By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
LAS VEGAS — The first ever RLHC/Vantage conference is taking place in Las Vegas. Changes are in store following the Red Lion takeover of Vantage, and Canada is very much in the picture. Vantage Hospitality founders Roger Bloss and Bernie Moyle will be working with Red Lion president and CEO Greg Mount for the foreseeable future. And the Vantage name will be phased out gradually as new hotels come on board.
The conference, now underway at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, answered many of the questions surrounding the deal announced on Sept. 13.
To recap, Red Lion, which had 113 hotels at the time of signing, acquired Vantage's more than 1,100 for $23 million in cash plus 690,000 shares of Red Lion common stock. Red Lion has Hotel RL, Red Lion Hotels, Red Lion Inn & Suites, GuestHouse and Settle Inn brands. Vantage's brands are Americas Best Value Inns, Canadas Best Value Inns, Lexington by Vantage, and more. Together, they currently have 15 brands.
While the deal may seem a bit like David taking over Goliath, Red Lion has two things Vantage needed: superior technology systems including the RevPAK suite of hotel management programs; and presence in more upscale segments of the market.
Mount will be president and CEO of the combined company, which now includes 1,250 hotels. Bloss will be EVP and president of global development and Moyle will be EVP and COO. Bill Linehan, who has been EVP and CMO of Red Lion for almost three years, will retain that title and round out the executive team.
“If they'll have me, then I'm staying,” said Moyle, 58, at an all-access session at the conference. “I love what I'm doing and I'm in for the long haul — easily a five-year run.”
“I'm 60 and I'm not here forever,” said Bloss. “I chose RLHC and they liked our everything.”
Said Moyle, “It will be a long time before Roger and I ride off into the sunset.”
Mount explained that while they will retire the Vantage name internally, there will be no immediate change externally. “But as we add new hotels to the system, we will delete 'by Vantage',” he said.
“The three of us agreed to keep existing partnerships in place, to keep the focus exactly where it has been,” said Bloss. “We are not going any further until we are best in class in that market … and that includes Canada, eh!”
He added that they are excited because they have an on-the-ground master license with Glenn Blake, Rick Keane and Arun Deo for development of select service brands. He noted that they will also be using Red Lion's corporate development team to develop both Red Lion and Vantage upscale brands in Canada. “Before, we were waiting for new talent to kick in. Now that it's kicked in we can kick off!”
Vantage has 33 Canadian hotels, two Lexingtons and the rest Canadas Best Value Inns, while Red Lion has just one Canadian property.
Bloss, Moyle and Mount all expressed satisfaction with the deal. “When Greg came on [to Red Lion almost three years ago], we looked at them from afar. We approached them at the Lodging Conference in September. We liked what they did with GuestHouse. We were looking for a partnership; Bernie and I were were not looking to be dismissed. That's not what we wanted to do to our Vantage team and members.”
Bloss and Moyle looked at the deal from their different perspectives. They looked at a map and saw where Red Lion's existing properties complemented theirs and added strength in upscale sectors. “How can we not do this?” Bloss asked. “This was the right thing to do.”
Mount's view was more pragmatic. “Ultimately, the best barometer is how the public markets react. The 20 to 25 per cent growth subsequent to acquisition was a great barometer,” he said.