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Coming Together

Waterford Hotel Group, Waterton Join Forces To Accelerate Growth

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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With an eye on further growing its management portfolio and expanding its geographic footprint within the U.S., Waterford Hotel Group recently inked a deal to join forces with real estate investor and operator Wateron.

The two entities have formed a new venture intended to strengthen and grow their respective hospitality portfolios. Chicago-based Waterton will concentrate its efforts on continued real estate investment strategies, including growing the hotel portfolio, while Waterford will be focused on driving operational success for the hotel assets.

Len Wolman, Chairman/CEO of Waterford, CT-based Waterford Hotel Group, noted that the two companies were introduced to each other by RobertDouglas, which ultimately advised both firms on the transaction. RobertDouglas--which had been commissioned by Wateron to explore strategic alternatives--had worked with Waterford in the past.

Wolman acknowledged that the similarities between the companies extended beyond their respective names. “There were just a lot of pieces that seemed to fit well. First of all none of our properties were competitors so that wasn’t an issue right from the beginning. Their culture seemed very similar to ours. In addition, the goals and the importance of the associates and supporting them to really be able to do their jobs effectively and achieve their own personal goals clearly were aligned,” he told Hotel Interactive®.

Wolman further added, “Then the history we’ve had as an organization and the history they’ve had [aligned]. Our expertise in the hospitality industry and in the financial fund raising industry really seemed to fit very synergistically together as well. We just feel it provides such a great opportunity for growth for our associates and synergies and efficiencies for our owners.”

David Schwartz, CEO, Chairman and Co-founder, Wateron, commented on the deal in a statement. “Our investment management expertise and Waterford’s operational expertise represent a powerful combination which is sure to be attractive to brokers, sellers, and investors in the hotel space. Combining our management platform with Waterford allows Waterton to remain in the hotel business with a more strategic focus on asset management and acquisitions, while creating a larger portfolio with greater synergies for our assets and growth opportunities for our operations professionals,” he stated.

Wolman pointed out that as part of the merger both companies have made the commitment to offer any future acquisition or growth opportunities to each other. In addition, he noted Waterford will manage any property that comes into the Waterton portfolio with the exception of those that are encumbered by brand management.

Meanwhile, Waterford has assumed management of eight hotels previously operated by Wateron. The new additions to the portfolio complement Waterford’s existing portfolio of full-service, select-service and independent hotels as well as a convention center. The newly transitioned properties--six of which are full-service hotels--total more than 1,600 guestrooms in Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts.

“The exciting part about it is it does expand our portfolio of full-service assets so we’re really happy about that. It also adds couple of brands that we didn’t have in our portfolio,” he said, specifically referring to the Westin Columbus and the Aloft Beachwood, both in Ohio.

Wolman continued, “It expands our footprint in terms of Illinois and Ohio and it gives us a presence in the Midwest. So those were more of the synergistic and geographic advantages that came along with the deal.”

The new venture also resulted in some corresponding personnel moves for both companies. As an example, Wolman noted that four Waterton principals have joined Waterford, one of which is in development while the other three are on the operational side. Wolman pointed out that the company has recently made a number of internal promotions to fill senior-level positions as well.

In conjunction, Wateron has hired Matt Mering as EVP, hospitality. Mering has more than 23 years of experience, most recently serving as director of development at Graves Hospitality. He will be responsible for the formulation and execution of Waterton’s hotel investment strategy, oversight of asset management and further developing investor relationships.

Wolman emphasized that some of Waterton’s key personnel was instrumental in getting the deal done as well. For example, he noted that his relationship with Dennis Langley--who was Wateron’s previous EVP of hospitality and retired as part of the deal--dates back to the ‘80s when the two worked for Westin.

“There clearly was some comfort knowing Dennis and knowing he was working with David and his team and that I had a relationship with him over all these years,” he said.

Wolman went on to chart the progress of the merger, particularly as it relates to some of the aforementioned personnel moves. “All of that as we’ve merged seems to be working very well. It is early stages but I think that the combination of the companies could not have gone better than we had hoped for,” he said.

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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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