Syrian billionaire Ghassan Aboud has breathed life back into the hibernating hotel investment market, after his Crystalbrook Collection group snapped up The Fantauzzo Brisbane Art Series Hotel from wealthy Melbourne development family, the Deagues.
The exact price remains confidential but Crystalbrook is understood to have paid between $70 and $75 million for the 166-room hotel, which is situated beneath Brisbane’s Story Bridge and overlooks the Howard Smith Wharves.
Crystalbrook’s acquisition of The Fantauzzo marks the first major hotel deal to be negotiated and struck during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The only other notable hotel to trade since the outbreak of the pandemic was the 28-room The Bower Hotel in Byron Bay, which was bought by the Gold Coast-based Guok family for about $18 million in August.
The Brisbane hotel, named after Melbourne-based portrait artist Vincent Fantauzzo (who is married to Australian actress Asher Keddie), opened in May last year.
Accor, which acquired the Art Series chain when it bought Mantra Group in 2018, will continue to manage The Fantauzzo until its official handover to Crystalbrook in early 2021. A new name for the hotel will be announced in the coming months.
The acquisition marks Crystalbrook’s entry into the Brisbane market and adds to its operations in Sydney, Byron Bay, Cairns, Newcastle and Port Douglas.
Geoff York, acting chief executive and group director at Crystalbrook Collection, flagged its intentions to expand into capital city markets last month.
“Well located hotels with great facilities and built for specific demand driver [consumer] segments will win market share over others,” Mr York said.
Mr York also said Crystalbrook was looking at opportunities to acquire and convert city office buildings into hotels.
Wayne Bunz of CBRE Hotels negotiated the sale of The Fantauzzo on behalf of Deague Group.
“This represents an exciting investment opportunity for Crystalbrook Hotels as it expands its stable of leisure and corporate hotels across Australia,” Mr Bunz said.
“The Fantauzzo is already recording strong weekend occupancies, underpinned by its location in one of Australia’s most successful entertainment precincts, Howard Smith Wharves.
“This deal represents the first major Australian hotel sale in 2020 during COVID-19, signalling that investors anticipate a recovery in the hotel sector,” Mr Bunz said.
The Deague Group developed the hotel as part of the $110 million rejuvenation of the wharves.
Alongside the 166 rooms and suites, the hotel offers the Italian Polpetta kitchen and bar, the elevated Fiume bar along with a rooftop pool, fitness centre and meeting spaces.
The Deague Group, chaired by property developer David Deague and led by his son, Will Deague, developed the Art Series chain (each of the hotels are named after Australian artists) before selling it to Mantra (now part of Accor) for $52.5 million in 2017.
Will Deague said the family was pleased to have sold property.
“The hotel journey was always a property development play for our group hence our decision to sell,” he said.
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