Whitbread has sold its 11-strong chain of Courtyard by Marriott hotels for £79m to a syndicate of private investors brought together by property investment firm Chiltern Mondiale.
The nine freehold and two leasehold hotels will be leased to the Kew Green Hotels Group, which will take over their management on 9 December. It will continue to run them as Courtyard by Marriott hotels under a franchise agreement with Marriott International.
Kew Green Hotels Group was set up in 2001 by Paul Johnson and Jeremy Richardson, former executives at motorway service operator Welcome Break.
The group already operates four leased hotels under the Days Hotel and Express by Holiday Inn brands and has two more in the pipeline.
Johnson intends to spend around £14m over the next four years upgrading the Courtyard by Marriott hotels to new European standards.
Over the same period he hopes to add four more hotels to the brand.
Longer-term, Kew Green Hotels wants to expand its portfolio to at least 30 properties across its three franchises. "We want to grow to be a significant player in the hotel market in the limited service sector," said Johnson.
The move marks Whitbread's exit from the three-star market. The group put the Courtyard by Marriott chain on the market in May, saying that it wanted to focus on its budget Premier Travel Inn and its four-star Marriott brands.
"Whitbread is now focused on driving superior returns from its upscale Marriott hotels and on developing the brand through management agreements," said Whitbread chief executive Alan Parker.
"Our contract to operate the Victoria and Albert hotel in Manchester is a good example of this approach, as are our proposals for the developments at St Pancras in London and at Twickenham Stadium."
Last month Whitbread announced plans to dispose of up to half its 52 Marriott hotels in "sale-and-manage-back" deals over the next two years.
by Angela Frewin
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