Browse Tag

Fox News

letter from australia

Friday’s Letter from Australia (No, you have read that correctly)

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from (America) now Australia, this is just to confuse our American cousins, the reason is that we welcome our first Antipodean cousin to our pages. Justin Morgan, makes his debut with his first contribution to Inside Timeshare. It is ironic that it happens to be on the first anniversary of Irene Parker’s very first article, which was about the acquisition by Apollo of Diamond.

Since her first article, Irene has been a major contributor and very much a driving force in bringing the problems of owners in the US to the fore. She has also become a very valued friend not just to myself but to all those she met while visiting Gran Canaria.

But enough of that, how about some news of timeshare in Europe?

Diamond Resorts has had a battering in the courts in Tenerife, Canarian Legal Alliance has secured a victory for one of their clients with the High Court declaring their contract null & void, with the return of over 29,000€ plus legal interest. In this case the court stated that the contract did not contain specified information required by law, with the product being the points system which the Supreme Court has deemed illegal due to their lack of tangibility.

This is the fourth verdict delivered against Diamond by the Tenerife courts this year, which our sources indicate is just the tip of the iceberg!

justice2

Anfi, based in Gran Canaria is on the defensive, it would seem they are already sending out new contracts after the vote last Friday 23 June, which coincided with another defeat at the High Court in Las Palmas. In that case the court declared the contract null & void as it was for more than 50 years.

As this is being written, the news has just arrived from our contact at the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, that another contract has been declared null & void, with the client being awarded over 35,000€ plus legal interest.

At the same court yesterday Palm Oasis / Tasolan, were ordered to repay over 31,000€ and declaring the contract null & void. In this case the court ruled against the points system, which it deemed as selling nothing but promises.

On the Tauro Beach project, which has been the subject of many articles, it seems that the beach is still closed to the public, although many people are ignoring the fences and entering the area. There still seems to be no indication when this area will be fully open to the public, it may not be for sometime yet as there are several court cases pending.

So now on to this weeks article.

Who is Apollo? What is Apollo?

Two Diamond Member Consumer Advocates offer their opinion

Up Down

By Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan

Introduction by Irene Parker

June 30, 2017

In honor of my one year anniversary writing for Inside Timeshare, it is only fitting to revisit Apollo Global Management’s acquisition of Diamond Resorts as Apollo’s Diamond acquisition was the subject of my inaugural article June 30, 2016.

http://insidetimeshare.com/700-2/

I had been shouting my timeshare concerns from the rooftops since my husband I attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation July 2015 at Diamond’s Grand Beach Resort, which ultimately led to our appearance on the FOX News show Property Man, interviewed by Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi.

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

The first I heard from Diamond was a year later in reaction to my Apollo article written for Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money’s investment news service, TheStreet. Diamond contacted TheStreet demanding a rebuttal. Diamond members are still waiting for Transitions, a relinquishment program that must still be in development.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html

Diamond boasted 11 quarters of robust earnings growth until shortly after the Apollo acquisition announcement. A delayed 2016 second quarter earnings report was attributed to accounting irregularities.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/13702895/1/diamond-resorts-international-s-second-quarter-earnings-reversal-is-worrisome.html

According to a May 2017 KROLL Bond Report, Diamond’s default rates remain elevated.

The collateral pool of DROT 2014 – 1 has experienced elevated levels of defaults, which similar to certain other vacation ownership companies in the industry, Diamond Resorts attributes to an increase in the number of borrowers who have been solicited by lawyers to get out of their timeshare and/or have sent Diamond Resorts “cease and desist” letters.  

https://www.krollbondratings.com/announcements/3705

A National Mortgage News article appeared indicating the interest rate on the Apollo acquisition was raised due in part to the earnings restatement. Earnings had to be restated back to 2014 resulting in an earnings decline from the prior earnings report. Since the merger was announced as an all cash $2.2 billion deal, I did not understand the comment about the raised interest rate.

advocate 1

We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Timeshare Advocate Michael Nuwer explains. I now understand what it meant when Diamond owners were informed Diamond is owned “by an affiliate of an affiliate of funds.” It’s pretty high finance.

Apollo Global’s acquisition of Diamond Resorts was organized as a “leveraged buyout”.  Here’s how the deal worked:

Apollo created a shell company called Dakota Parent. Four of Apollo’s investment funds own this company. Dakota Parent created a wholly owned subsidiary called Dakota Sub. Dakota Sub borrowed $2.2 billion dollars (a big chunk of it, $1.1 billion, from the four Apollo funds) and bought 100% of the DRI shares — 72.7 million shares at $30.25 each. Then DRI merged into Dakota Sub, changed the company name to Diamond Resorts International, and thereby took on all Dakota Sub’s debt. This is the way leveraged buyouts typically work. Former Diamond CEO Cloobeck used the same structure when he bought Sunterra in 2007.

