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Michael Milken

vulture

The Tuesday Slot: An American Perspective and Comparison.

I can’t speak for Americans, but I imagine EU timeshare members, and even lawyers are not aware of the impact vulture lending by hedge funds has on impoverished Puerto Ricans and timeshare members. Not familiar with the term, my research uncovered the term private equity used to be called in the 80s venture capital and a venture capitalist was called a vulture capitalist due to targeting extraordinary returns for their investors. Fast forward 20 years and “Vulture” Funding in Puerto Rico is being talked about in American Financial news.   

puerto rico

It took me a while to “connect the dots” as Irene says in her article. The majority of complaints Inside Timeshare received concern rising maintenance fees. Legacy owners are particularly affected. Legacy owners are timeshare owners who have not given up their deed to convert to the points based program.

Diamond Resorts does not build new properties. Their strategy is to buy existing properties. Members tell us they are told they have to give up their deeded weeks and convert to points. This is not true. Some contacting Inside Timeshare report maintenance fees doubling or tripling after their resort is acquired. While Diamond will insist to owners, such maintenance fees increases are necessary to bring the resort up to standards, investor conference calls told a different story, explaining that 15% is added onto every budget line item after acquisition, affording investors a guaranteed and immediate 15% profit.

The Finn Law Group questioned the increases in this lawsuit filed against Diamond owned Bali Condominiums.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170629005705/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Suit-Timeshare-Maintenance

Not everyone has a background in private equity like Justin Morgan, economics like Michael Nuwer or an MBA like Irene Parker. Justin and Michael expressed their concerns about private equity and what is necessary for investors to achieve a 30% or better return.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-australia-no-read-correctly/

While explosive returns are often achieved in starting up a company like Apple or Amazon, expecting 30% or better returns out of timeshare may require tactics like those expressed by our readers, claiming they are being crushed by high interest rate loans and higher interest rate credit cards.

Let us know if Irene’s connecting of the dots makes sense to you.  Now to Irene’s article.

What does Puerto Rico’s Debt and Timeshare Debt have in Common?

The payouts they seek are potentially enormous – running into the billions of dollars, with predatory rates of return – if other vulture debt plays are any guide. (Hedgeclippers)

Witch

Part I – Puerto Rico and Timeshare Debt

Is Apollo Global Management involved with both?

By Irene Parker

Part II Friday November 17  

The Effect of Debt and Inventory Evaluations on Timeshare

By Contributors Justin Morgan, Australia and Michael Nuwer, US

November 14

Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown, which aired November 6, described how Puerto Ricans are being crushed under the weight of debt orchestrated by hedge or “Vulture Funds”. Similarly, many timeshare members struggle with high interest rate timeshare loans and higher interest rate credit cards. It’s not surprising to find out hedge funds are involved with both Puerto Rico and timeshare debt.  

http://www.foodandwine.com/news/anthony-bourdain-parts-unknown-puerto-rico

FOX Business reporter Maria Bartiromo interviewed Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey April 2017.  The Milken Institute was prominently displayed during the interview. Connecting the dots, Michael Milken, formerly known as the “King of Junk” in the 80s because of his role in a junk bond scandal, worked at the brokerage firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. According to Wikipedia, Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Leon Black founded Apollo Global Management after DBL declared bankruptcy, having incurred $650 million in fines. Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo, is managed by an affiliate of affiliate of funds.

Apollo Global Management, LLC is an American private equity firm, founded in 1990 by former Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Leon Black. The firm specializes in leveraged buyout transactions and purchases of distressed securities involving corporate restructuring, special situations, and industry consolidations. (Wikipedia)

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-drexel-burnham-oral-history/

Debt and Michael Milken are as synonymous as debt and timeshare.

While Mr. Milken is known for his generosity, he is also known to have served 22 months in jail for securities fraud. Mr. Black emerged from the DBL bankruptcy unscathed, today worth $5.1 billion according to Hedgeclippers, $6.3 billion according to Forbes 2017 ranking (Hedgeclippers footnote link 85)   

Only Bloomberg subscribers can read the article linked below, but the headlines speak volumes.

