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UPDATE 11:55 a.m. :

In what key players called “a great day for Billings,” two brothers who grew up in Billings bought the downtown Northern Hotel and parking garage during a foreclosure sale today and promised to bring the historic property back to life.

That’s a promise the previous two owners also made, before defaulting on their mortgages.

But Chris and Mike Nelson are locals with the shared history and the financial clout to renovate the aging property.

“I’ve traveled the world and Billings is the best town. It’s a good place to be,” Chris Nelson said.

The brothers handed over a Stockman Bank check for $2,475,090 from Zoot Properties LLC to buy the Northern.

Usually, the creditors buy back a foreclosed property in order to protect their investment. In this case, Northern Hotel Holdings LLC, a retirement fund for a group of doctors and dentists in northwestern Montana, was the prime creditor. They foreclosed in August against San Francisco developer Hassan Kangarloo, who bought the property in May 2007, but failed to make payments.

When the foreclosure sale started at 10 a.m., Crowley attorney Bill Lamdin asked if there were any bids.

A gray-bearded Chris Nelson offered $1.5 million.

The creditor’s representative, Missoula CPA Dennis Minemyer bid $2,475,089, which covered the mortgage of $2 million, plus penalties and interest.

Then all eyes turned to Chris Nelson.

“We’ll beat his bid by $1,” Chris Nelson said.

Chris Nelson is making his fortune at Zoot Enterprises in Bozeman, a company specializing in rapid credit checks.

Mike Nelson has been managing hotels in Las Vegas and will be moving his family back to Billings to manage the Northern’s renovation.

Plans to turn the upper floors of the hotel at the corner of North Broadway and First Avenue North into condos are out, Mike Nelson said.

“It’s a hotel, not a condo,” he said. “We’re shooting for an 18 month renovation. We might get portions of it open before that.”

The brothers said they expect to spend another $10 million or more on the Northern’s facelift. The hotel’s furnishings were sold and the building locked in September 2006.

In his 26 years of doing these sales, Lamdin said they normally are snoozers with the creditors usually buying the property back.

“This time, there was a low bid of $1.5 million and the creditors bid for what they had in it,” Lamdin said. “And then Nelsons bested them by a buck. What drama.”

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