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Blackstone Group Buys Hilton Hotels Corp.July 9, 2007 By: David Eisen Travel Agent
Blackstone Group, a New York-based private equity group, has acquired Hilton
Hotels Corp. for $20.1 billion in cash. Hilton's portfolio of brands includes
Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn and the flagship
Hilton chain, totaling 2,800 hotels and over 480,000 rooms worldwide.
Blackstone Group has always been tightlipped, but not tight when it comes to
spending. In just three years, the group, which over the years has amassed
close to 3,700 hotel properties worldwide, has bought such commodities as La
Quinta Inns & Suites and LXR Luxury Hotels & Resorts. Last year, it
acquired Travelport, parent company of Orbitz and Galileo. The Hilton
acquisition also represents a dramatic shift in the hotel industry: for the
first time, a private equity group has control of one of the biggest publicly
Making Sense of It
All: Apparently, there were whispers that a deal of this magnitude was
imminent. It's still shocking: Just a little over a year ago, Hilton paid more
than $5 billion to reacquire its international arm, Hilton Group PLC. President
and COO Matthew Hart, who, presently, is to take the reins at Hilton once
current CEO Stephen Bollenbach steps down in January, made it clear the
intention was to grow Hilton's select-service brands internationally, while
also divesting much of its owned real estate and growing its newly formed
Waldorf=Astoria collection. Now it's unclear whether Hart will even be with
Hilton once the deal officially closes. Moreover, it signals that other hotel
companies aren't immune to private takeover.
"At this point, we think everything remains in play,
and we think other deals are likely," said Robert LaFleur, an analyst with
Susquehanna Financial Group. While Marriott chief J.W. "Bill"
Marriott has showed no inkling that he will sell, Starwood Hotels &
Resorts, in flux since the resignation of CEO Steven Heyer in April, could be
ripe for acquisition. Meanwhile, shares of InterContinental Hotels spiked on
the news of Hilton's buyout. Earlier this year there too were rumblings of a
private equity bid for InterContinental, which operates such brands as Holiday