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Donald Trump is taking another run at developing Toronto's first five-star hotel after a much-hyped effort three years ago disintegrated into a publicity nightmare.

But the New York real estate icon's first foray into Canada is still uncertain as a new group of investors overhauls the development -- a revamp that could see Mr. Trump's company becoming hotel manager after Ritz-Carlton bailed out on the original plan.

Mr. Trump remains "heavily involved" in the project on the southeast corner of Bay and Adelaide streets and "loves the site," says Jeffrey Goodman, a spokesman for the various organizations and individuals involved. Although the site sales office has closed, plans for a luxurious, 68-storey hotel and condominium tower remain very much alive, and an announcement on the details could come in the next couple of weeks, Mr. Goodman said.

Mr. Trump has recently revitalized his public image with a starring role in NBC television's hit reality show The Apprentice.

But the king of consumption is on the verge of losing control of his publicly traded company, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, which is reeling under $1.8-billion (U.S.) of debt, increased competition and eroding cash flow. Credit Suisse First Boston is in discussions to inject $400-million into the company in return for controlling interest.

The company owns and manages several casino hotel properties, including Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, both in Atlantic City, N.J. The company also co-owns the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe beauty pageants with CBS. Mr. Trump's New York real estate portfolio, however, is held separately, as would the hotel and condo development in Toronto.

The original plan for the Canadian project was unveiled with much fanfare in 2001 as "a magnificent $300-million palace." With Trump Organization listed as the co-developer and Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. tagged as manager, it looked like a dream project that would vault the city beyond its hog town heritage. But things quickly began to fall apart.

A media report unmasked the principle deal maker, Leib Waldman, as a convicted fraud artist and embezzler who had skipped out on his U.S. prison term and shown up in Canada on a fake passport. Trump Organization later said it would never have joined the partnership if it had known that Mr. Leib was wanted by the U.S. Justice Department.

That scandal aside, experienced players in the Toronto real estate market shook their heads at the deal's mathematics. Not only was the building to be the city's tallest, its prices were to be the highest, at $808 (Canadian) a square foot.

"Is Toronto enough of an international city to capture this kind of buyer? People who can afford that price have so many other options," one industry analyst said. "Prices were totally impractical in the Toronto marketplace."

In the summer of 2002, Ritz-Carlton decided to walk away from the whole affair, leaving the Trump team and other investors looking for another five-star chain to manage the hotel, but the elite status of this kind of hotel meant there were very few other options.

While things unravelled behind the scenes, the consortium did its best to hold the project together and in February, 2003, it won the necessary approval from Toronto city council. New problems emerged last September, however, when two neighbours of the site, Scotia Plaza and the National Club, challenged the plan before the Ontario Municipal Board. The dispute centres on transportation and access issues and remains in mediation at the moment, said Pam McConnell, the local city councillor.

According to Mr. Goodman, the neighbours' concerns have been "alleviated," and "there is nothing left to hold up development." If the project does go ahead in the next few weeks, there will be a new slate of investors replacing those presented in 2001. Mr. Goodman would not provide details, except to say that BRL Realty, which is listed on city documents as the co-owner of the land, would sell its stake and not be part of the development consortium. BRL is controlled by the Bresler family, which owns Budget Car and Truck Rental stores in Toronto.

Trump Organization may be looking at the Toronto project as a chance to duplicate the early success of a similar hotel-condominium development under way in Chicago.

Trump has pre-sold more than 50 per cent of the units in just 4½ months, with the residences averaging $750 (U.S.) a square foot and the hotel space averaging $850 a square foot, said Russ Flicker, a company vice-president.

The developer plans to manage the Chicago property as a five-star hotel, Mr. Flicker said. Trump has one five-star hotel in its management portfolio to date, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in mid-town Manhattan.