Now that all is said and done, DRI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dakota Parent. The equity in Dakota Parent is owned by the four Apollo funds. Diamond has $2.2 billion debt on which it must make interest payments. The primary lenders are the four Apollo funds. They are in for $1.1 billion, $500,000,000 at 7.75% and $600,000,000 at 10.75%. The secondary lenders are in for $800 million, and another $200 million is secured by some DRI assets (I think they are consumer loans).

There are two ways Apollo makes money on this deal assuming all goes well. First, the four Apollo investment funds receive interest income out of DRI’s cash flow. They are guaranteed $103,250,000 per year. High profits or low profits, it doesn’t matter, Apollo gets paid. Further, the Apollo investment funds own a claim to all the equity growth of the company (that is all value over $2.2 billion). Thus, if they can sell the 72.7 million shares for $45 each, not an unreasonable number if all goes well, Apollo’s capital gain will be about $1 billion.

Aussie Flag

From Justin Morgan Australia

As a tax accountant, finance planner, part time private equity guy, I completely agree that the Apollo deal will only end in debt being laid upon Diamond members, for the benefit of those who arranged the details of a LBO merger that, when combined with the liabilities of the timeshare structure that utilized Association Board powers and targets them, it becomes a lethal mix that allows financial dealers to write their own checks bigger each year. It seems there is no end to how high they could simply raise their own salaries, pay-outs and ‘returns’ towards simply legally expecting members to pay their share of these increased contributions.

In the economy, we have certain protections such as Trade Practices Acts, Fair Trading Laws, financial regulation, monopoly laws…All this is designed to prevent abuse of market power. In my opinion, I would characterize this Diamond set-up as worse, because there is NO market that is anything other than what DRI, and the timeshare industry in general, allows. It is engaging in practices specifically designed to restrict the market to only it and its approved associates.

I feel this exploits consumers at near will, and I wonder where Apollo will set their ceiling …Looking at how the deal was structured, they see huge opportunity to lend to a membership base locked up in dubious legalities and unfair contracts. All this would not be legal in Australia. I’m amazed at how it turns out to be in the US. And I write this from Mexico, where it is well known what happens when dangerous cartels form and throw their money around here.

Circumstantial evidence is that the proof is in the pudding, but proving it in the US, where the banks and private equity already got away with much…well, I can only hope that the powers that be realize that it won’t get better if they keep allowing the average consumer and householder to be abused by what is, in my opinion, predatory sales and lending.

If the new DRI were to strip assets, it’d be left holding the large liabilities, but that is usually the reason why they then go back to legacy members warning of bankruptcy if they do not buy more points. It looks like the new DRI is just financially ‘creating’ this balance sheet to look exactly how it should look to siphon off more money from members. They already have their interest windfall. Next would be the stripping, and finally, the call for more contributions to boost management revenue…all this whilst the members are forced into more debt.

This is a strategic type play from the banking world, but DRI and private equity were some of the quickest learners out of the Great Financial Crisis. Many learnt how the banks do it. Private equity rushing into timeshare is the new rush to create financial instruments that creates only ‘liability’ for the timeshare owner. The financial guys profit from the creation of liability, which is their ‘debt-holding’. In a near zero interest rate environment, Apollo is looking to create the debt, then shift it across to the membership…effectively, they’ve already done it. Now they must get their $1.1bn back, and the result is just pure profit for the financial players. This could turn out to be a textbook case of why this must be stopped immediately. It will possibly play out over years.  Bravo Irene for taking a stand. I will support your efforts however I can. You’ve struck here what I believe is the actual core of the New Timeshare. The Old Timeshare was less sophisticated, but for those of us who know that private equity in this industry is licking its lips over several recent acquisitions, the old caveat of “buyers beware” may even be too late.

Teacher

Thank you to Michael and Justin for their reader responses which are possibly the most sophisticated reader responses in the history of Inside Timeshare. More and more timeshare Advocates are coming forward bringing their expertise and experience to the timeshare table.

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebooks or websites if you need timeshare assistance or can become an Advocate.   

So there we have it, another week over in the murky world of timeshare, Inside Timeshare thanks Irene for her efforts in bringing so many people together to share their views and experiences.

