BOCA RATON, FL-An affiliate of Blackstone Group signed a definitive merger agreement to acquire luxury resort owner and operator Boca Resorts Inc. for $24 per share. Including debt, the total transaction value is expected to be approximately $1.3 billion.

Late yesterday, Boca’s board of directors approved the merger agreement. Shareholders will vote at a special meeting; however, the company’s chairman and CEO H. Wayne Huizenga holds approximately 98% of the company’s vote and has agreed to vote his shares in favor of the transaction.

Locally based Boca Resorts reported an 81% increase in net income for its fourth quarter, which ended June 30. The company’s net income for the most recent quarter was $5.8 million, or 14 cents per diluted share, compared with $3.2 million, or 8 cents per diluted share for the same quarter last year. For its fiscal year, the company had $18 million in net income, or 44 cents per diluted share, compared with $8.8 million, or 22 cents per diluted share, for the 2003 fiscal year.

Boca Resorts owns the Boca Raton Resort & Club here; the Registry Resort at Pelican Bay, the Edgewater Beach Hotel and Naples Grande Golf Club in Naples; and the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Resort and Marina, the Radisson Bahia Mar Resort and Yachting Center, and Grande Oaks Golf Club in Fort Lauderdale.

“South Florida is one of the most important markets in this industry and to thousands of vacationers, business travelers and meeting planners our properties personify the South Florida experience,” Huizenga notes. “We look forward to continuing the company’s tradition of re-investing in its properties, as we did during our previous ownership of the Savoy Hotel Group in London,” adds Jonathan D. Gray, senior managing director at the New York City-based Blackstone Group.

This transaction comes just after another Blackstone acquisition. In mid October, the company completed a merger with Fairfield, NJ-based Prime Hospitality Corp valued at $790 million. Prime, which controlled the AmeriSuites, Wellesley Inns & Suites and Prime Hotels and Resorts brands, and had a number of properties under other brands, had a portfolio of 256 owned and franchised hotels totaling more than 33,600 rooms.

Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Allen & Co. LLC acted as financial advisors to Boca Resorts and Bear Stearns, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch advised Blackstone. Acquisition financing is being provided by Bank of America, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch. The acquisition is expected to be completed in late 2004 or early 2005.

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