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ORLANDO-In an unexpected scenario, a real estate subsidiary of Finova Capital Corp. of Scottsdale, AZ outbid an unknown Jacksonville, FL investor at a court-ordered public auction and purchased the debt-ridden, 102-unit, four-building Sheraton Vistana Resort at the 6,300-acre World Golf Village attraction for $7 million.

Ike Sarges ran his final bid on the four-year-old property to $6.05 million before Finova lawyers quickly bested that offer. The bidding went back and forth a dozen times.

Finova is owed $24.3 million in unpaid loans by the former owner, Orlando-based Vistana WGV Ltd. Starwood Vacation Ownership Inc. of White Plains, NY, owns Vistana WGV.

Had Sarges won the bidding, he probably would have had to sell the property immediately to pay off the $24.3 million debt and clear the property’s title, area real estate lawyers familiar with the transaction tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

“Finova should have been able to acquire this asset with the usual minimum starting bid of $100,” the lawyer tells GlobeSt.com.

Finova holds a June 7 foreclosure judgment on the property from St. Johns County Circuit Court after suing Vitana WGV LTD on May 2. The resort is at Interstate 95 and International Golf Parkway, 25 miles south of Jacksonville in St. Johns County.

Starwood discontinued timeshare sales at the four-year-old property in August 2001 after disappointing customer traffic. The company was banking on a projected visitor count of one million per year at World Golf Village to generate timeshare unit sales. That number never materialized.

Starwood also had planned to grow the resort to 408 units in eight buildings. Prior to closing, average timeshare sale prices were about $10,000 for an annual week stay, buyers tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. Their ownership weeks will not be affected by the change in ownership at the resort.

Starwood officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to learn the number of sales completed at the Sheraton Vistana. Starwood Vacation Ownership Inc. is owned by White Plains, NY-based Starwod Hotel and Resorts Worldwide Inc.

Starwood Vacation Ownership bought Orlando-based Vistana Resort in October 1999. In July 2000, the Sheraton brand name was added to the Vistana name.

No units have been sold at the property since September 2001, Starwood officials say in published reports. Orlando lawyer Ed Foster represents Finova.

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