Real estate investor Christian Ringnes, scion of a major Norwegian brewery family who’s since made a fortune in the commercial property market, is now being called the country’s new “hotel king” after buying up a company with 74 hotels.
The hotels, most of which are operated by the Scandic and Choice chains, had proven to be a poor investment for Norwegian Property, which specializes in leasing out attractive office space. Norwegian Property had acquired them through its purchase of hotel-owning firm Norgani three years ago, for NOK 11.2 billion after heated bidding.
The hotel market slumped just after the purchase, however, and Norwegian Property ended up keen to sell. Ringnes, though, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that the sellers kept wanting “too much” money for the hotels, until last week.
That’s when they signed a deal in which Ringnes’ firm Eiendomsspar and two other firms tied to Ringnes’ late investment partner Petter CG Sundt bought Norgani for NOK 8.3 billion. Norwegian Property can now sharpen its focus on the commercial office market while Ringnes thinks he’s bought the hotel portfolio at the bottom of the market.
Ringnes is known as a colorful, jovial businessman in Oslo who usually sports a cravat instead of a tie and maintains a high public profile. He already owns the Grand Hotel in Oslo and 53 others, recently bought Oslo’s old Opera House and turned it into a theater, and is in the process of developing a sculpture park around his restaurant at Ekeberg, with all the sculptures glorifying the female form.
Now hotel industry experts are wondering whether Ringnes and partner Pandox/Sundt will take over management of the hotels himself and cancel the leasing contracts now held by Scandic and Petter Stordalen’s Choice Hotels in Norway and Sweden.
Ringnes, who now controls 127 hotels in Norway and overseas, told DN that “we operate our own hotels outside Norway” and can take over oeprations in Norway “if necessary.” He was vague about what “necessary” might entail, but said his firm would concentrate on hotel ownership as long as it could profit by leasing out to operators.
Views and News staff