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Retirement center sold in auction

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:38 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

A local retirement center has been sold in an effort by its owner to get out of bankruptcy.

The National Benevolent Association of the Christian Church, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that filed for bankruptcy Feb. 16, sold the Lenoir Retirement Community and 10 other senior-living facilities to Fortress Investment Group for $210 million Friday at a New York auction. Judge Ronald King of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the West District of Texas in San Antonio must still approve the takeover on Nov. 30.

Cathy Ferguson, chief executive officer of Lenoir, is confident the transition will be a smooth one.

“Our residents have been kept informed throughout the process,” she said. “The company with the winning bid is a company with a lot of expertise in senior-living communities, and we expect them to continue to provide quality services for our residents.”

Fortress is a multinational investment firm based in New York with $10 billion in assets.

In 2003, Fortress entered a deal with Emeritus Corp., an assisted-living provider in Seattle, to purchase Aterra Healthcare Corp. out of bankruptcy. It also has ownership in Brookdale Living Communities, a Chicago-based company with 62 senior-living facilities across the country.

Exactly what the investment company plans to do with Lenoir remains uncertain, but an asset-purchase agreement tentatively outlines the terms of the current residents occupancy. Established in 1949, Lenoir has 350 residents and 200 employees.

“At this time, there is nothing we can say about Fortress’ acquisition of the (National Benevolent Association) properties,” said Megan Norris, communication specialist with Brookdale Living Communities.

Fortress also refused to talk about the future of Lenoir.

“We do not comment to the press on our private investments,” said Allison Thrush, a spokeswomen for company.

The association’s filing bankruptcy also brings into question the fate of another Columbia subsidiary, Woodhaven Learning Center. In 1994, the center moved most of its residents off campus.

Calls to Woodhaven and the National Benevolent Association were not returned.


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