Munis Meet Milken as Hedge Funds Dictate Puerto Rico Terms

Laura J. Keller

June 29, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT Updated on June 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

Puerto Rico is getting a thorough introduction to Michael Milken’s junk-bond world as it increasingly relies on some of the financial industry’s most aggressive players to solve its crippling financial troubles.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-29/munis-meet-milken-as-hedge-funds-dictate-puerto-rico-debt-terms

Vulture activity in Puerto Rico: Excerpts from Hedgeclippers

http://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-17-hedge-fund-billionaires-in-puerto-rico/

Hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have swooped into Puerto Rico during a fast-moving economic crisis to prey on the vulnerable island. Several groups of hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have bought up large chunks of Puerto Rican debt at discounts, pushed the island to borrow more, and are driving towards devastating austerity measures.

Known as “vulture funds,” these investors have followed a similar game plan in other debt crises, in countries such as Greece and Argentina.

argentina

The spoils they ultimately seek are not just bond payments, but structural reforms and privatization schemes that give them extraordinary wealth and power – at the expense of everyone else.

The payouts they seek are potentially enormous – running into the billions of dollars, with predatory rates of return – if other vulture debt plays are any guide.

Apollo Global Management, the third largest US-based private equity firm, has not yet been reported to be a member of the Ad Hoc Group looking to collectively pressure the Puerto Rican government, but press reports have indicated that Apollo, along with Fortress Investment Group and Aurelius Capital, are looking to take on a “more activist role” as the debt restructuring continues.

I think we can add timeshare to the list after Greece and Argentina given our reader responses and Diamond’s increased loan loss provision. Moody’s has placed Diamond on a downgrade watch after the company raised its loan loss provision to 18.4% March 31, 2017, from 12.9% the prior year.

The review for downgrade is a result of Diamond Resorts’ high leverage — Moody’s adjusted debt/EBITDA was about 7.0x for the last 12 month period ended March 31, 2017 — and increasing loan loss reserves which will make it difficult for the company to reduce leverage. Diamond Resorts, and other timeshare companies, has increased its loan loss reserve over the past year as a result of an increase in timeshare owner defaults, which to a large degree have been initiated by third party activities. Diamond Resorts’ loan loss provision increased to 18.4% of gross Vacation Interests sales at March 31, 2017, from 12.9% in the prior year. Should the loan loss reserve trend not improve, the company will have difficulty lowering its leverage below our trigger for a downgrade (below 6.5x).

https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-places-Diamond-Resorts-ratings-on-review-for-downgrade-including–PR_370606

Of note is the blame placed on third party activities, which includes fraudulent transfer companies and resale agents, some posting ads above our Inside Timeshare articles as soon as we publish. Ignored is deceit on the front end of the sale, despite numerous Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits too numerous to mention, as well as the severely limited or sometimes non-existent secondary market. Without a secondary market, a timeshare contract is worth nothing the moment the contract is signed and it is not uncommon for a timeshare to cost over $100,000.

Timeshare members struggling to meet loan and credit card payments can relate to those suffering in Puerto Rico. Inside Timeshare has heard from 192 of our readers of which 183 are from Diamond Resort members. The majority allege they were sold or upsold by deceit and bait and switch, locked into loans and credit card debt they can’t afford, owning a perpetual vacation product they can’t sell.

Holding timeshare members hostage is a short term profit plus for Apollo’s investors, but is squeezing money out of middle class families at 12% to 24% sustainable? Not one of our readers was aware of the difficulty selling points due to lack of buyers. Contract language doesn’t help because the contract states “you can sell your points” but the part about secondary market restrictions and lack of buyers is not included, at least not in the contract I signed. Timeshare companies will either take back points or foreclose, reselling the same points over and over, described as a hamster wheel by one former Diamond sales agent.

money man

They say history repeats itself, but I would have never imagined, as a former Drexel Burnham Lambert client, the subsequent Apollo firm would buy my vacation plan twenty years later. This, in addition to reading so many online complaints posted by timeshare members who seemed to have nowhere to turn, motivated me to join Charles Thomas and Inside Timeshare in an effort to provide factual timeshare information and to warn the general public to do due diligence before buying any timeshare. I felt there was a need to go a step beyond helpful Facebook posts to warn members away from fraudulent listing and transfer agents, steering them towards regulatory and law enforcement agencies, if they feel they were a victim of a bait and switch.    

On Friday Inside Timeshare Contributors Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer will explain in Part II their take on the role private equity plays in timeshare.

Inside Timeshare has already heard from Diamond members worried about special assessments after this season’s catastrophic hurricanes, especially St. Maarten. They fear a repeat of the Poipu water damage assessments that resulted in a class action lawsuit.

http://advantagevacation.com/the-point-at-poipu-angry-owners-file-lawsuit-against-diamond-resorts/

As timeshare members brace for 2018 maintenance fees, Inside Timeshare will be here to help those who have questions, given the perpetual contract that still exists in the US, along with member sponsored Advocacy Facebooks.

