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01 Jul 2024
Blackstone snaps up health club specialist, Village Hotels. Plans to grow the portfolio
By Liz Terry
Blackstone snaps up health club specialist, Village Hotels. Plans to grow the portfolio
The Village Hotels' gyms are used extensively by people from the local community
Photo: Village Hotels
Village Hotels has changed hands following a deal between the owner – an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners – and funds managed by Blackstone Real Estate in a deal thought to be in the region of £850 million (US$1.08 million).

The company is one of the UK’s biggest hotel health club operators, with 33 hotel properties, each with over 4,000 local fitness members each, for a total of over 132,000 members, in addition to the facilities being used by hotel guests.

Village Hotels has developed a leisure destination model and has 4,400 hotel rooms offering full-service hotel stays, along with its health clubs, F&B outlets and co-working spaces.

It previously operated spas within some of its hotels, but these were closed at the start of the pandemic and did not reopen, with the space being redeployed to extend the fitness offering, although some pools and wet areas were retained.

Blackstone intends to invest in growing the brand, as James Seppala, head of real estate Europe, explains, saying, “We look forward to partnering with Village Hotels’ management team and supporting them as the company embarks on its next stage of growth.”

Jens Blomdahl, principal at KSL Capital Partners, which also owns Third Space, said Village Hotels had massively expanded its health and fitness revenue streams during its tenure, commenting, “We’re pleased to have partnered with the Village Hotels team to build out a comprehensive hospitality offering, including the addition of more than 1,200 rooms and 45,000 fitness members. We look forward to following Village Hotels’ continued success in this new chapter.”

Gary Davis, CEO of Village Hotels, believes Village Hotels had made great progress under KSL, saying: “With KSL’s support, we’ve developed a differentiated brand, with health and wellness, lodging, food and meeting space in an ‘everything under one roof’ offering.

“Each hotel attracts over 4,000 local members to its health and wellness club – unique in the hotel world – with high-tech equipment, fitness classes and pools with steam room and sauna.

“With Blackstone we see great opportunities to expand the number of hotels in the UK and further enhance our existing facilities, making this an exciting time for us all.”

Blackstone, which has US$339 billion of investor capital under management, is a long-term investor in the UK leisure sector, having taken stakes in Center Parcs and Merlin Entertainments, among others, over the years.

In 2021, it acquired Bourne Leisure, the holiday company and owner of Haven Holiday Parks and Warner Hotels into which it’s invested £550 million across both brands for upgrades and expansion.

VILLAGE HOTELS BACKGROUND
Village Hotels was founded in 1976 when bedrooms were added to Hyde Squash Club, near Manchester by owner John Burrows, to create the Village Hotel and Leisure Club.

Other properties were added in Prestwich and Cheadle before the business was sold to Boddingtons brewery, which was in turn bought by brewer Greenall's in 1996.

Grenall’s developed the De Vere brand to manage some of its hotel and leisure assets, with this division becoming a focus of growth at the point it divested its pub interests (1999).

The company – by then called Village Urban Resorts – was acquired from De Vere Group by KSL Capital Partners for £485 million in November 2014 – an increase in the initial price tag of £450m following competitive bidding.

At this time it had 25 properties, with three under construction.

KSL also bought other De Vere assets at that point, including Cameron House on the banks of Loch Lomond, which remains in its portfolio (at July 2024).

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