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A Ritz hotel on Lehman sale list as it winds down

Pallavi Gogoi, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua hotel in Hawaii, a luxury ski resort in the Rockies and a Manhattan boutique hotel are among the last holdings of Lehman Brothers, the investment house whose spectacular bust triggered the worst of the 2008 financial crisis.

The bank said Tuesday that it will begin unloading its stakes in those properties in April as it prepares to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and finally meet its end.

Lehman's $639 billion bankruptcy remains the largest in U.S. history. It went under on Sept. 15, 2008, the same week that the government rescued AIG and the $700 billion bailout for major banks was conceived.

The bankruptcy marked the demise of a company that had survived the Civil War and the Depression.

Lehman has spent three and a half years in bankruptcy court, negotiating with the creditors who loaned it billions of dollars to make large bets on investments from apartment buildings, hotels and luxury resorts to complex financial instruments.

Lehman said it has already raised $30 billion since its bankruptcy by selling its stake in a tony Manhattan property known as the Toy Building because it housed toy manufacturers from around the globe.

It also sold Whistler Blackcomb, a ski resort in Canada that was one of the venues for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.

Now the company says it stands to raise $35 billion more by selling the rest of its assets. Among them are the 404-room Ritz Carlton in Hawaii and the Moonlight Basin resort in Montana, a luxurious ski, golf and spa resort.

They are the choice baubles from a not-so-distant gilded age.

"These items capture the euphoria of the times when banks got swept up in the speculative bubble," said Bert Ely, president of Ely & Co., a banking consulting firm.

The money from the sales beginning in April will go to Lehman's creditors. Among them are people with retirement money managed by the California Public Employees' Retirement System, large banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and hedge funds.

The creditors are still expected to end up with no more than pennies on the dollar. But others may make off with some lesser-valued but potent emblems of the heyday.

In 2010, some items that were found at Lehman's old headquarters and at its other offices in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles offices included Tiffany paperweights, tote bags for ski boots and a Montblanc paper-clip bowl.

Others have claimed choice leftovers from fallen companies. In 2007, five years after the failure of WorldCom, the owner of a Mississippi car dealership wound up with a 130-acre country club once owned by disgraced CEO Bernard Ebbers. It included eight tennis courts.

And after the 2001 bankruptcy of Enron, a Houston chemist paid $10,500 for one of the tilted-E logos that once stood outside its headquarters. The chemist said at the time that he was thinking of using it as a coffee table.