Skift Take

The biggest hotel companies in the world are knocking on the doors of cool, independent brands for takeover talks. Not everyone is answering.

Series: Early Check-In

Early Check-In

Editor’s Note: Skift Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill brings readers exclusive reporting and insights into hotel deals and development, and how those trends are making an impact across the travel industry.

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The global hotel giants want to acquire smaller companies that fill geographic or branding holes in their portfolio. Whether the independent brands collectively want to link up with Goliath is a different story. Hyatt plans to acquire Apple Leisure Group for $2.7 billion, a deal that beefs up the Chicago-based hotel company’s footing in Europe and in the resort market. The acquisition is one of the largest made during the pandemic by a traditional hotel company, and it signals how many hotel executives see the future of mergers and acquisitions: targeted growth rather than buying big. Independent hotel companies are aware they’re in the crosshairs. “It's hard to see another blockbuster transaction. I believe there are diminishing returns to the number of brands one company owns. I mean, it's almost like enough is enough. I think that wave is kind of over,” Standard International CEO Amar Lalvani said in an interview with Skift. “I can tell you, even from our experience, they do want to acquire one-off brands.”

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It’s easy to think of the hotel world as one ruled by the largest brands. Marriott, Hilton, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Accor, and Hyatt account for nearly 60 percent of the world’s hotel development pipeline, according to Lodging Econometrics. But there are plenty of smaller players that have a devout following of travelers. Along with Standard International, companies like Montage, Dream Hotel Group, Loews Hotels, and Omni are all U.S.-based entities unaffiliated with one of the global giants. When Hyatt leaders first indicated they were looking at acquiring a brand that could build up their presence in Europe, industry chatter focused on companies like Kempinski, Corinthia, and the SET Collection. “I believe as they're considering adding new brands, they're debating ‘Should we do that through launching our own or buying a brand?’” Lalvani said of the global conglomerates. “So we get approached by big companies. They want cool brands