Bill Gates’s Cascade to Buy Four Seasons Hotel in Houston

Cascade Investment LLC, a company owned by Bill Gates, agreed to buy the Four Seasons Hotel Houston from Maritz, Wolff & Co. to capitalize on rising lodging demand tied to the region’s energy business.

Cascade, which didn’t disclose the purchase price in a statement today, is acquiring the 404-room luxury hotel for about $140 million, said two people familiar with the transaction who asked not be identified because the terms are private. Rick Matthews, a Cascade spokesman with Rubenstein Communications Inc., and Philip Maritz, president of Los Angeles-based Maritz, Wolff, declined to comment on the price.

The Houston hotel market is benefiting from the area’s booming oil and natural-gas businesses. Growth in revenue per available room, an industry measure of occupancies and rates, at the city’s hotels has outperformed most of the U.S. this year, according to research firm STR.

“We have great faith in Houston, particularly with its strong role in the global energy business,” Michael Larson, chief investment officer at Kirkland, Washington-based Cascade, said in the statement. With new leadership at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts “along with the enduring value of the Four Seasons brand, we see a compelling real estate investment opportunity here.”

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, which is owned by Cascade, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Hotels International and founder Isadore Sharp, will continue to manage the Four Seasons Hotel Houston, Cascade said.

Houston Occupancies

Occupancies at Houston hotels climbed to 70 percent this year through August, higher than the 64 percent level nationwide, according to Hendersonville, Tennessee-based STR. Revpar jumped 13 percent, the biggest increase among the top 25 U.S. lodging markets after the 15 percent gain in Oahu, Hawaii, the data company said.

Walton Street Capital LLC, based in Chicago, last month sold two Westin hotels in Houston to a unit of Inland American Real Estate Trust for a total of $220 million, according to a September research note by Morgan Stanley. Summit Hotel Properties Inc., a Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based real estate investment trust, yesterday said it’s buying a Hilton Garden Inn in Houston for about $37.5 million.

Four Seasons, based in Toronto, has 91 properties in 38 countries. It hired Allen Smith, the head of Prudential Real Estate Investors, as chief executive officer in August after a five-month search.

The acquisition is expected to be completed on Oct. 1. The property, which sits in Houston’s downtown business district, also has 64 rental apartments. It has been owned by Maritz, Wolff since 2000.

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