Blackstone to buy 65% interest in Great Wolf, form $2.9B JV

Hennessy previously served as advisor to Great Wolf Resorts’ senior management team during his tenure on the company’s board of directors.
Great Wolf Resorts' portfolio includes the Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg, Mass. Photo credit: Great Wolf Lodge

Blackstone Real Estate Partners IX, an affiliate of Blackstone, is acquiring a 65 percent controlling interest in Great Wolf Resorts from Centerbridge Partners, the entertainment resort company's existing owner. As part of the transaction, Blackstone and Centerbridge Partners will form a new $2.9 billion joint venture to own the company. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

“We have been very impressed by the evolution and growth of the company under Centerbridge’s ownership,” Tyler Henritze, head of U.S. acquisitions for Blackstone Real Estate, said in a statement. “With the leadership of its talented management team, Great Wolf has enriched the guest experience and opened seven new lodges since 2015. We look forward to investing in these properties to further deliver for guests and grow the company.”

Great Wolf has 18 resorts with 7,230 guestrooms across the United States and Canada, as well as another under construction in northern California. Each location includes a full-service hotel, an indoor waterpark, food-and-beverage offerings and recreational activities such as game rooms, ropes courses and bowling alleys. It employs approximately 6,000 people full-time.

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“We are pleased to welcome Blackstone as a new member of the Great Wolf pack and excited to begin the next chapter for our rapidly expanding company,” Murray Hennessy, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts, said in a statement. “Great Wolf stands to benefit greatly from Blackstone’s world-class insights and expertise in hospitality, and values Centerbridge’s continued involvement as we look to further expand the Great Wolf brand with the development of new resorts and enhancements to our renowned immersive family experiences.”

Centerbridge Partners is a private investment management firm that partners with management teams across industry sectors. Founded in 2005, it had approximately $27 billion in capital under management as of June 30.

“We are enthusiastic about partnering with Blackstone to continue accelerating the growth of the company,” William Rahm, a senior managing director and global head of real estate at Centerbridge, said in a statement. “Blackstone is one of the most experienced and successful investors in the hospitality and leisure industries and is highly supportive of Great Wolf’s growth potential and each lodge’s ability to provide unparalleled experiences for families.”

Goldman Sachs & Co. and Citigroup Global Markets are serving as financial advisors to Great Wolf, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is serving as legal counsel to Great Wolf. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is serving as legal counsel to Blackstone.

Blackstone, founded in 1991, has $154 billion of investor capital under management. Just a few weeks ago, Blackstone Real Estate Partners Europe reached an agreement to acquire five Greek hotels from the Mediterranean company Louis Group for €178.6 million—$195.5 million USD. In July, Blackstone bought three Florida hotels from an affiliate of RLJ Lodging Trust for $43.2 million. Around that same time, the company was also in talks to sell seven Center Parcs Europe vacation resorts to Aroundtown SA for an estimated $1.1 billion.