UT, Players Reach Deal on Sale

Players Restaurant, the late-night campus landmark known for its burgers, is now the property of The University of Texas. But the burgers won’t be going anywhere—at least for now.

Players and UT reached an agreement this week following months of negotiations. Owners Carlos Oliveira and Eddie Hempe, both graduates of UT, were paid $3 million cash for the property and given a 10-year leaseback, valued at $1 million, with no rent.

“This deal was clearly between a very willing and happy buyer and a willing and happy seller,” says Kevin Hegarty, UT’s chief financial officer.

The transaction was actually brokered by the McCombs School of Business Foundation, which then sold the property to the University for $1.5 million. State law forbids the University from paying more than the appraised value of a property, so the independent McCombs Foundation paid the more handsome price.

Hegarty says the University has no immediate plans for the space that Players occupies, which is on MLK Street next to the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. UT can cancel Players’ 10-year lease, giving six months’ notice. But it would then owe Players $100,000 for each year left on the lease. Players, too, can cancel the lease and be paid for any remaining time, also with six months notice, but not before 2014.

In 2004, while preparing to build the AT&T Center, the University considered using its right of eminent domain to acquire Players. A battle ensued that resulted in UT modifying the design of the center; Players stayed put.

This time around, UT declined to even mention eminent domain.

“At no time was there any discussion—or even the hint of—using eminent domain,” Hegarty says. “Any time we become aware of nearby property coming available, we look at it. Sometimes we can buy the property, and sometimes we can’t. In this case, the stars aligned.”

Alcalde file photo.


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