Control of Crowne Plaza Universal tied up in legal battle

The legal battle for control over the Crowne Plaza Universal hotel has intensified due to lawsuits and international crime investigations.

Legal disputes over the hotel now include a request for a U.S. court-appointed receiver to take over, and an accusation that one of the shareholders solicited a prostitute on the hotel property.


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Miami businessman Zilbert Zanchet, a minority shareholder in the property, filed suit in Orange County Circuit Court on Sept. 4 to take control from the hotel's current administrator, Brazilian judicial appointee Francisco Bomfim.

Although open for business, the hotel ownership is caught up in the downfall of Brazilian businessman João Arcanjo Ribeiro, the majority shareholder, who was convicted of money laundering and plotting murder in Brazil. Bomfim was appointed in Brazil to oversee Ribeiro's businesses.

These issuse comprise only part of the battle being waged by shareholders. In 2013, lawyers for the hotel company filed suit to have Zanchet barred from the hotel property, citing Zanchet's arrest in 2010 on a charge of soliciting a prostitute at the hotel. That suit is still pending.

Zanchet was accused of offering to pay an undercover police officer at the hotel $50 for sex. His attorney, Eric Ludwig, said the solicitation charge was dismissed after Zanchet agreed to a diversion or counseling program. Bomfim removed Zanchet from the board of directors and hasn't allowed him to review financials, Ludwig said.

Zanchet's lawsuit alleges the hotel ownership company is in danger of having its assets "stripped and sent back to Brazil" due to Bomfim's control. Bomfim's attorney, Bradford Patrick at ELP Global, said Bomfim declines to comment on the suit.

According to Zanchet's lawsuit, Ribeiro took out up to $23 million in questionable loans in the name of the hotel company.