The art of the deal

• Accor’s Sebastien Bazin threw us all a curve ball a few weeks ago when the company announced it was acquiring a 50 per cent stake in Sam Nazarian’s SBE Group. While explaining how the deal would boost Accor’s presence in the US luxury lifestyle sector, he said the SBE brands “have the perfect know-how that will complete perfectly the AccorHotels portfolio”.

Many industry watchers, myself included, took that as a hint that Accor’s phenomenal recent spending spree might be coming to an end. Not so. Last week Accor announced its acquisition of an 85 per cent stake in another exciting and innovative hospitality company, 21c Museum Hotels. Kentucky-based 21c was founded by husband and wife team Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown – they are visionaries, art collectors first and hoteliers second – who are passionate about the public having free access to art. It’s a strong brand, a great concept, and the operations side is ably overseen by CEO Craig Greenberg.

In its statement, Accor was keen to stress that 21c would retain its independent nature, with the founders continuing to have an important say in its future direction. This seems to be a feature of Accor’s recent investments – it buys in to companies it likes, and lets them continue doing what it was that made them attractive in the first place. Another good example is Accor’s relationship with the Mantis Group – to hear more about that, click here to watch an interview with Paul Gardiner in which he discusses how the Accor/Mantis partnership will work.

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