Benchmark Invests in U.K.-Based Non-Residential Day Meetings Company

HOUSTON—Benchmark has made a strategic investment in the U.K.-based etc.venues, a non-residential day meetings company with 15 properties in London, Birmingham and Manchester. The move and positioning is expected to increase in Benchmark’s global footprint and create opportunities for international expansion for both companies.

The partnership means that Benchmark will now operate across three continents, with a total of 80 properties in North America, the Caribbean, Japan and the United Kingdom. Etc.venues will complement Benchmark’s four hospitality services brands: Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, Gemstone Collection, Benchmark Conference Centers and the Benchmark Owner Advisory Group.

“The combination of hospitality and award-winning workplace services, spanning three continents and focused on hotel and office real estate investments, is truly unique in the industry,” saidBenchmark’s CEO Alex Cabañas. “Benchmark’s leadership in group sales and in delivering exceptional meeting experiences aligns perfectly with etc.venues’ sophisticated meetings and events space in the U.K. market.”

Investment and transaction structuring efforts were led by Benchmark’s capital partner, Miami-based Gencom. Gencom led an investment consortium, which included an investment fund managed by Colony Northstar as corporate preferred equity provider.

“The investment in etc.venues is consistent with Gencom’s strategy to grow the Benchmark platform and position the company for dynamic and global growth not only through operations management but also through a dedicated real estate investment platform,” said Karim Alibhai, principal of Gencom. “Gencom will continue to explore opportunities in the real estate markets as a result of this transaction and will look to align itself with strategic investment partners on both single-asset and programmatic basis.”

The new collaboration will spur the global expansion of Benchmark and etc.venues in urban and destination sites within Europe and the U.S., noted Alastair Stewart, managing director of etc.venues. “This is a winning combination,” he said. “Benchmark will be perfectly positioned to pursue hotel management business in Europe, while etc.venues will have the financial, sales and marketing and operational support it needs to establish new venues in the U.S.”

“U.S expansion of etc.venues is a key part of the strategy,” said Cabañas. ”Benchmark is evaluating gateway cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and others. We will look to further growth opportunities in Europe for our management, operational and asset management services.”