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/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

not alone

I don’t know about you the readers, but my head is spinning after this, finance and economics have never been my strong point, but it does look a little clearer now, so thank you Irene.

If you need any help or advice about any timeshare matter, or just about any company you may be thinking of doing business with or that has contacted you, Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

 

einstein-1

“An Anatomy of a Timeshare Foreclosure” A Reader’s Response

Following on from last Friday’s article where we highlighted the case of a Filipino families experience with timeshare, a reader emailed his response. Irene decided that it was worthy of its own article.

This Friday we will publish another in the series of articles by Irene, this one will focus on “Resales and Rentals”, this will be part III of the series The Three R’s of Timeshare.

A Reader’s Response to “An Anatomy of a Timeshare Foreclosure”

A reader’s response poses more questions than answers

Question man

By Irene Parker

April 19, 2017

One of our readers emailed comments and questions about Friday’s “An Anatomy of a Timeshare Foreclosure” article. As I attempted to answer his questions, I realized the complexity of his questions and comments are worthy of an article.

http://insidetimeshare.com/anatomy-timeshare-foreclosure/

I don’t understand the Monarch to Diamond transaction.  Is there an explanatory paper about the transaction?

The Monarch to DRI transaction is exactly like the ILX to DRI transaction. My husband and I were ILX owners. Monarch and ILX acquired owners are the most disgruntled because they received the greatest upheaval in maintenance fee increases. The Castle Law Group ran ads just because so many former ILX owners were in foreclosure.

“When Diamond Resorts International purchased Los Abrigados Resort and Spa in 2010, a pattern of rising maintenance fees began. Now, as thousands of owners have become delinquent, Diamond wants them to get current, or they will go into foreclosure.”

As reported at a Monarch annual meeting, “Of the 40,000 remaining Monarch owners, 33% have not paid their 2016 maintenance fees.”

The goal is simple and does not require reading ILX or Monarch to DRI acquisition documents. Sales agents are instructed to get the former deeded owners to give up their deed and convert to DRI points.

Deeded timeshare weeks are defined as real estate but points are “right to use” like a country club. No one says I am an owner at a country club. Points are much easier to “take back” as opposed to weeks which require an actual foreclosure process.

The murkiness started after Diamond acquired ILX. The article linked below is my mock interview with Scott Miller of Greenhaven Road Capital. ADW Capital and Front Four Capital are the two private equity firms that wrote a letter to Palmer encouraging the exploration of ways to “maximize shareholder value” because the Diamond stock price was in the doldrums. Former Diamond CEO David Palmer’s background is private equity. Mr. Palmer was urged to take the company private.

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-across-atlantic/

As you can tell from the tone in the article, there is no interest expressed in enhancing owner value. One of our Diamond Facebook administrators said that in listening to several Diamond conference calls with shareholders, not once did Palmer mention a benefit to owners. In fact, he boasted about how when Diamond buys a property, they “immediately add 15% onto every annual budget item and that is a 100% profit to shareholders.” Mr. Miller actually used the lack of a secondary market as a reason to buy the stock.

Shortly after acquisition Grand Beach Orlando owners received a notification stating “we will be raising maintenance fees 14.99%.” The increase is always due to the resort being in bankruptcy and therefore neglected. Odd expenses started popping up. I was sent a copy of an agreement stating, “Stephen Cloobeck is allowed 50 hours of annual use on the most expensive aircraft in the DRI fleet and the DRI flight crew for non-business use.” After the Apollo acquisition, DRI PR said DRI no longer owns or leases aircraft. This type of expense was not a normal ILX or Monarch expense. Palmer earned $19 million in two years and Cloobeck and other executives millions more.

Apollo Global Management acquired Diamond September 2016. Banker Leon Black formed Apollo after filing bankruptcy after the Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond fiasco. Michael Milken went to jail. Note Diamond’s rebuttal.

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

Many analysts reported on 11 quarters of consecutive growth but few financial analysts, with the exception of Pulitzer winner and New York Times financial journalist Gretchen Morganson, reported on this oddly coincidental 2Q earnings report explaining Diamond’s dismal 2Q downturn due to improper inventory valuations (that’s us) announced shortly after the $2.2 billion announcement. Earnings had to be restated back to 2014 and caused a significant drop in earnings.

