Iconic Mississippi mansion Dunleith purchased by New Orleans hotel group after former owner’s bankruptcy

Published 4:44 pm Monday, November 25, 2019

One of New Orleans’ largest hotel owners announced it has purchased the historic Natchez mansion Dunleith.

The J Collection announced the purchase of the Natchez landmark in a news release Monday afternoon.

“We are honored to become the new stewards of Dunleith,” J Collection Principal Joe Jaeger said. “This property has important historical significance to the community of Natchez, and we look forward to being a part of the historic community.”

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Natchez-based United Mississippi Bank has owned Dunleith since it foreclosed on the property after the former owner filed for bankruptcy.

UMB CEO Adrian Sandel said Monday’s sale to Jaeger is good news for the community and expressed confidence in the new owners.

“It will be a great thing for Natchez,” Sandel said. “It will be first class.”

Sandel said being able to announce the sale is a “big relief.”

“We never wanted to be in the situation of owning the property. We were simply trying to maintain the property the best we could until we found the right owner,” Sandel.

The J Collection represents 18 locally-owned and operated hotels in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana. J Collection properties include Bourbon Orleans Hotel, Dauphine Orleans, The Whitney Hotel, Hotel Mazarin, Hotel Le Marias, New Orleans Courtyard and the Crowne Plaza at the New Orleans Airport.

Nottoway Plantation and Resort joined the collection in 2019 as the largest operating antebellum mansion in the South.

Jaeger is also constructing a 200-room Sheraton Refuge Resort and Conference Center in Flowood, renovating a 60-room hotel in Covington, Louisiana, and developing a 40-room boutique hotel on Canal Street in New Orleans. All three properties are expected to open in 2020.

J Collection plans to reopen Dunleith as an inn, restaurant, event venue and conference center, following a restoration and repair of certain elements of the property. An official reopening date has not been determined, but an announcement is planned for the near future.

Jaeger’s long-term friends and associates, Mike Blattner and Randy Waesche, are partners in the project. Blattner owns and resides at the historic house Cherokee on High Street.

“Having Mike, a resident of Natchez as a partner, will help ensure the property is operated under the standard of quality and hospitality that is expected of a J Collection property,” Jaeger said.

United Mississippi Bank took possession of the historic mansion and restaurant after it foreclosed on the property in 2019, one year after Louisiana businessman Michael Allen Worley filed  a personal bankruptcy in January 2018, citing more than $107 million in debt, with just more than $80 million in assets.

In April 2019, UMB announced the property was under contract with Louisiana film producer Jake Seal. Three months later, Seal backed out of the deal citing health-related issues with the family.

UMB presented the project to J Collection based on the brand’s commitment to preserving historic properties and its experience in real estate, hospitality and community relations, the news release said.

J Collection said employees at the time of the closure in 2019 will have the first opportunity to apply for positions, before the company opens jobs to the public.

Unfilled positions will be posted for a community job fair with dates still be determined.