Michael Adler, a Woodland Hills developer who proposed to take over the Queen Mary and its adjacent acreage, has pulled out of the negotiations, which leaves the ship stranded in bankruptcy court. Could this be bad news for the Queen and its owner, the city of Long Beach?
Not many people in town have a clear fix on the Queen's legal entanglements, but the answer likely is no. There appear to be other suitors in line.
Joseph Prevratil, president and CEO of Queen's Seaport Development Inc., says he anticipated the falling out with Adler and already is talking with other, unnamed developers. He has just 10 days before the bankruptcy court's deadline to come up with a plan of his own, after which there will be open bidding.
The most interesting prospect appears to be investor Barney Ng, who surfaced immediately after Adler's withdrawal last week. Ng already is into the Queen Mary for $24 million, which is the amount he has loaned to Prevratil during recent years. Until now, it was assumed that he was on the sidelines, watching hopefully while Prevratil backed a $35 million proposal from Adler and a partner, music impresario David Arden (brother-in-law of rock star Ozzy Osbourne), as a way out of bankruptcy.
But now Ng says he is a player, and will have a proposal of his own within two weeks. He says that, unlike others, he is interested not just in the valuable acreage that goes with the package but in the ship itself. He told reporter Jason Gewirtz that other developers of the site look at the aging transatlantic liner as a liability, but that is exactly the wrong approach. It should be a centerpiece.
That's refreshing. If there's one thing this old ship doesn't need it is to be a deteriorating afterthought. The Queen either should be balled up for scrap or buffed up and presented as an attraction, not a leftover.
Making this happen won't be easy. Whether or not Prevratil can come up with a solution before the deadline, the bankruptcy court must decide whether he or City Hall is right in a dispute over unpaid rent credits that now add up to nearly $5 million. Then, what about Prevratil's nonprofit RMS foundation? He controls both the for-profit QSDI, which has the 66-year master lease, and the nonprofit foundation, which operates the ship. Those relationships must be untangled.
Could there be room for a skipper aboard the old ship in the new enterprise? Prevratil says he wants to retire, and anyway the once warm feelings between him and city officials have turned as cold as the North Atlantic.
There are some things even a bankruptcy judge can't fix.