21c buy to aid MGallery’s U.S. launch

PARIS—AccorHotels has signed an agreement to acquire 85% of 21c Museum Hotels. 21c combines a multi-venue contemporary art museum, boutique hotels and chef-driven restaurants, with 11 properties currently open or under development across the United States. The acquisition will allow AccorHotels to debuts its MGallery brand in the U.S.

21c Museum Hotels was founded in 2006 in Louisville, KY, by philanthropists and contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. It will join AccorHotels’ MGallery collection of boutique hotels, marking the introduction of the MGallery brand into the North American market. According to the company, 21c Museum Hotels will benefit from AccorHotels’ support in terms of development opportunities, increased sales and marketing exposure, and access to one of the largest distribution networks in the industry.

“AccorHotels believes 21c Museum Hotels represents an exciting strategic opportunity to bring together two complementary businesses, to provide a platform for continued growth in the North America region and further expand the full range of unparalleled experiences available to our guests,” said Kevin Frid, COO, North & Central America, AccorHotels. “The transaction is a strategic opportunity for AccorHotels to introduce the MGallery brand into the North American market, as well as reinforce the group’s commitment to growth in the lifestyle ‘boutique’ sector.”

The purchase price for the 85% stake is $51 million, including a potential earn-out payment. No real estate is included in this acquisition. The transaction should be completed during the third quarter of 2018.

Brown and Wilson will retain a 15% stake in the company, and will remain closely involved in providing creative guidance for the combination of art, design and hospitality that defines the 21c experience. 21c Museum Hotels will continue to be led by President/CEO Craig Greenberg. Corporate headquarters for 21c will remain in Louisville.

For his part, Wilson is not concerned that joining a larger hospitality group will alter the brand DNA of 21c Museum Hotels; instead, he believes the brand’s spirit will not only be preserved, but will flourish as part of AccorHotels’ MGallery Collection. “21c will continue to bring the work of today’s most dynamic and engaging contemporary artists to the public, and this partnership will be a tremendous boost for 21c’s continued development in North America and abroad,” he said.

21c was first founded after Brown and Wilson saw the region’s farmland and rural landscapes fall to development while the historic buildings of Louisville’s downtown sat vacant. Wanting to utilize art to aid urban revitalization, they rehabilitated 19th century warehouses in Louisville’s downtown arts and theater district to open the first 21c Museum Hotel.

The company now operates eight 21c properties in Bentonville, AR; Cincinnati; Durham, NC; Kansas City, MO; Lexington, KY; Louisville; Nashville; and Oklahoma City, with three more in development in Des Moines, Iowa; Miami; and Chicago.

21c Museum is one of the largest contemporary art museums in the United States, and North America’s only collecting museum dedicated solely to art of the 21st century, according to the company. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 21c’s exhibitions and programs are free to the public.

Frid said that with the acquisition, the time is right for MGallery’s launch in the U.S. “21c’s unique museum hotel concept is truly distinctive in the marketplace and is a perfect fit for the MGallery collection. The acquisition is a milestone for MGallery, not only marking the brand’s entry into the North American market, but also strengthening and complementing MGallery’s offer to art lovers around the world, along with iconic properties like Molitor in Paris, the Hotel des Arts in Saigon or the recently acquired Art Series Hotels in Australia,” he said.

Frid continued, “This move deepens AccorHotels’ reach in the U.S., both into emerging growth markets in which the group did not previously have a presence, as well as positioning AccorHotels, MGallery and 21c for expanded growth in tier-one cities across the country.” HB