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Hotel investor HEI sells Embassy Suites Irvine

HEI has sold the 293-suite Embassy Suites Irvine-Orange County Airport for an undisclosed price. The sale comes after hotel staff had called for a boycott by patrons.

November 26, 2010|By Richard Lee

Reporting from Bridgeport, Conn. — Two months after selling two hotels in Philadelphia, HEI Hotels & Resorts, a Norwalk, Conn.-based investor in hotel properties, has sold the 293-suite Embassy Suites Irvine-Orange County Airport for an undisclosed price.

"With the comprehensive renovation completed in 2008, we have achieved our long-term ownership vision for this hotel," said Steve Mendell, HEI's president for acquisitions and development. "Combining our intimate knowledge of both the hotel and the market, however, we believe we will continue to add value to this asset as a third-party operator."

Announced Nov. 2, the sale of the hotel to an undisclosed buyer was brokered by Mark Elliott of Hodges Ward Elliott.

The transaction comes after hotel employees in late August called for patrons to boycott the hotel. They complained that cost cutting had resulted in heavy workloads, a reduction in cleaning supplies, low wages and lack of affordable employer-provided health benefits.

The 70 employees are petitioning to be represented by Unite Here.

The boycott had nothing to do with the sale, said Stephen Chan, vice president of acquisitions and development at HEI.

But Chan did acknowledge, concerning the sale, that "it's on the short end of our hold period." He added that the hotel had been acquired in 2006 and that hotel values are starting to improve.

Located in Irvine, the Embassy Suites is less than a mile from John Wayne Airport and near Disneyland Resort, UC Irvine and Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

The privately held owner and operator of hotel real estate, which will continue to manage the property, in early September announced the sale of the 294-room Westin Philadelphia and the 288-room Embassy Suites Philadelphia-Center City for a total of $224 million.

HEI has gained a reputation for its opportunistic purchases and well-timed sales as it develops its portfolio, said Mark Woodworth, president of PKF Hospitality Research in Atlanta.

"It's interesting that they are selling. They probably believe that there are better things they can do with that money," he said. "Embassy is a great brand."

HEI acquires, develops, owns and operates full-service, "upper upscale" and luxury hotels and resorts throughout the United States under such brand names as Marriott, Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, Embassy Suites and Hilton.

Lee writes for the Connecticut Post.

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