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A Mixed Week: Livingstone Brothers See Hotel Value Drop, But Score Big Gain In Casino Tech Bet

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The last week has provided an insight into the diverging fortunes of parts of the business empire of one of UK real estate’s richest families.

A big portfolio of UK hotels owned by the Livingstone brothers has seen its value drop sharply, according to a report to lenders, to the point where it is bumping against loan covenants. At the same time, data emerged that the Livingstones have made a $3B paper gain from their investment in an online casino technology company.

In the world of hotels, a portfolio owned by London & Regional, the brothers’ investment company, fell in value from £561M in May 2019 to £472M last month, according to a notice from the special servicer of a £350M loan secured against the portfolio.

That means the loan-to-value ratio is 74%, higher than the covenant of 72%. The special servicer to the loan said it was in negotiations with the borrower about curing any loan defaults and about the ongoing strategy for the portfolio, which breached another loan covenant in November.

The loan is secured against 49 UK limited-service hotels totalling 6,129 rooms managed by Atlas, the hotel company London & Regional bought from Lone Star for £550M in 2016. The majority are operated under franchise agreements with IHG and Hilton under brands like Holiday Inn Express and Hampton by Hilton.

The UK is in a lockdown, with leisure and business travel almost totally curtailed, which has impacted the performance of the hotels. 

But don’t feel too sorry for the brothers. An analysis by Bloomberg showed that their investment in an online gambling company has netted them a gain of almost $3B, after its shares rose by more than 200% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Evolution Gaming licenses software to betting firms, and it has benefitted from more people gambling online during the pandemic, as well as the fact that it is expanding in the U.S. as more states there legalise gambling. 

Bloomberg estimated the fortune of the brothers to have grown to $7.2B as a result of the gains from their investment in the company when it was formed 15 years ago.