Originally published July 2, 2012 at 12:01
a.m., updated July 1, 2012 at 7:39 p
BORREGO SPRINGS —
La Casa del Zorro, for decades a plush luxury desert resort
in Borrego Springs that catered mostly to the wealthy, has
sat vacant and overgrown for the past 21/2 years.
It’s sad fate has mirrored the economy of Borrego Springs
But hopes are high in town that a sale could be in the
offing and that perhaps a desperately needed high-end resort
will once again reside in the valley.
In 2008, the Copley Press, which had owned the resort for
decades, sold the property to a developer for just $2.5
million. It was in the middle of David Copley’s great
sell-off at a time when his company unloaded about a dozen
newspapers culminating with the sale of The San Diego
Union-Tribune in 2009.
The new owner of the resort was Greg Pearlman, principal
of Sherman Oaks-based GH Capital, who in 2004 purchased the
Rams Hill Development south of the resort. He renovated La
Casa del Zorro, which he renamed Borrego Springs Ranch, to
the tune of about $7 million, not counting carry costs and
working capital, and used it as a place to entertain
potential buyers of lots at Rams Hill, which he had renamed
But 2008 was a bad year to be speculating in real estate.
When the economy tanked, so did Pearlman’s dreams.
Just 14 months after La Casa del Zorro’s purchase, the
resort closed in January 2010, putting about 70 people out
of work. It had been the second-largest employer in the tiny
In late 2010, rumors were that a buyer had been found.
But the sale fell through.
Recently, Maxim Hotel Brokerage of Newport Beach has been
retained as the exclusive agent and is listing the property
for sale for $3.3 million. Maxim has a long history of hotel
“This will sell one way or the other,” said Maxim’s Harry
Pflueger, who took eight potential clients on tours of the
property last week.
Under Copley’s management, Pflueger said, the resort lost
“I don’t think they ever operated it with the goal of
turning a profit,” Pflueger said. “But it garnered a
tremendous, enthusiastic following.”
If a buyer can be found, a buyer that experts say will
have to have deep pockets to make it a viable concern, its
importance can’t be overstated for the small desert
community that has only 3,000 year-round residents.
“It would be huge,” said Linda Haddock, the director of
the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t have 300
(hotel) rooms in the entire town, which makes it impossible
to get groups of any size to come here.”
The town also doesn’t have any high-end hotels. La Casa
was a four-diamond resort.
“Every single day people ask us if La Casa has reopened,”
she said. “It would be magical.”
Pflueger said most of the resort is still intact.
“The landscaping is overgrown, but in general the
property is in relatively good condition,” he said.
“Perlman kept some maintenance staff in place to maintain
the pools and to make sure systems are in working order. In
fact, some of the rooms were reportedly never rented after
the renovation, and most all of the inventory, furnishings
etc. are still in place. A new owner would be able to reopen
with attention to maintenance and minor repairs, and a good
Pflueger said La Casa could be purchased as a religious
retreat, a wellness center, a personal compound, and there
has even been discussion about a nudist resort.
“There are all sorts of ideas,” Pflueger said.
The 43-acre resort includes 63 rooms, including 44
deluxe, oversized guest rooms and 19 free-standing casitas,
each with its own pool, almost 6,000 square feet of enclosed
meeting/banquet facilities, a large fitness room, six tennis
courts, an Olympic-size lap pool, three other pools near the
guest rooms, a two-story renovated spa building with six
treatment rooms, a giant chessboard, shuffleboard and boccie
ball court, an archery range and a rock-climbing wall.