To our latest addition to the Inside Timeshare family, a very hearty welcome and we hope to hear more from those in the “Land Down Under”, who we do tend to forget share the same experiences as us in Europe and the US.

It’s Friday, the weekend is here, so break out the BBQ’s and let’s PARTY!!!!!!!!

barbie

week review

The Friday Post: A Look at the Past Week.

It’s Friday, the end of another week in the murky world of timeshare, and what a week it’s been.

The RDO and TATOC announce that Silverpoint has withdrawn their membership from these two organisations, with Silverpoint announcing they will no longer be selling timeshare. One can only speculate as to the reasons behind this, but it does look like they may just be looking to develop another product which circumvents the timeshare laws. Rumour has it, this may be a “leisure credits” type of product.

There is also a lot of speculation as to a probable name change to the company, again this might just be to deflect any further litigation. After all Silverpoint did try and argue that they were not Resort Properties at one point, but the courts threw this out stating they are one and the same entity.

Inside Timeshare also announced in a previous article the sell off at Beverly Hills Heights, with owners being moved to other apartments or to Hollywood Mirage. We saw this at Beverly Hills Club a couple of years ago when this resort was sold off. It is now used as a hotel. Palm Beach Club owners also had the same thing happen, when the top 3 floors were sold. Again they were moved to other apartments or resorts.

Silverpoint’s woes do not just stop there. This week alone, the Canarian law firm, Canarian Legal Alliance announced 6, yes 6 court judgements against Silverpoint. All of these were delivered by the Court of First Instance in Arona, they all followed the 50+ Supreme Court rulings.

All the contracts were declared “Null & Void” with over £120,000 awarded to the clients, including legal interest and legal fees. This is quite a staggering amount to have to pay out in just one week, with many many more in the pipeline. It makes you wonder how long Silverpoint can hold out with these figures being awarded against them by the courts. So they may just need to come up with a new product pretty damn quick!

Again this week we have had new information passed to us about the Litigious Abogados family, these “law firms” are hitting many timeshare owners with false promises of cases against their timeshare resorts / companies being lodged at court. One which we highlighted this week was a gentleman who had a narrow escape, luckily he found previous articles and never paid them.

The new “firm” Abel Garcia Abogados, told him his case had been lodged with the court in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on 4 March, the case was due to be heard on 25 April. Under 2 months to get the case heard, this is astronomical, even CLA take around 2 years and they are the most experienced in this field.

The only problem is he did not own anything, the “club” he purchased and the marketing company selling it, were dissolved many years ago so no longer exist. They were also UK based and the sales were conducted in the UK, so how could a Spanish court have jurisdiction?

These “law firms” have a very sophisticated operation, all the documents look genuine to those who do not ever see the real thing. The story is also very plausible, then coupled with the high amounts being “awarded” by the court, along with copies of the cheque waiting to be sent to the lucky client, it is easy to see how people can be taken in.

Irene Parker, our US colleague, has also been busy, getting ready for her “starring role” in the Fox News programme Property Man with Bob Massi. Today’s article from the US is an update on Timeshare Advocacy Groups.

This is becoming a very big project, attracting more and more owners to the various facebook groups, it is also stimulating a lot of dialogue with the industry. Could it be the industry is now starting to realise that without you the owners / members, there would be no industry?

Well thats enough of that, on with Irene’s Friday piece.

Update on Timeshare Advocacy Groups

cartoon

Irene Parker

April 6, 2017

Our consumer advocates have heard an earful, so we are encouraging those who feel they have been victims of deception or fraud, review ARDA’s code of ethics and email ARDA ROC to express your concerns.

The biggest complaint our Advocacy Group members have expressed is lack of a secondary market.  ARDA ROC needs to know when there is no secondary market for a timeshare, at least not through any of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

If you are looking for information on selling your timeshare, please note that ARDA-ROC is not a resale organization, however we can point you in the right direction. Visit

http://www.ardaroc.org/tips-to-exit-your-timeshare.aspx

for more information on the timeshare resale process as well as a link to resale companies who are members of ARDA.

Ethics Code of the American Resort Development Association adopted by the Board of Directors April 7, 2014

  1. Conduct.  All  Member Activities with customers, clients, other Members, business or community partners, regulators, legislators or government agencies shall be honest, legal, ethical, and in accord with standards of fair business dealings, professionalism, integrity, dignity and propriety. Members shall not denigrate the Vacation Property business, but instead shall use their good faith efforts to promote the Vacation Property business.

woman phone

Timeshare narrative can get confusing fast, especially when there are multiple contracts that span several years. To make it easier for the resort and for our members, here is a blueprint members can follow.

