March 20, 2024

Graduate Hotels Acquired by Hilton For $210 Million

By Anne Levin

Graduate Hotels, which is planning to open a hotel in downtown Princeton this spring, has been acquired for $210 million by global hospitality company Hilton Hotels.

The news that Hilton had bought the brand from Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners (AJ Capital) was released last week, specifying that AJ Capital will continue to own the more than 35 operating and soon-to-open Graduate properties.

So what does this mean for Princeton?

“It’s super exciting to be affiliated with a brand like Hilton,” said Michael Monarca, general manager of The Graduate in Princeton, which combines the existing building at 20 Nassau Street with new construction behind it on Chambers Street. “The fact that a guest will be able to use Hilton Honors points will hopefully bring people off of Route 1 and into Princeton, adding tax revenues to town. That’s a huge component. And having the sort of big machine of Hilton behind us down the road for support will certainly be beneficial and help to grow the brand.”

Princeton Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros, who is liaison to the town’s business community, said the acquisition brings “the best of both brands” to Princeton.

“The Graduate will be a nice addition to the town, and now we’ll have Hilton Honors points and a whole marketing support behind it that can garner more occupancy. At the end of the day, we want to attract people to stay in Princeton, help our small businesses, and bring ratables. And the hotel occupancy tax is really great for our residents. Commercial revenue growth is huge for us.”

Mimi Omiecinski, founder of Princeton Tour Company, agreed. “Hilton purchasing Graduate will allow folks who only book through Hilton Honors points a chance to stay downtown rather than on Route 1,” she said. “Given that the town receives a two percent occupancy tax, I think this is great news.”

There are currently more than 30 Graduate properties near colleges and universities in the U.S. and the U.K., catering to college alumni, students, and their families with a blend of nostalgic-themed design and campus-related amenities.

The Princeton property is targeted for an opening in mid-May. Earlier this month, Princeton Council agreed — somewhat reluctantly — to allow the company to keep Chambers Street one-way until May 16, which is several weeks longer than originally specified.

“We are working diligently and will be ready to open on or about May 17,” Monarca said, “if the hotel and building are ready. However, as an experienced hotel operator, I can tell you there are many logistics that need to fall into place. It’s a puzzle. But it is our goal to be ready by then.”

The purchase by Hilton means room rates will be higher. “We’ve adjusted our budgets more than two additional points in occupancy, and adjusted our rate up commensurately,” said Monarca. Asked what rates will be, Monarca said those numbers have yet to be finalized.

Ben Weprin founded AJ Capital Partners in 2014 and the company has grown quickly since then. In addition to the Princeton property, hotels under construction are located in Austin and Dallas, Texas, and Auburn, Ala.

The deal faces regulatory review before it becomes final.