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The Loews Don CeSar Hotel sold to Host Hotels & Resorts

[SCOTT KEELER, Times]

The Loews Don Cesar Hotel in St. Pete Beach has been sold.

[SCOTT KEELER, Times]

The Pink Palace on St. Pete Beach has a new owner.

The Loews Don CeSar Hotel was purchased by Host Hotels & Resorts and will be managed by Davidson Hotels & Resorts, according to a Loews spokeswoman.

Prudential Insurance has been the majority owner of the historic 277-room hotel on St. Pete Beach for more than 12 years, and Loews Hotels managed the property and owned a 20 percent stake.

A Loews Hotels spokeswoman said that local hotel staff found out about the sale Tuesday. Employees at the hotel confirmed the change in management and said that some staff will be interviewing to keep their jobs this week. Both Host Hotels and Davidson Hotels declined to respond to questions Wednesday, including discussing the sales price and whether any major changes are planned at the complex.

Stephen Cummings, general manager of the Don CeSar, also declined to comment about the sale.

Officials in the local hotel industry at the end of 2016 heard rumblings that the Loews Don CeSar Hotel was being shopped around. No records of a sale were available in Pinellas County as of late Wednesday.

Read more: Loews Don CeSar named Best Historic Hotel in America

Host Hotels & Resorts is a Fortune 500 company and one of the largest lodging real estate investment firms and owners of luxury and upscale hotels in the country. Host owns 89 properties in the United States, including the YVE Hotel in Miami, Orlando World Center Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton resorts in Amelia Isand and Naples. Host also owns seven international hotels, with a total portfolio reaching 54,000 hotel rooms.

Davidson Hotels & Resorts manages 43 hotels totalling nearly 13,000 rooms and 1.4 million square feet of meeting space across the U.S. The company manages the Hilton Key Largo Resort and Hotel Colonnade Coral Gables in Florida.

The Loews Don CeSar will be the first Tampa Bay area hotel opportunity for both hotelier companies.

It's fairly common for hotel properties to change hands every few years, said Kent Schwarz, executive vice president of Colliers International Hotels.

Loews Hotels and Prudential Insurance acquired the hotel in 2003.

"Prudential typically holds an asset for a good length of time, but it's not uncommon for a hotel to be marketed a year, year and a half into ownership," he said.

The Pink Palace, which has been an icon on St. Pete Beach for decades, was built in 1928. The hotel was recognized in 2015 for its history and restoration with the "Best Historic Hotel" award in its size category by the Historic Hotels of America organization. "The Don" has taken many forms over the years. In the 1940s it served as a hospital for the U.S. Army throughout the duration of World War II. Not long after, the building was turned into a regional office for the Veteran's Administration.

The hotel spent $10 million to upgrade amenities in the hotel last year, which included building a brand new restaurant and bar area that faces the Gulf. It also renovated the The Beach House Suites, a 70-room hotel less than a mile north on St. Pete Beach. The hotel, formerly named the Wander Club Residence, was bought by the Don CeSar and renamed in 1997.

Read more: Loews Don CeSar investing $10 million in renovations to St. Pete Beach properties

"It's rare for hotel companies like Marriott or Loews to own the properties these days. They got beat up pretty badly during the downturn and have to be more profitable. If they don't own the hotels, there's less risk," Schwarz said.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

The Loews Don CeSar Hotel sold to Host Hotels & Resorts 01/05/17 [Last modified: Thursday, January 5, 2017 10:47am]
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