How to File a Complaint

Name

Phone Number

State of Residence

Number of points currently owned

Current Maintenance Fees

Original Loan Amount and stated interest rate

Current Balance

Resort where purchased and sales agent’s name

If you are claiming deception or fraud, list how you feel you were deceived.

Deception 1

Deception 2, Etc.

What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment? If your investment is $20,000 or less and you owned your timeshare for ten years or more consider relinquishment.

Are you sure you know how to use points and the program correctly?

Why do you want relinquishment?

Is it due to Deception, Health, or Financial Burden?

Availability – There are many who are happy with availability but there are those who have been oversold on availability. For example, we were told to buy more points because NYC properties were being added. Because these are affiliated properties, like in San Francisco as well, they are never discounted and never have 59 days or fewer rates. On average, year round, it costs $5000 to $10000 in maintenance fee equivalent dollars what could be booked online in New York for $2500 to $3500 for a week. Great Wolfe Lodge is similar.

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

Remove numbers from your testimony. It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint.

ALWAYS include the name of the sales agent (s). Refer to your contract if you don’t know.  Provide the sales agent’s ID number if you can.

How Advocacy Works

Email your sworn testimony. Raise your right hand. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Start writing.

Send to intake volunteer who will review, edit and return to you.

Position open: Volunteer report writer. No experience necessary.

An email will be sent to the resort, public relations and you.

Owner or member takes it from there unless there are questions or concerns along the way. Owner or member will report back with positive or negative outcome. Due to the mutual release, terms and conditions will not be discussed. If negative, complaints to be filed with:

Attorneys General where you signed, where you live and Nevada.

Our Advocacy Group

We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

It’s a lot of work but it is the only way to change business practices is through an organized lobby effort targeting legislators and regulatory agencies that may be sympathetic to owners or members, and media outreach targeting the general public.

What to expect from regulatory agencies:

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

Send us your comments or articles! New voices are needed.

need you

So there we have it, the end to another week, but as we say, timeshare never sleeps more news will break over the weekend so watch this space for next week’s articles.

Have a good weekend and enjoy yourselves.

weekend cat

thoughts

My Thoughts Today: End of September

The end of another month is upon us, it started with the announcement of a new company and website based in Scotland called Timeshare Solutions Group. This company was registered only in June, with the website registered in February, there was very little information as to who they are or which law firms they were working with. The service they provide is timeshare claims and disposal, citing the Spanish Supreme Court rulings which have made some contracts illegal. It is still not clear if they are linked to the Tenerife based Solutions Group, which have been around for several years.

 

Another story to hit the news this month once again involved the Anfi Group, it was announced the Lyng family had sold their 50% share of Anfi to the construction and hotel group Lopesan IFA. It was reported that Lopesan paid 41.3 million euros, which does seem to be a bit of a bargain. There again, with the woes that Anfi are going through, is it surprising? There is the investigation into irregularities in licences and permissions granted for the Tauro Beach project, which is being conducted by SEPRONA, a branch of the Guardia Civil. Then we have all the Supreme Court rulings which are costing Anfi a fortune in claims. These stories are not over yet and we wait for more to be revealed.

seprona

 

 

 

 

 

 

September has also been very much an American month, with articles by Irene Parker being published. These articles show what is happening across the great lake (or the pond as our American cousins call it), starting with the Letter from America: News From Across the Great Lake. In this article Irene sent an open letter to Stephen J Cloobeck of Diamond, it was her response to his letter to members on the Apollo acquisition.

 

This was then followed by the article on resale and transfer, it included an article from Tom Tubbs, who is on the advisory board of the National Timeshare Owners Association. It highlighted a subject which timeshare owners in Europe have also experienced, that of rogue resale and transfer companies. It also explained how this operates in the US, with a new company called Timeshare Transfer Registry, they keep a check on who and what companies the timeshares are being transferred to. But as he says the “scam” still goes on.

 

In More News From Across the Pond, we published a piece highlighting the Fox News programme The Property Man: Bob Massi. He is a Las Vegas attorney with a reputation as a determined advocate of consumer rights. This was followed by an article with an update to the real estate regulations in the US.

property-man

 

 

 

 

Then there was the visit of Irene Parker and her Husband, Inside Timeshare had the pleasure of playing host to their visit. For Irene it was her first time on the island and was very much a fact finding mission for her future articles. We spent much time comparing notes and learning from each other the problems that many owners have on both side of the Atlantic.

