North County businessman David Weyrich surrendered key real estate holdings, including the Martin and Weyrich Winery that bears his name, to a lending firm Monday at a public auction after an unsuccessful attempt to find a buyer for the properties.
The properties now in possession of the Aegon lending firm were collateral for loans of more than $17 million. The real estate on the auction block included the Martin and Weyrich Winery, with more than 250 acres of vineyards; Villa Toscana, the luxury bed-and-breakfast inn nestled in the Martin and Weyrich vineyards in Paso Robles’ eastside; two tasting rooms; the York Mountain Winery and vineyards in Templeton; and the 280-acre Jack Ranch Vineyard in Edna Valley, according to notices of trustee sales filed with the county.
Since the late 1990s, Weyrich has invested millions of dollars into housing developments, a jet service, wineries and hotels in the county. But in the past two years, he steadily lost ground to his creditors.
Since November, Aegon, a insurance-financial company based in The Netherlands, had postponed the auction three times because Weyrich was working with a private buyer to buy out the company’s interest. But no buyers ultimately stepped forward with terms satisfactory enough to the lender, according to brokers and other lenders close to negotiations.
With this foreclosure come several lawsuits and lien holders with competing claims, including R.E. Loans of Lafayette, another lending firm that alleges it has a legitimate first claim on the deeds of trust on Jack Ranch Vineyard. After the claims are sorted out, one likely scenario will be for Aegon to sell off the properties individually, rather than as a group, in hopes of getting more value out of the properties that way, said Chris Bausch, a Realtor who represents some of the properties’ potential buyers.
“The story is not over yet, not by a long shot,” he said.
A couple dozen people in the crowd on the county courthouse steps Monday witnessed what one observer called “a very sad day in David Weyrich’s history.”
Weyrich was not present at the auction and has not returned numerous calls seeking comment.
Among those present were Hearst media empire head George Hearst of Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo developer Hamish Marshall. Neither man would say why he came except out of “curiosity.”
Others included wedding coordinator Mary Allegretta, the last of Villa Toscana’s employees; Paul Reichardt, the head of EDA Professionals, a planning firm; Orange County resident Rick Foster; and Paragon Vineyards Vice President Marianne Heinen.
Allegretta said she was there to learn what would become of the hotel where she had worked for the past six years and which officially closed its doors Friday.
“I have had no complaints about Mr. Weyrich; he’s been good to me,” Allegretta said. “But I guess I’m going to be out of a job for now.”
Reichardt is owed $22,000 for maps and other planning work he did for Weyrich on Jack Ranch Vineyard. He lost his claim to the debt with Monday’s foreclosure, he said.
Foster came from Costa Mesa because he’s interested in buying York Mountain Winery.
“It’s purely a romantic notion,” he said.
Foster’s father owned a well-known winery in Cupertino called Ridge Vineyards, and Foster has fond recollections of York Mountain when he was younger.
However, the winery would be a major investment, especially because it needs a lot of work, he said. Weyrich pulled out the vineyards about two years ago, and one of the homes on the property has been condemned because of damage caused by the San Simeon Earthquake.
Heinen was at the auction to represent Paragon’s continued rights in leasing Jack Ranch, she said. Paragon has been farming the vineyards and harvesting the grapes there for about six years. “We wanted to make sure our lease is honored,” Heinen said.
Not affected by the foreclosure are Weyrich’s housing subdivision in Paso Robles, Santa Ysabel Ranch, about 1,000 acres near Lake Nacimiento and The Carlton Hotel in Atascadero. Those properties are also indebted to lender R.E. Loans and are in default, but that company is still deciding what steps it will take regarding those properties, and it has not yet elected to start foreclosure proceedings, according to former R.E. Loans principal Barney Ng.