China’s HNA buys one of world’s biggest hotel groups

Bai Haibo, chairman & CEO of HNA Hospitality Group, seals the deal with David P. Berg, CEO of Carlson Hospitality Group
Bai Haibo, chairman & CEO of HNA Hospitality Group, seals the deal with David P. Berg, CEO of Carlson Hospitality Group

HNA Group, the fast-expanding Chinese tourism conglomerate, has entered into an agreement to acquire Carlson Hotels – one of the world’s biggest hotel groups.

Through its tourism and hospitality arm, HNA Tourism Group, the Chinese company will acquire all of Carlson Hotels, including its 51.3% majority stake in the Rezidor Hotel Group. The purchase price has not been revealed, but the agreement is expected to close in the second half of 2016.

The company’s headquarters will remain in Minnesota and CEO David P. Berg will continue to lead the company.

Diana Nelson, chair of the Carlson board, said selling the company was a “difficult decision”, but one which she believes will be best for the long-term future of the family-owned hotel group.

“Since my grandfather, Curt Carlson, founded our company in 1938, our family has run businesses that create opportunity for people and positive change in the world,” said Ms Nelson. “Hospitality is in our hearts, which made this a difficult decision. We strongly believe that selling our hotel business to HNA Tourism Group, a company that fully recognises its value and heritage, is the best way for us to position it for success and to be true to my grandfather’s legacy in the long-term.”

Carlson operates the famous Radisson hotel brand
Carlson operates the famous Radisson hotel brand

Carlson currently operates a portfolio of approximately 1,400 hotels under seven brands: Radisson, Radisson Blu, Radisson Red, Quorvus Collection, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inns & Suites.

“We have great respect for the Carlson family and a deep appreciation for its history and special culture,” said Bai Haibo, chairman & CEO of HNA Hospitality Group and a board member of HNA Tourism Group.

“Carlson Hotels’ global success and strong, sustainable growth potential is a testament to their world-class brands, continuous innovation, excellent management, and unique employee-focused culture, all of which we will build upon as part of this combination to establish our presence in the US market and expand our footprint in hospitality internationally.”

The acquisition of Carlson marks the latest in a series of major investments by the HNA Group, which also operates Hainan Airlines. The company has already taken stakes in several international carriers, including France’s Aigle Azur and Brazil’s Azul, and recently snapped up two major Swiss aviation companies, Swissport and Gategroup. In the hotel sector, it has taken a stake in Spain’s NH Hotels.

The HNA-Carlson deal follows the recent failed attempt by a Chinese company, Anbang Insurance Group, to purchase Starwood Hotels. And last year, Shanghai’s Jin Jiang Hotels purchased Louvre Hotels.

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