Equinox to be sold to Conn. firm
By PATRICK McARDLE Herald Staff | March 22,2007
CASSANDRA HOTALING / RUTLAND HERALD
The Equinox Resort and Spa in Manchester was expected
to close on a deal with a Connecticut company later this week.
MANCHESTER - The Equinox Resort and Spa has been sold to a privately owned Connecticut company that promises a long-term investment in the hotel.
Elizabeth Boepple, a Manchester attorney who represents the Equinox, said HEI Hospitality planned to effectively purchase 100 percent of the shares of the hotel's former owner, Oly-Equinox Holding LLC. Around 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Boepple said HEI still was in the process of closing the deal with the Oly-Equinox.
Boepple said the new owners already had expressed a commitment to the current management and staff of the hotel.
According to Boepple, the change in ownership should be fairly transparent to the public. No events planned at the Equinox have been altered and the sale won't affect those who have reservations at the hotel.
Manchester Select Board Chairman Ivan Beattie said on Wednesday he met with representatives of HEI a few weeks ago and heard of their plans and goals.
"I was really impressed. I think they're going to be a great fit and this will be a great thing for the hotel and therefore a great thing for Manchester," he said.
The purchase price of the hotel cannot be disclosed because of a confidentiality agreement. However, Manchester Lister Pauline Moore said the latest property evaluation of the Equinox gave its value as $25 million.
The sale is the third major change in ownership in about 10 years. Guinness PLC owned a one-third interest in the hotel until 1998. Two years later, Olympus Real Estate, a company that has offices in New York and Dallas, purchased a major stake in the company from Equinox Resorts Associates.
Boepple said the typical resort ownership made an investment plan of three to five years but HEI had a long-term master plan indicating a more significant investment of time. Beattie said one of the things that impressed him about HEI was its perspective on the importance of a sustained commitment.
Under Oly-Equinox, the hotel was run by RockResorts, a management company owned by Vail Resorts of Bloomfield, Colo.
A message on the Equinox Web site on Tuesday provided little information about the change in management.
"Beginning on March 21, 2007, The Equinox Resort and Spa will no longer be managed by or affiliated with RockResorts," it said.
HEI owns its own management company, Merritt Hospitality, LLC. HEI, a privately held hotel investment company, owns also two dozen hotels across the country, including sites in Texas, California, Florida and New York. The historic Algonquin Hotel in New York City is one of HEI's properties.
The company was started in 1985 and has an investment fund whose participants, according to HEI's Web site, include "several leading private institutional real estate companies and eight of the country's most prestigious university endowments."
According to a press release, HEI is planning extensive investment in the Equinox's guest rooms, spa and other holdings over the next two years.
Boepple said it was her understanding initial investments would be made in upgrading guest rooms and improving maintenance on items like roofs.
Steve Mendell, HEI's executive vice president of acquisitions and development, said the new owners were also committed to protecting the landscape. The Equinox's holdings include 12,000 acres of preserved land.
While HEI owns many hotels, most of them are in urban areas including San Francisco, Calif.; Detroit, Mich.; Orlando, Fla.; San Antonio, Texas; and Philadelphia, Pa.
The Equinox is also the first resort purchased by HEI although company officials say they plan to acquire other resorts in the future.
"The Equinox marks our first foray into the lucrative resort marketplace. This property is matchless in its rare combination of historic relevance, old-world charm and modern amenities. The Equinox is an extraordinary destination, and our goal is to maintain its historical value while enhancing its contemporary offerings," said Roger Clark, senior vice president for acquisitions, in a statement.
According to HEI, the Equinox, founded in 1769, has almost 180 rooms and is the second-longest operating hotel in the United States.
Contact Patrick McArdle at Patrick.firstname.lastname@example.org.