Julian Gerner offloads Sorrento’s Continental Hotel for c$21 million: sources

Sorrento’s Continental Hotel is selling for about $21 million, according to industry sources.

The historic site – currently a construction zone after an $80 million refurbishment and extension was suspended before Easter – is trading to a developer “with more than three decades of experience”.

The deal marks the end of one big headache for the vendor, restaurateur, Julian Gerner.

After picking up the c1875 property in 2015 for about $12 million from owner occupiers, the Di Pietro family, Mr Gerner never reopened it.

Instead he acquired a neighbouring car park from council for $1.98 million and pushed through a development proposal to replace the amalgamated 4482 square metre holding with retail and hospitality space.

A 100-suite hotel was also part of the redevelopment (artist’s impression, below).

Artist’s impression of the redeveloped Sorrento site.

In 2017, Mr Gerner listed The Continental as a permit-ready site, with a price guide of about $20 million.

As well as a straight sale, that campaign sought a joint venture partner, which is when Melbourne-based developer Steller stepped in.

Earlier this year, construction on several Steller sites stalled following that builder’s funding woes.

Steller was put into receivership in June with several of its development sites offered for public sale this quarter.

We reported, exclusively, that The Continental was being touted for sale four months ago.

Computershare co-founder Chris Morris.

Sources first tipped realetatesource.com.au off about a c$21 million deal several weeks ago – with rumours Computershare co-founder Chris Morris, as part of a consortium, was the incoming buyer.

Mr Morris recently invested $7 million refurbishing the Portsea Hotel, near Sorrento – a property he sold with a leaseback in 2016. In July, we reported he sold a $12 million Middle Park mansion listed for sale last year.

Billionaire businessman Lindsay Fox, who we reported in June bought two Sorrento development sites late last year, was also speculated as a suitor for The Continental.

But the pub’s marketing agents, Colliers International’s Guy Wells and Trent Hobart, continued to deny a deal when contacted.

Lindsay Fox acquired a nearby Sorrento development site late last year

This week, the agents confirmed one is taking place.

“Throughout the sales campaign, we received strong interest from a wide variety of owner operators, developers and investors, with the successful purchaser a local private developer who plans to recommence works on the existing redevelopment as soon as possible,” Mr Wells said.

Incoming owner “perfectly placed to pick up where construction left off”

Mr Gerner said the incoming owner has more than three decades of experience in development and is “perfectly placed to pick up where construction left off”.

“Whilst the purchaser wishes to remain private and details of the sale are confidential, the new owners have committed to deliver the vision as promised.

“I continue to work closely with Mornington Peninsula Shire, Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Architect to ensure all obligations are met and the site is maintained appropriately during the settlement period,” the Sorrento based businessman said.

Mr Wells added that the purchaser “will engage with stakeholders and ensure the development is in line with heritage and existing planning guidelines.”

“The sale is a significant win for both the much-loved Continental Hotel and the wider community, as the purchaser has committed capital and the ability to bring this iconic asset back to life through an extensive redevelopment”.

It is speculated more than 10 parties were initially interested in the site, though it is unclear how many made offers by the expressions of interest close date, July 26.

We will update this story as more information comes to hand.

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of realestatesource.com.au.