For $430 million, IHG buys a boutique hotel chain

Amid a rumor mill that churns out speculative reports of stockholders pushing for a sale of InterContinental Hotels Group, the UK-based hotel operator has made an acquisition of its own.

In a late-night Monday announcement, IHG said it has acquired boutique hotel chain Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants Group, for $430 million, as it automatically ups its boutique business: Kimpton operates 62 hotels across 28 U.S. cities, under names including Monaco and Palomar. The acquisition should now allow Kimpton to expand itself outside the U.S.

Kimpton, based in San Francisco, also reportedly has 16 hotels under development. It also operates 71 restaurants, bars and lounges.

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The all-cash deal reportedly includes only the brand and assumption of the management business. No real estate is included in the deal.

Hotel Management had the opportunity to speak with IHG CEO Richard Solomons, who made it clear that the deal was not made similar to a private equity deal, where it's all about a specified return—but about acquiring a hotel chain with a strong and established history and culture.

"We bought this business for what it stands for and we are not going to change it," he said from San Francisco. "We will adapt it and make it better. That's very important for guests to know. Second, we've always said we'd use our capital to grow, adding brands and driving existing brands and returning funds to shareholders. That hasn't changed. We have a strong balance sheet, generate a lot of cash and have more assets to grow. It's banging on the strategy."

In prior weeks, reports surfaced that Kimpton was seeking a buyer. The chain had previously been on the market, as well. The Wall Street Journal reported that a 2000 deal by Marriott to acquire Kimpton ultimately fell through.

The question now for the industry is this: Will more large hotel companies step forward to try and acquire smaller, boutique companies to jump their presence in the segment. Most have instead looked to grow organically through their own new brand offerings, such as Marriott with Edition and Moxy, Hilton with Canopy, Hyatt with Andaz and Starwood with its seminal W brand.

Kimpton CEO Mike Depatie will step down to focus on management of the Kimpton real-estate funds, which buy or develop properties for Kimpton hotels. Mike DeFrino, currently Kimpton's COO, will become the new CEO.

The Kimpton acquisition should complement IHG's other boutique brand, Indigo, which has 60 hotels currently.

Kimpton was founded in 1981 by Bill Kimpton, who is often credited as the founder of the boutique concept, which has blossomed into a highly competitive segment, particularly in regard to capturing the millennial lodging spend.

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