Acquisition accelerates growth of lifestyle market

Thursday, Hilton announced it had agreed to purchase the Graduate Hotel brand for $210 million. The deal gives Hilton rights to 35 properties in college towns across the U.S. These properties will operate under long-term Hilton franchise agreements, but will Nashville-based AJ Capital Partners will continue to serve as owner. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2024.

In addition to operating the hotels under franchise agreements, Hilton will lead the brand’s future growth. Hilton President and CEO Chris Nassetta stated that he sees a potential for 400-500 hotels worldwide for the Graduate brand. Graduate Hotels has set a new precedent for the lifestyle brand, bringing unique hotels to major college towns from Athens, Georgia, near the University of Georgia to Palo Alto, California, near Stanford University. Each hotel has its own distinct character, emulating the individuality of each surrounding city and its celebrated college.

“Adding Graduate Hotels to our portfolio of award-winning brands accelerates our expansion in the lifestyle space by pairing an existing much-loved brand with the power of Hilton’s strong commercial engine to drive growth,” says Nassetta.

Ben Weprin, also the founder of Nashville-based real estate company AJ Capital Partners, founded Graduate Hotels in 2014. “We’re proud to embark on this new chapter for Graduate Hotels with Hilton,” Weprin states, calling it the “ideal partner” to take the helm for the brand’s future growth. “Our shared values and close collaboration will ensure a smooth transition while keeping the Graduate Hotels’ unique brand identity intact.”

Once available for booking over Hilton channels later this year, Graduate Hotels will be incorporated into the Hilton Honors program, allowing members to participate in the esteemed guest loyalty programs, part of over 7,500 hotels worldwide.

The move to purchase Graduate Hotels accompanies numerous other growth-oriented moves for Hilton, including the recently announced partnerships with Small Luxury Hotels of the World and AutoCamp. The purchase of Graduate Hotels demonstrates Hilton’s continued focus on expanding its reach in the lifestyle space and capitalizing on the hospitality industry’s fastest-growing, most promising markets.

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