Hilton buys Graduate Hotels

Global hotel giant Hilton is strengthening its lifestyle hotels offering by acquiring the Graduate Hotels brand. Currently a largely US brand, Graduate is now primed to expand globally

Hilton has agreed to acquire the Graduate Hotels brand, adding a new lifestyle offering to its portfolio. The hotel giant will pay USD210m for Graduate, taking on 33 operational hotels, and two pipeline properties.

With Hilton’s backing, the Graduate brand is set to grow internationally and has the potential, Hilton believes, to build into a global brand of up to 500 hotels. Currently there are 31 Graduate properties open in the USA, and two in the UK in the famed university cities of Oxford and Cambridge. Graduate has also previously announced pipeline signings of hotels in the US cities of Auburn and Austin.

Growth plans

Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta commented: “Adding Graduate Hotels to our portfolio of award-winning brands accelerates our expansion in the lifestyle space by pairing an existing much-loved brand with the power of Hilton’s strong commercial engine to drive growth. Graduate will be another driver of growth for us, presenting a unique opportunity to serve more guests in more sought-after destinations.”

The Graduate brand was launched in 2014, with the concept of linking each hotel with the unique character of its local university. As a result, a lifestyle brand has grown up, delivering hotels with a similar service concept, but with a distinctly localised look and feel. The brand has to date grown under the ownership of AJ Capital Partners, and that company will continue to own the Graduate properties, with each location due to operate under a franchise agreement with Hilton. “We’re certain this partnership will propel Graduate Hotels to even greater heights, while AJ’s ongoing ownership of the real estate assets lays a strong foundation for our future success,” said AJ Capital CEO, and founder of Graduate, Ben Weprin.

Expanding the lifestyle offering

Hilton expects to integrate the Graduate properties into its reservation system, and into its Hilton Honors loyalty programme, later this year.

The acquisition of Graduate comes as Hilton looks to improve the presence of boutique and lifestyle hotels within its portfolio, and to broaden its offering of experiential places to stay. The group recently signed an agreement with Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which will make several hundred properties from that grouping of independent hotels available, across the Hilton platform. Hilton has also recently agreed to start offering stays at the sites of US glamping and outdoors specialist Autocamp.