High on the Rockies: Northridge buys lodge for $20 million

Washington, D.C.-based Northridge Capital Inc. has purchased the Aspen Club Lodge ski resort from Chicago-based Jupiter Realty Corp. for approximately $20 million. The lodge, located in the heart of Aspen, Colo.'s boutique shopping and restaurant district, features 90 guestrooms and suites.

After purchasing the European-style lodge in 1998, Jupiter implemented a $2 million renovation program. New York-based Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels represented Jupiter in the sale.

Two Hilton brands celebrate 100th-property milestones

Hilton Garden Inn has opened its 100th property, a 233-room hotel in Orlando, Fla., featuring a new prototype design for resort locations. Another Hilton brand — Homewood Suites by Hilton — also has reached the 100-hotel milestone with the opening of a 175-suite property in Washington, D.C.

The Hilton Garden Inn Orlando at Sea World International Center was developed by Orlando South Hotel Partners LLC, an affiliate of Atlanta-based Hardin Capital LLC, under a license agreement with Hilton Inns Inc., a subsidiary of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Hilton Hotels Corp.

“Essentially, this is now a prototype for us to be able to develop hotels in these resort destination locations,” said Adrian Kurre, senior vice president of brand management for Hilton Garden Inn, a mid-market brand created six years ago.

The project marks the tenth partnership between Hardin and Hilton Garden Inn. With 136 hotels in the development pipeline, Hilton Garden Inn plans to continue opening properties at a rapid pace.

“By 2003, we'll probably be celebrating the 200th Hilton Garden Inn opening,” Kurre said.

The Homewood Suites by Hilton Washington, D.C., is located on Massachusetts Avenue. The 8-story hotel is owned by Robert Johnson, chairman of Washington, D.C.-based RLJ Development, and managed by Hilton Hotels Corp. Homewood Suites, an upscale branch of the all-suites hotel segment, was launched in 1989.

Two conferences gear up for industry debut in 2002

Hotel executives will have the opportunity to attend two new conferences in 2002: The Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) and The International Resort Conference.

Developed by Morris E. Lasky and Harry Javer, founders of the successful The Lodging Conference held in Phoenix each September, The International Resort Conference will be held Feb. 20-23 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla.

The ALIS conference, organized by The American Hotel & Lodging Association and Burba Hotel Network, will take place Feb. 3-5 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. The conference will focus on industry trends.

FelCor Lodging Trust goes for the gusto with big acquisition

With one huge acquisition, FelCor Lodging Trust Inc. will soon become the largest hotel real estate investment trust (REIT) in the United States. The Irving, Texas-based company has reached an agreement to acquire Washington, D.C.-based MeriStar Hotels & Resorts in a $2.7 billion deal that will expand FelCor's hotel portfolio from 186 to 299 properties.

The CEOs of the two companies agree that the merger will make FelCor a more powerful REIT by giving it greater access to capital, diversifying its portfolio, lowering its borrowing costs and boosting the number of states in which it owns properties from 34 to 39. The deal is expected to be finalized in August.

“We think that the size gives us better access to the markets. We both recognize that we're in a soft economy today,” said Thomas J. Corcoran Jr., president and CEO of FelCor. “Overall, we have confidence that the market is going to turn around, and we'll be able to take advantage of it.”

Paul Whetsell, chairman and CEO of MeriStar, said the merger is part of the trend in the industry toward bigger hotel companies. “We will continue to see a migration to larger, blue-chip public real estate companies, ones that know how to use their size and scale to create incremental value,” he said. “Our companies together have a better ability to face the changing economic climate we're in today.”

Corcoran will remain president and CEO of FelCor, while Whetsell will join the FelCor board of directors. FelCor will own the portfolio of hotels, which includes 78,000 rooms, while MeriStar will manage newly added properties. Under the terms of the merger, FelCor will pay stockholders $1.1 billion, which includes $4.60 per share. FelCor will also assume $1.6 billion in MeriStar debt.

With the merger, FelCor will become the largest independent owner of Crowne Plaza, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Radisson, Sheraton and Westin brands. It also will be the largest hotel REIT in terms of number of properties, surpassing Bethesda, Md.-based Host Marriott Corp.

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