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Qatar Wealth Fund Buys St. Regis Hotel That Invented Bloody Mary

Patrick Clark and Gillian Tan

(Bloomberg) -- Marriott International Inc. has sold the St. Regis New York for $310 million to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, offloading a historic property that served as the launching point for an indispensable cocktail and global luxury brand.

The purchase gives Qatar Investment Authority another trophy asset to add to an expanding portfolio across the globe. The fund has been boosting its investments in the U.S., including stakes in retail properties in Manhattan. In April, it announced an investment in the shops at the base of the St. Regis.

The hotel, located on East 55th Street near Fifth Avenue, was opened by John Jacob Astor IV in 1904. The 18-story Beaux-Arts building contains more than 200 guest rooms and the King Cole Bar, a watering hole where the Bloody Mary is said to have been invented.

Room rates on Thursday night ranged from $779 to more than $4,000 for a suite, according to Marriott’s website.

Marriott will continue to operate the hotel under a long-term contract with QIA, according to a filing.

Marriott, the world’s largest lodging company, doesn’t own many hotels, preferring to earn fees for licensing brands and managing properties for real estate partners. Globally, there are more than 7,000 hotels in the Marriott system, 14 of which are owned by the company.

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Marriott acquired the Manhattan hotel when it bought Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016, a $13.6 billion transaction that reshaped the global hospitality industry. By then, the St. Regis name had been repurposed as a luxury hotel brand with outposts in places like Shenzhen, China and Bora Bora, in French Polynesia.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based company recently disclosed its $206 million acquisition of the W New York Union Square, a move intended to jump-start the update of a beloved but faded brand. Marriott also agreed to pay $130 million for Elegant Hotels Group Plc to aid its new push into all-inclusive resorts.

Those moves fueled conjecture that Marriott would sell real estate assets to balance its portfolio following the recent acquisitions. In an Oct. 18 note, Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst Michael Bellisario speculated that Marriott could be close to selling Sheraton hotels in Phoenix or Mexico City.

JLL Hotels & Hospitality advised Marriott on the St. Regis transaction.

To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Clark in New York at pclark55@bloomberg.net;Gillian Tan in New York at gtan129@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Giammona at cgiammona@bloomberg.net

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