A Word with GHN Advisory Board Member Monty Bennett
2019 Priorities and Growth Aspirations
About Ashford Inc.
Ashford Inc. (NYSE: AINC) is leading provider of asset management and other related services to companies within the hospitality industry. We are uniquely positioned as the only publicly traded asset manager solely focused on the hospitality space, and also serve as the advisor to two publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) – Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE: AHT) and Braemar Hotels & Resorts (NYSE: BHR). Combined, these REITs have 135 hotels with more than 29,000 rooms and approximately $7.4 billion in assets.
Ashford Inc. has developed multiple strategies designed to spur growth and lay the groundwork for long-term value creation in 2019 and beyond. Our priorities for growth center on a few key initiatives. First, we aim to expand our current REIT platforms by acquiring high quality assets in top markets across the United States. We plan on accomplishing this, in part, through an innovative investment platform we call our Enhanced Return Funding Program. We also will be focused on buying, investing in and/or incubating products and services businesses related to the hospitality industry.
Growing our REIT Platforms – Enhanced Return Funding Program (EFRP)
Our growth aspirations are fairly clear for 2019: to grow our REIT platforms, to start new investment platforms and to invest in and expand our service related businesses. We feel a material part of our growth for 2019 will come from a new strategy we initiated last year called Enhanced Return Funding Program (ERFP). It was specifically designed to increase the potential financial returns of our REITs' acquisitions. By committing $50 million dollars to each REIT that can be applied towards 10 percent of any asset they acquire, the program effectively reduces the amount of capital needed for each hotel acquisition and materially improves the returns on the assets over time. In return, Ashford Inc. receives attractive fee streams for its asset management, project management and other related services. The program has been quite successful thus far as we have already used it to help acquire four amazing properties: the 252-room Hilton Alexandria Old Town located in Alexandria, Virginia and the 170-room luxurious Ritz-Carlton in North Lake Tahoe, the brand new 310-room Embassy Suites in Manhattan and the 157-room La Posada in Santa Fe. These are the first of many that will utilize the new program in order to increase the value across both REITs.
Expand our Service Related Businesses
The added benefit of growing our REIT platforms through innovative strategies, such as ERFP, is the ability to also grow our hospitality products and services businesses. By investing in operating companies that service the hospitality industry, we can effectively control the distribution of cost and quality rendered to our hotels. We believe this establishes synergies for our hotel platforms, providing attractive pricing and higher levels of service than they would otherwise receive from a third-party vendor. We have already begun implementing this strategy with some of our recent acquisitions and have had tremendous results. A few of our growth aspirations include companies such as Premier Project Management, J&S Audio Visual, Red Hospitality & Leisure, Pure Wellness and OpenKey.
Premier Project Management is our most recent acquisition and is a leading provider of project management services dedicated solely to the hospitality industry. They have been in business for over 25 years and have done more than $2 billion in hotel renovations. J&S Audio Visual is one of the nation’s largest providers of specialty audio visual services, including show and event, hospitality, creative, and design and integration services. Since our acquisition in late 2017, J&S Audio has grown over 22% and continues to rapidly grow its client base across the U.S., Mexico and Dominican Republic. Red Hospitality is one of our most recent acquisitions as well. Acquired last year, Red is a provider of Caribbean resort concierge and services including water sports, sailing, sunset tours, cruises and off resort transportation. With the region’s tourism returning to a sense of normalcy after Hurricane Irma, we have high hopes for Red in the near future. PURE Wellness is the leading provider of hypo-allergenic rooms serving the industry and offers wellness minded travelers rooms with a hypoallergenic environment, purified air, and allergy-friendly bedding so they can wake up feeling their best. This is one of the fastest industry trends in hospitality, and PURE is at the forefront of this movement. Finally, OpenKey is perhaps one of our most exciting businesses. It is the industry standard for universal mobile keyless entry in hotels and has grown more than 10x since inception just a few years ago. With our industry experience and relationships throughout the hospitality industry, we believe we are uniquely positioned to help grow these companies and their products and services a standard of quality in the industry.