Florida an overreach as Taylor Morrison sale pondered

Oct.October 09, 2009 12:06 PM

Taylor Wimpey, a United Kingdom building firm that tried to grab a piece of the United States housing boom, is planning a sale and retreat across the ocean. Reports say it is seeking bidders for its North American subsidiary Taylor Morrison, which runs high-end developments in six Florida markets, including Palm Beach County.

The Times of London recently put an $890 million price tag on Taylor Morrison, a sale that could see one of the country’s largest home builders change hands. During the boom, the U.S. operation became one of the largest home builders in the country, storming through markets that are now among the worst hit by the crash: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas.

But the bust left it over-extended and nearly $2 billion in debt.

The company is best known in Florida — and perhaps across the nation — for its 2,000 homes at the Country Club at Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens. The course hosts a PGA Tour golf event and the development houses some of the state’s wealthiest residents. Mirasol’s Web site lists home prices beginning in the $600,000s.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based builder also has upscale developments in Jacksonville, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa and Fort Myers. Company officials did not return calls inquiring about the possible sale.

Brad Hunter, chief economist with Metrostudy in West Palm Beach, said the deal might be an opportunity for Taylor Wimpey to pay off debt while exiting a high-end market that has seen its better days.

“People who felt wealthy don’t feel so wealthy any more,” Hunter said. “I think that due to the circumstances in this economy [Taylor Wimpey] might be saying ‘Let’s reduce our exposure to this vulnerable market.’”

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