Carrie Rengers

Why Phil Ruffin almost didn’t bid on the Hyatt

Future Hyatt Regency Wichita owner Phil Ruffin won’t one day lament not spending enough time at the office.
Future Hyatt Regency Wichita owner Phil Ruffin won’t one day lament not spending enough time at the office. Eagle file photo

There’s only one way Phil Ruffin likes to run a business, and that’s to make money.

That’s why he seriously considered not making a bid for the Hyatt Regency Wichita – a $20 million bid that the Wichita City Council unanimously approved on Tuesday.

Ruffin says the Hyatt makes only $250,000 a year.

“That was the difficulty in the whole situation,” he says.

When the city got into the hotel business 15 years ago, Ruffin says, the politicians who approved the deal “were not very good business people.”

“They did not make a very good management contract,” he says. “They didn’t require (hotel managers) to make any money, so they didn’t.”

Ruffin says, though, that “it’s such a great asset, and the city needs it.”

Not that altruism motivated him.

“It will be a great asset in the future for the family.”

Ruffin says “in the future,” because once his purchase closes, he’ll have a management contract with the Hyatt.

“We have to live with it until the year 2026. Then we can do what we want to do.”

In the meantime, he says, “We’ll give them what input we can.”

There’s a chance he could buy out the contract.

“We may do that if possible,” Ruffin says. “Depending on the price they want. Who knows what they would want.”

He says, “We paid so much, it’s not likely we’ll invest in trying to buy the contract out.”

Ruffin may invest more in the property, though.

“If there’s something we can do to enhance the Hyatt, we damn sure will.”

Ruffin says he offered what he thought would be a fair price for the Hyatt.

“We know what the replacement cost will be.”

That means that to build a hotel like the Hyatt today, it would take $40 million to $50 million.

“It was a good value for us,” Ruffin says.

He says the parking garage alone is worth $15 million.

Regardless of what happens with the management contract, Ruffin says he wants to keep the hotel a Hyatt.

He already has 5,000 hotel rooms nationwide, including Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and 1 million square feet of office space in Wichita.

Does his family really need another asset?

“I work every day … as you know,” Ruffin says.

“I’m in the office at 4 in the morning,” the octogenarian says. “It’s how I live my life, doing deals.”

The Hyatt is hardly the only deal he has in the works.

“We have several other deals in the fire.”

That includes a deal in Belize he would not discuss right now and a land deal that’s in the works in Florida.

Ruffin repeats a scenario he’s told Have You Heard? previously: “One day, I’ll be in the office, and I’ll keel over, and that’ll be it.”

If, on their proverbial deathbeds, others never would wish they’d spent more time at the office, what will Ruffin wish for?

“I’m not dead yet. I’m not going to comment.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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