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

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/business/accounting-error-may-not-derail-a-deal-but-ex-director-bails-early-anyway.html

There is mention of Monarch “equity” and Monarch “points”.  What is the connection?  

A fixed week deeded property can be listed with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association for no upfront fee. The broker gets paid after the sale. Even points for any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts can be listed with one of the 64 LTRBA members. The members feel Diamond points are worthless on the secondary market due to restrictions the company has in place on use of points purchased on the secondary market more onerous than other timeshare companies.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Buying Diamond points so that you don’t lose equity is nonsense because we all know DRI has no resale value unless you can find a buyer that doesn’t care about resale value. One of the LTRBA members I spoke with said even the market for Diamond’s deeded weeks is soft. You can always sell to friends or family but the members I talk to would never sell their DRI points to a friend or family member as they are so dissatisfied with the program and alarmed at the rise in maintenance fees. Again, acquired owners are the most exposed. There are many Diamond owners who use and enjoy their points. The problems arise if a member needs to sell. One owner from Wisconsin checking out of Diamond’s Los Abrigados Resort in Sedona said to me while packing his trunk, “I tell my kids if they act up I will name them as beneficiary to my Diamond points. I attend sales presentation to annoy the sales agent and hang out by the pool to warn others. The sales agents just roll their eyes and say, oh, he’s just an ILX guy.” He had stayed five months at Los Abrigados so in all likelihood was a Platinum member.

How can Diamond justify their salesmen explaining to Monarch owners, the complexities of the Monarch/Diamond transaction at a dinner or short meeting?  

I can answer that! The dinner or breakfast or 55 minute group session is followed by a three to seven hour (so far the reported record is seven) high pressure brutal and demeaning sales experience as I reported happened in this article. Diamond has introduced a new Clarity program that is intended to tone down the aggressive nature of the sales experience. Diamond is certainly not alone in the high pressure department. It was the sales presentation I wrote about in this article that led to my writing to Las Vegas Attorney Bob Massi, host of Business FOX Property Man. Our interview with Mr. Massi will be aired this Friday April 21on Business Fox at 8:30 PM EST.

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

Only a senior customer service person may know enough to explain.

We have a lot of high powered advocates that can explain better than a Diamond customer service representative as we know more than the longest tenured customer service person. They may not even own Diamond points.

Diamond should have produced a summary of the transaction that could be understood by the layman.  

Again, there’s no mystery. ILX and Monarch went bankrupt. Diamond bought them. Get the deeds and replace with ethereal points. Monarch owners found themselves not having access to resorts they had stayed at for years. Lawsuits resulted. This case led to the filing of a billion dollar class action in Nevada.

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/457692-diamond-resorts-class-action-says-elderly-targeted-abusive-sales-tactics/

Diamond would not do that because they are happy to confuse the Monarch owners and just want to sell Diamond points without truthfully explaining the consequences of doing that.

That is obvious if you read the first example in Friday’s article. I have used that example often as it is the most glaring but I have heard from about two dozen Monarch owners all reporting variations on the theme.  

The above are only a few of the aspects that I need to have explained to me before I can start to understand the issues.

The timeshare developer lobby ARDA has supported laws making it more difficult for owners to contact other owners. We can certainly see why. Laws are passed to protect our “privacy” but as we all know, we are bombarded with solicitations.

Thank you for these comments and observations. Our Advocacy group has been accused of “victimizing the uneducated”. Many are happy with their Diamond points, but those that get hit with one of life’s roadblocks, no longer able to afford the timeshare and up-sold for the wrong reasons, can face financial ruin when that day comes.

Other Apollo related articles by New York Times journalist Gretchen Morganson:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/09/business/wells-fargo-isnt-the-only-firm-that-needs-a-lesson.html?_r=0

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/business/keeping-investors-on-a-need-to-know-basis.html

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/

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

A2A

Contact Inside Timeshare or an Advocacy Group if you have questions or concerns about your timeshare.

Once again Inside Timeshare would like to thank our readers for all their comments and contributions, keep them coming. If you would like to share anything with the rest of the world contact either Inside Timeshare or the Advocacy facebook page, this is where you will find out what is going on in the world of timeshare.

If you require any information about any company that has contacted you or you are thinking of dealing with but need to know more, Inside Timeshare is here help. If we don’t know the answer we will find it .