Room Mate asks for bankruptcy to admit a new investor | Economy

The hotel chain Room Mate has applied this Friday for a voluntary creditor contest that entails the entry into the company of a new investor. This, according to a note sent to the media, “raises the continuity of the business and the maintenance of jobs.” The procedure, the statement specifies, exclusively affects Room Mate SA, the hotel branch of the business of businessman Kike Sarasola, who also manages tourist apartments through BeMate.

Room Mate is majority controlled by Sarasola, with more than 60% of the shares, and its second largest shareholder is Sandra Ortega, daughter of the founders of Zara and owner of 5% of the shares of the Inditex textile empire. Ortega’s participation in the hotel chain comes from the times when her mother, Rosalía Mera, decided to invest. Then she would maintain and even increase that stake, which is currently around 30%. However, the relationship between both shareholders has become very uneasy in recent times. In fact, last month Ortega requested the eviction of Room Mate as a tenant of two hotels that are buildings owned by him in the US: one in New York and the other in Miami. The businesswoman alleged that the chain, which has accumulated several years in losses, owed her income from the year of the pandemic.

Although that action has not yet been carried out and Room Mate continues to operate in both establishments, according to sources from the hotel firm, the truth is that it considers the situation to be unsustainable. The chain “has been hit hard by the serious pandemic and by the legal disputes that the shareholder Sandra Ortega maintains with the financing banks of Room Mate,” alleges the company to justify the request for insolvency proceedings. “Although the company is in the process of regularizing payment with most of its suppliers and is on the right path to recovery, the bankruptcy process is the most appropriate formula for its future viability,” she adds.

With the bankruptcy, it would be a bankruptcy administrator, with judicial protection, who should decide if the investor’s offer that they present is adequate to save the company or other steps should be taken. Its liquidation could also be decided, although that is precisely what is being tried to avoid and in Room Mate they are convinced of its viability. “The activity of the hotel chain will continue to develop as normal, so that the peace of mind of customers, suppliers and workers is assured,” says the company in its statement.

Ortega’s dispute with Room Mate is intertwined with the one he maintains with José Leyte, who was the administrator of Rosp Corunna (the Galician businesswoman’s patrimonial firm) for many years. The daughter of Amancio Ortega fired Leyte witheringly for loss of trust, in a conflict that ended up in court. In the process, it emerged that Room Mate had requested loans from several banks and put some letters as collateral (comfort letters) for which the operation was backed by its second shareholder with his personal assets. Ortega maintains that his administrator offered those letters to the hotel chain without his consent and without his knowledge, something that a sentence recently questioned. The process caused the creditor banks of Room Mate to try to recover the debts claiming the businesswoman, who has tried to leave the company.

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