded existing Orange Lake properties in Orlando, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Panama City. Additionally, the Club has acquired resorts in Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, and Galveston. I’ve always been a fan of  resorts that offer an “internal exchange” program – allowing owners to exchange directly through the developer, rather than through third-party exchange companies at an added cost. With the number of Holiday Inn Club Vacations timeshare resorts now available (plus more on the way), owners can plausibly take most of their vacations without paying an exchange fee.

A key feature of Holiday Inn Club Vacations ownership is its new “internal points system,” which functions similarly to the popular Wyndham Vacations Resorts points system. Owners can even opt to use their points at Holiday Inn hotels, and other Intercontinental properties that are not vacation ownership resorts. While I expect the new points system to become quite popular, there may be some hurdles for owners of existing resorts acquired by the club: Owners at Galveston on the Gulf Resort originally purchased points through Escapes! Vacations internal points system, some Sunset Cove Marco Island owners bought Hilton Grand Vacations Club points, while owners at the Smoky Mountain Resort bought RCI points. Over time these disparate points systems will have to be reconciled, either through upgrades or conversion, in order for the Club to reach its full potential… And, according to owners I’ve spoken to, this process is already well under way.

With the growth of Orange Lake’s Holiday Inn Club Vacations there is a lot to be excited about – especially for industry watchers like myself who are happy to see another heavy-weight competitor emerge in an industry that was getting a little too consolidated!

1 comment November 13th, 2012

Celebrity Resorts Post-Bankruptcy – A New Legacy

Celebrity Resorts LLC made headlines in March of last year when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but according to an Orlando Sentinel article financial problems may have started as early as 2008. While these types of bankruptcy filings rarely affect individual ownerships, they certainly undermine consumer confidence in a specific resort or developer, bringing down resale values. For owners of Celebrity Resorts timeshares, the company’s recent reorganization is welcome news: The new company is called Legacy Vacation Club.

Will the new name mean a new legacy for Celebrity Resorts and its owners? Quite possibly. The family-owned company has been selling timeshares for over 30 years, making it one of the most experienced resort developers in America. According to company lawyers, Celebrity Resorts exited bankruptcy intact, and with no job losses. In addition, Legacy Vacation Club has announced plans to implement its own internal “points” program, that will offer owners more flexibility. What may ultimately mean success for Celebrity Resorts, however, will be whether it can adapt its sales strategy to the tastes of a new generation of buyers. There are only so many upgrades that can be sold to aging timeshare owners; lasting success for any timeshare developer hinges on bringing new and younger buyers into the fold.

Just as generational differences have proven difficult for the timeshare industry, it’s generational differences within the Meyers family that have been blamed for the bankruptcy and subsequent reorganization of Celebrity Resorts. Brothers Neil and Hillel Meyers were the original developers of Resort World, predecessor to Celebrity Resorts, and remain legendary figures in Orlando’s insular timeshare community. Reportedly, disputes between Hillel Meyers and Neil Meyers’ son Jared led to partitioning the company in 2003. During last year’s bankruptcy proceedings, control of the company was hotly disputed between various family members, but the company’s reorganization plan approved this January leaves 34 year-old Jared Meyers in control as President and CEO. With a gen-xer at the helm, perhaps Legacy Vacation Club will succeed where Celebrity Resorts failed; retooling the timeshare sales process for internet-savvy younger buyers.

For now, all former Celebrity Resorts properties have been renamed to reflect the Legacy Vacation Club brand, and all resorts are now listed with both RCI and Interval International. Existing owners that want to sell their Celebrity timeshares will, no doubt, benefit from the re-branding; gradually escaping the stigma of bankruptcy. And while there are parts of the timeshare community that might still be skeptical of the new entity, I’m excited to see what the future holds. Best of luck to Jared Meyers and Legacy Vacation Club!

Popular Legacy Vacation Club Timeshares Include:
Legacy Vacation Club Orlando – Oaks
Legacy Vacation Club Orlando – Spas
Legacy Vacation Club Steamboat Springs – Hilltop

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2 comments June 21st, 2011

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