A Pitched Battle in Paradise at the Four Seasons Aviara
With its bluff-top setting overlooking a blue lagoon and the Pacific Ocean, the Four Seasons Resort Aviara was designed to project an aura of bliss. But as The New York Times skillfully reports, the Spanish Colonial–style resort north of San Diego has become the site of a pitched battle between its owners and the Four Seasons, which manages the property.
The owners claim the Four Seasons has financially mismanaged the Aviara at a time when the luxury travel industry is reeling. They've attempted to oust the company and replace it with a new operator. For its part, the Four Seasons defends its performance and says the owners are struggling because they shouldered too much debt. The fight, which has spilled over from arbitration into open court, has gotten so intense that the Four Seasons has hired security guards to prevent the owners from entering the offices that hold the Aviara's financial books.
Outlandish as that is, the dispute itself is by no means unique. Having invested enormously in their properties only to see business steeply decline in the economic crisis, The Times explains, many luxury-hotel owners are now pressed for cash. Hotel operators, however, are often loath to cut room rates or scale back on amenities for fear of diminishing their brands.