Trinity Investments has had an eventful year.
The Honolulu-based luxury and lifestyle hotel investor and operator has been a leading figure in the U.S. lodging space this year, locking down market-moving financings and acquisitions in a turbulent period for the country’s financial sector. It has also faced down potential devastation at home in Hawaii, brought about by multiple hurricanes and deadly wildfires.
Sean Hehir, CEO of the 27-year-old firm, has stayed the course, routinely voicing his confidence in the strength of the U.S. consumer and the country’s hotel sector, which has performed well this year as much of the rest of the commercial real estate and finance sectors have struggled to find solid ground.
Trinity, which teams up with prominent private equity firms as an operating partner, shook the hotel market earlier this year when it announced its acquisition of The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Fla. for $835 million, joining with Credit Suisse Asset Management on the transaction—the largest of its kind since the onset of COVID-19 more than three years ago. The firm has also secured a $515 million financing on The Westin Maui Resort and Spa; and more recently, it refinanced its Grand Lakes Orlando Resort with $750 million in debt.
The company, sporting about $5 billion in hospitality assets under management, has shored up some of its premier luxury and lifestyle assets and moved strategically to acquire others in a time of considerable uncertainty in the U.S., and now, it has its sights set on Europe.
Trinity announced on Oct. 31 that it is opening an office in London, led by Managing Partner Ryan Donn, to get a foothold in the continent. It is currently identifying investment opportunities, with a focus on destination markets in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, among others. Hehir said his group will also look to make strategic preferred equity investments to sponsors operating in the region; subordinate debt and preferred equity are areas in which Trinity engages in the U.S. along with its work at the property level.
Hospitality Investor, sister site to Hotel Management, spoke to Hehir about the move to Europe, the health of the bloc as it relates to its luxury and lifestyle lodging sectors, and the challenges they may face as they establish themselves.
Hospitality Investor: How long has this campaign been in the works, and why is now the right time to make the move into hotel investment in Europe?
Hehir: Europe’s going through some of the same changes and things that we're seeing in the U.S. People are much more focused on experiences. I joke that people got tired of shopping online during COVID, so they’re shopping for experiences. We’re also seeing people travel. We saw a little bit of softness in the U.S. this summer because more people were going to Europe. Europe was inaccessible for many people over the last couple of years because of COVID, but people went back in droves.
We’ve all been involved in Europe—the partnership within Trinity—at various stages of our careers. To each of us, it’s always been a market we wanted to get back into, but we wanted to get the model right in the U.S. first. It really is working well and it works well for our joint venture partners. It was on our horizon over the last few years to find the right entry point to get back into Europe and also it was at the request of some of our JV partners, who are investing in Europe and they wanted to partner with us to build a team there. We’re working on our first few acquisitions. Unfortunately, I cannot disclose what they are or where they are, but we’re working with JV partners that we’ve partnered with in the U.S.
Read the rest of the conversation at hospitalityinvestor.com.