|Updated: 6/28/2012 5:41 pm
||Published: 6/27/2012 4:32 pm
LITTLE ROCK, AR - An agreement is in place to sell the Peabody Hotel in downtown Little Rock to a Memphis based hotel group.
Today the Peabody is confirming a FOX16 News report that Arkansas' only four star hotel will likely be sold.
The announcement was made official with the following release on Thursday:
((BG Excelsior Limited Partnership, an affiliate of Peabody Hotel Group, has signed an agreement with an affiliate of Fairwood Capital, LLC, a real estate investment firm focused on hospitality assets, regarding a potential sale of The Peabody Little Rock.
"The Peabody has been honored to be part of the Little Rock community for these past 10 years," said Andrew Groveman, senior vice president of Belz Enterprises, the Memphis-based family-held business that is affiliated with Peabody Hotel Group. "We are delighted to have found a prospective buyer we have known for many years and who plans to invest substantial funds into the hotel, so that it will continue to be a vital part of the Little Rock lodging and tourism scene."
The buyer is exploring several upscale national hotel franchise companies to determine a brand for the hotel. The rebranding of the hotel will require a multi-million dollar investment in comprehensive renovations to the property. Property renovations will likely include all guest rooms and some public spaces, and they are not contingent upon financing. The buyer expects to select a brand for the hotel within the next month.))
Gretchen Hall, president & CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau says the announcement of a sale is a positive for the area.
"To be able to potentially gain a nationally recognized (hotel) brand here is exciting," Hall says. "With that comes a national reservation system and a national sales team to help increase guest occupancy. We've also been told the prospective buyer plans additional renovations, so that is good news too."
Documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request reveal a representative with Fairwood Capital met with the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System on Wednesday in Little Rock regarding a possible purchase of The Peabody Hotel.
ATRS, the state's largest pension fund, issued a $28 million dollar loan to the Peabody Hotel Group in September 2000 to help renovate the former Excelsior Hotel ahead of the Peabody grand opening in January 2002.
According to ATRS, The Peabody Hotel still has $23.8 million remaining on that loan. That amount is due once the hotel is sold.
Sources: The Peabody Hotel Little Rock up for sale
FOX16 News has learned Arkansas' premier hotel, The Peabody, is up for sale. The 418-room hotel anchors the Statehouse Convention Center in the River Market of downtown Little Rock.
Sources who spoke to FOX16 News on condition of anonymity because of their closeness to the negotiations say only final details remain and that the sale of the Peabody Hotel could be complete within the next 90 days.
The famous Peabody ducks could be marching out of Little Rock.
FOX16 News originally reported Marty Belz, president of the Memphis based Peabody Hotel Group, met with Little Rock city leaders on Wednesday. In fact, his brother Ron Belz, president and COO of Belz Enterprises came to town.
City Manager Bruce Moore and Mayor Mark Stodola would not comment after the one hour meeting at city hall but FOX16 News did catch up with Belz.
"I really don't have a comment at this moment,” Belz says. Reporter asks: "What brings you to Little Rock?" Belz says: "It’s a lovely city." Reporter asks: "Can you say if the Peabody Hotel is for sale?" Belz says: "No, can't say anything right now."
The Peabody, with 418 rooms and 22 suites, is the largest hotel in Little Rock and the state's only four-star hotel.
Sharon Priest, executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership says the city's goal would be to find a quality replacement.
"I sure would hate to see the Peabody leave,” Priest says. “I think it's a nice compliment to the hotels we already have downtown." “And if they sale, I'm assuming it would be to a good operator and that would be the most important thing because it is the convention hotel."
Sources also tell FOX16 Peabody wants to sell the Arkansas hotel to focus its attention on its properties in Memphis and Orlando.
Reporter asks: "Can you confirm that the Peabody Hotel is not for sale?" Belz says: "I'm not going to comment on it."
The Peabody Hotel opened ten years ago, but now it's owners appear ready to walk away from little rock.
We're told details of a possible sale will be made public soon.
The city of Little Rock is intimately involved because it holds a 99-year lease on the land the Peabody Hotel and the Statehouse Convention Center sits on.