Carrie Rengers

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Phil Ruffin buys Florida oceanfront property sight unseen, but it's no joke

06/25/2014 5:53 PM

06/25/2014 5:53 PM

UPDATED — There are a lot of jokes about waterfront property in Florida that someone would like to sell you sight unseen.

The oceanfront property that billionaire Phil Ruffin purchased in December – without even looking at it – is no joke on him, though.

"We went down there and looked at it at New Year's, and it's a beautiful piece of property," Ruffin says. "It's a luxury property."

The price may be even more attractive. Ruffin paid $6 million for 500 feet of oceanfront property on almost 12 acres in Vero Beach for which the previous owners paid $17.5 million.

"It was a bargain," Ruffin says. "Someone took an $11 million hit."

There used to be a Radisson hotel on the property, but it was torn down after a storm.

"Once that happens, you have to start over again," Ruffin says of rezoning for potential hotel use.

He's going to go through the rezoning, but Ruffin says he isn't sure what he'll do after that.

He might build a new hotel.

"Or we might flip it."

Ruffin, who owns Treasure Island in Las Vegas and the Wichita Marriott on Corporate Hills Drive, says he likes investing in land.

"I'd rather have land than money right now," he says. "Money's not worth a lot. It's very hard to invest our money and make anything off it right now. The interest rates are so low that money markets are not good, and stock markets are a little bit jumpy, so land is a pretty good investment right now in hot areas."

So, ah, what are those hot areas that perhaps the rest of us may invest in?

"Well, Florida's real good, and Vegas is getting better, and Wichita's not bad," Ruffin says.

"I like my little hometown. I'm not sure they like me, but I like them."

About Carrie Rengers

Carrie Rengers joined The Eagle's Business team in 2002 despite her inability to even balance a checkbook. Fortunately for her, and readers, her Have You Heard? blog is about business scoops and contains lots of news but almost no math.

A Michigan native, Carrie’s father was quite tragically transferred to Little Rock, Ark., in the middle of her sophomore year of high school. To make matters worse, her parents put her in a girls school. She recovered, though, and went on to enjoy being an English major at Hendrix College (the Harvard of the Ozarks, don’t you know). She worked for the weekly Arkansas Business and the statewide daily Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before moving to Wichita to be with her favorite writer and cook, husband Joe Stumpe.

Carrie encourages readers to contact her with tips, questions, behind-the-scenes business news and even funny quotes from business people. Reach her at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com

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