ESA’s Three Wall Capital deal kicks off asset strategy
 
ESA’s Three Wall Capital deal kicks off asset strategy
27 FEBRUARY 2018 9:35 AM

Extended Stay America announced a $114-million deal with Three Wall Capital to sell 25 hotels and develop 15 new properties over the next several years.

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, and NEW YORK—In closing a deal that has been in the works for 11 months, Extended Stay America has finalized the first big step in its asset-light strategy and franchising plan, which company officials first announced almost two years ago.

Extended Stay America has completed a deal to sell 25 hotels for gross proceeds of $114 million to an affiliate of Three Wall Capital, according to an ESA news release announcing the transaction and the company’s fourth-quarter and full-year earnings statement. The properties in the deal span four states—Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Texas. ESA will continue to manage all 25 hotels over a 20-year contract. Three Wall Capital also has signed an agreement to build an additional 15 ESA properties over a seven-year period.

Jim Alderman, EVP and chief asset merchant at Extended Stay America, said the deal with Three Wall Capital invigorates the strategy ESA unveiled at its Investor Day in June 2016. He added the company is still projecting to “sell as many as 150 properties” over a five-year period.

“We’re on track, and this really does help us,” Alderman said during a conference call with Hotel News Now on Monday. “This really kicks us off, and now we’ve built the muscle to be able to not just service our own properties and our guests, but we’ve added this other muscle. The entire focus of the building has been servicing the guests and performance of the properties; now it’s also third-party (owners).”

Since opening the franchising discussion, ESA executives have expressed interest in working with experienced owner-operators. Alderman said Three Wall Capital and Alan Kanders, the firm’s managing member and founder, fit that profile perfectly.

“Alan Kanders is an industry vet and certainly one of the most sophisticated people we have dealt with in this business on the capital side and the ownership side, and with Alan transitioning into ownership a few years ago, it was kind of a natural fit,” Alderman said.

Kanders said the opportunity to work with Extended Stay America was too good to pass up.

“We always seek out to work with partners and managers that we consider best in class,” Kanders said. “We think that Extended Stay America is the best in class of the midscale, extended-stay segment. Generally speaking, we’re very bullish on the extended-stay market, and having a partnership with an industry leader gives us great comfort in our investment in these 25 hotels.”

ESA's 25-property sale to Three Wall Capital also included the Extended Stay America Dayton North, located in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo: Extended Stay America)

Extended Stay America did not release a full list of properties involved in the transaction in time for publication.

Kanders said Three Wall Capital is interested in growing in specific markets and opportunities to invest in improving the properties acquired in the deal. The firm’s portfolio also includes independent properties in Washington, Connecticut; Bermuda; and New York City; as well as a Holiday Inn in Secaucus, New Jersey; a Holiday Inn Express in Brooklyn, New York; and a Red Lion Inn & Suites in Brooklyn.

Specific markets the firm has targeted for growth include “the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, area; the Cincinnati, Ohio, market; the Fort Wayne, Indiana, market; the Lexington, Kentucky, market,” all of which are represented in the ESA deal, Kanders said.

“We were market-specific,” he said. “We looked at each one of these assets and felt like these hotels could increase their market presence and essentially outperform where they are performing today with specific capital improvements in the assets.

“As (ESA) has recently completed upgrades of the entire portfolio of 625, we think going back into these specific 25 hotels and doing capital improvements will allow these assets to perform to market levels. That’s what attracted us to this group of assets, quite frankly.”

As for the development of Three Wall Capital’s next 15 Extended Stay America hotels, Kanders said he and ESA officials have discussed potential candidates in the Northeast U.S. and parts of Florida.

“The Northeast is where the company believes, and we believe, that there is demand for this product,” he said. “From Boston to New York is an area that we believe has opportunity for growth in the midscale, extended-stay market. Then I think we’re also looking at markets on the west coast of Florida that we believe have opportunity and where the company currently doesn’t have a large footprint, so we look forward to working with the company in identifying both sites and specific markets to develop ESA 2.0.”

But Three Wall Capital and ESA haven’t come to terms on who will manage those next 15 hotels.

“We have not discussed ESA’s management, although presently they’re operating 25 hotels for us, and they are obviously a likely candidate to operate the new ESA 2.0s,” Kanders said, “but we haven’t had that detail of conversation as we haven’t identified specific sites yet for new development.”

Alderman and Kanders agreed the level of investment activity in the extended-stay space is a sign of the segment’s good health. Kanders added the return on investment is “significantly better than that of select-service assets.”

“When you look at the investor pool that has been in the extended-stay space and is today—guys like Barry Sternlicht, Centerbridge, Paulsen, Blackstone—these are sophisticated smart investors,” Kanders said. “The fact that they continue to be interested in this space, I think, speaks volumes in how successful this space can be and will ultimately be.”

Alderman said the timing of the deal is also a great start to the tenure of new ESA President and CEO Jonathan Halkyard.

“I think it’s a very good start, a very good kickoff to the first full quarter of Jonathan’s administration now,” Alderman said. “Alan came down to meet with Jonathan before the transaction closed, and we’ll do a post-closing celebration as well at some point in time. It just happened to fall right at earnings. As far as the excitement of ESA to finally have consummated something we’ve been working on for a long time with Alan, it might seem like it took forever, but really it’s about setting up our future third-party owners for success, and Jonathan is very happy to welcome that first batch in.”

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