Starwood Capital Group is believed to be closing in on a deal to snap up De Vere Venues for up to £280m.
The private investment firm, which bought rival operator Principal Hayley Hotels for an undisclosed sum in February, has long been considered the frontrunner to buy the conference centre arm of the De Vere hotels group.
But a deal has yet to be struck and there is still a chance TDR Capital, a private equity firm best known for once backing PizzaExpress, could swoop in, according to the Sunday Times.
It was revealed earlier this year that De Vere had appointed investment bank Lazard to find a buyer for its 30 conference centres, which cater for 700,000 delegates a year.
The sale is expected to generate £270m-£280m and is part of efforts to reduce the debt pile of the hotelier, which is controlled by Lloyds Banking Group.
The sale proceeds may also be used to invest in De Vere hotels, which include Cameron House on Loch Lomond and Mottran Hall in Cheshire.