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Bisnow Exclusive: Geller Hotel Shopping

Bisnow Exclusive: Geller Hotel Shopping

Hotelier Laurence Geller's surprise resignation as CEO of Strategic Hotels earlier this month was a step toward starting a new company. We spoke to him in London where he's shopping for hotels. With a $30M payout from Strategic and other assets, Chancellor Geller (as the Queen of England might call him) is scouring the US and Europe for luxury properties.

Hotelier Laurence Geller

Laurence says he has the money, track record, and potential partners to raise about $200M in equity and acquire $300M to $500M in properties. “It’s a mortal sin not to buy under-managed hotels” when you can raise profits by 200 to 400 bps, he says. (The 10 Commandments might need updating.) He’s looking in major US cities like NY, DC, LA, Boston, Seattle, and Miami. He’s also eyeing resort properties within two hours of big airports. Unfortunately, he confesses, no one is offering to sell to him at bargain prices, so doesn't expect a flood of deals.

Reznick (CohnDebut) MCHI
London skyline

In Europe, his investment would likely be smaller but long term; an anti-cyclical play in a region suffering from systemic economic problems. With several countries in recession; it’s survival of the fittest hoteliers. “Because I’ve been there and done that and I’m old,” (he turned 65 on Turkey Day) he’ll stay out of risky southern and eastern European markets. Instead, he’ll shop in London (above), Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, and Munich. Fortunes will be made more readily in the US hotel industry than in Europe. But even in the US, he adds, RevPAR growth is likely to be less aggressive than he anticipated a year ago. The silver lining: slower growth will further restrain new supply.

Bisnow (Sales) Jumbo
Strategic Hotel's - Fairmont Chicago

Laurence doesn’t intend to bid for—or compete with— Strategic (its Fairmont Hotel above), the Chicago-based company he started in ‘97. It’s treated him well. In May, it awarded him a $15M bonus. He took one half in cash and the rest in company stock, which brings his total holdings in the company to $15M to $20M. He says early November was a good time for him to leave. He’s searching for “the meaning of life,” buying hotels, and writing books. His second novel, The Last Resort, was recently published. He’s planning a third (filled with violence, greed, betraya l, deception and corruption, he says) and a coffee table book showcasing two dozen quirky hotels.