 

During her visit, Irene met the lawyers and staff of Canarian Legal Alliance, which she has followed from the US. While meeting with one of the lawyers Cristina Batista, she was able to get the history of the Supreme Court Rulings and how it is affecting timeshare in Spain. From there she then met with the staff at the admin office who look after the clients. As she said to Inside Timeshare it was an eye opener, stating that on her return she would share what she had learnt with other colleagues battling to help owners.

2016-09-23-15-57-03

It was was not all work, and we all enjoyed several evenings with good food and company. Her last day was a trip to El Faro de Maspalomas, for a little shopping and to see for herself the Lopesan hotels. This ended with a superb lunch at a beach side restaurant. We will be publishing her articles as they appear.

 

Other articles published this month included a warning of a text message to Diamond owners. This informed them of the Supreme Court rulings, but it is not clear where they originate from, the telephone number is an untraceable “burnt” phone, linked to a facebook page with no details.

 

There was also more news from the Supreme Court with an incredible sum being awarded to one UK client. In this judgement the court stated that fractional ownership did indeed come under the timeshare regulations, it awarded £235,542 against Puerto Calma Holiday Club Finland. More announcements followed with a ruling against Palm Oasis Tasolan SL and a ruling against Silverpoint in Tenerife.

 

After an enquiry about the RDO, we published the article The RDO: Does it Protect Consumers? This article laid out what the RDO is and who it actually serves, it is a subject that has been covered in previous articles. But it is always good to republish, especially in the light of recent events.

 

So that is September, we wait with baited breath for the events to unfold during October. With all that is going on it should be an interesting month.

 

If you require any information about any article published, contact Inside Timeshare and we will find you the answer. Have a good October.

property-man

More News From Across The Pond: Bob Massi The Property Man

Following on from some of the articles highlighting the problems timeshare owners have in the United States, Irene Parker sent Inside Timeshare the following link:

 

http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2016/06/09/tired-your-timeshare-heres-how-to-unload-it-without-losing-money/

 

Bob Massi is a Las Vegas attorney known as The Property Man hosting a show aired by Fox News, who is a very determined advocate of the rights of consumers. In one case Irene points out a couple he helped resolve the issue of their bankruptcy, it took them five years to attempt to buy a house, then they found that the bank had not foreclosed in the first place.

 

He has also highlighted the problems in the timeshare world and as you can see from the video, gives the consumer some sound advice. He points out that unlike real estate, timeshare does not appreciate in value, that many owners if they are able to sell, only recoup a fraction of their original investment.

fox-news

So this is not just a problem we have in Europe, it affects timeshare owners in the US. In his article, he points out how to sell the timeshare or how to just get out, in the interviews with licenced resale brokers they explain how to safeguard yourself from the “scam artists” that promise the earth and deliver nothing. He also explains how one particular scam works, this is where you have listed your timeshare for sale on a marketing website, the next thing you know, a bogus company is in contact with you saying they have a buyer. (Think of the corporate buyer pitch or even the Russian market one, we have many buyers waiting!). Now in order to conclude this “deal” a closing fee is required upfront, guess what? You never hear from them again.

 

According to the video, timeshare is in the top 10 of scams in the US, this is probably the same for Europe. He also interviews the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, in this she states they worked with the timeshare industry to enact laws to curb this abuse. She points out that since the laws were put into place they have closed down numerous firms, around 41, in many cases they have also secured convictions.

 

In the US, as we have highlighted before timeshare is regulated by real estate laws, sales staff must be licensed, if not they can’t sell the product. For those in Europe who own timeshares across the pond, the problem of how to get out is even more difficult, mainly because of the differing state laws and the distance involved. There are some companies in Europe who can help to get out of the timeshare, but if you are looking to sell, this article will help. You could also contact The Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association, (see link at bottom of the page), it consists of 64 members and works completely within the legal framework, all members must adhere to regulations and the codes of conduct set out by the association. But remember, as stated in the video many timeshares sell for only 10% of the original purchase price, contrary to what you were told at the initial presentation.

ltrba

Irene and her husband have also recorded an interview with Bob Massi, it is hoped that this will be broadcast in the Autumn (fall in American), when it is we will publish the links here. We also look forward to more articles in The Street by Irene, including one she is working on now.

The following link is an article about Bob Massi, it gives a very good insight into the man himself, the type of work he engages in and what it means to him, Hope you enjoy it.

 

http://www.reviewjournal.com/business/longtime-lawyer-sees-himself-advocate-underdogs

 

If you require any further information about this article, or any timeshare matter, contact Inside Timeshare. If we don´t know the answer we will find out for you.