Hilton Fears Bad Rep Over Timeshare Deal
An auction of Hilton Grand Vacations has been thrown into doubt, as hotel giant Hilton Worldwide appears to be waffling on whether to allow its brand to be licensed to prospective buyers, The Post has learned.
In particular, Hilton Worldwide appears worried that a sale of the timeshare resort company could tarnish the brand of its own swanky chain, according to sources close to the situation.
Among the suitors is Wyndham Destinations, a timeshare network that caters to slightly less affluent customers than Hilton does, according to industry insiders.
Hilton’s concern, according to sources, is that Grand Vacations, which it spun off into a separate, publicly traded company in 2017, still recruits most of its customers from the Hilton Worldwide Honors customer-loyalty program.
“Do you want to have timeshare customers from other brands mixing with Hilton Honors?” said David Katz, an analyst at Jefferies.
Indeed, Hilton Worldwide retained the approval rights for any future transfer of the Hilton name because of worries that a deal for Hilton Grand Vacations might come along that it didn’t like, according to Katz.
Another suitor in the auction — which could fetch $5 billion including assumption of $2 billion in debt — is Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo Global Management, the buyout firm controlled by billionaire Leon Black.
Diamond also may face an uphill battle, sources said, as it was the subject of an exposé in The New York Times in January 2016 — about five months before Apollo bought it for $2.2 billion — that accused management of jacking up maintenance fees and trying to pressure elderly clients into pricey purchases.
Diamond says that, under Apollo’s ownership, it has stabilized fees, scaled back aggressive sales tactics and made it easier for clients to walk away from their timeshares if they wish.
Hilton Worldwide, working with investment bank Wells Fargo, has held discussions in recent weeks with the prospective suitors, which also include buyout firm Centerbridge Partners, sources said.
Nevertheless, Hilton still hasn’t made a decision on whether to allow the transfer of its license — or even shown a clear interest in doing so, sources said. That’s despite the fact that the suitors submitted opening-round offers in September.
“There is no clear end,” according to one source close to the talks, adding that suitors appear to have halted due diligence on the deal. “Hilton is not giving specific feedback on what they want.”
Under a 100-year deal announced at the time of the spinoff, Hilton Grand Vacations pays Hilton Worldwide a 5% gross royalty fee for the right to use the Hilton name. By adding the Hilton name to its existing timeshares, a new owner would pay more royalty fees to Hilton.
Now, it looks unlikely that Hilton Grand Vacations will announce a sale by the time it reports earnings on Feb. 26, according to two sources. One of the sources put the chances of a deal at 50-50.
Hilton Worldwide, Hilton Grand Vacations, Apollo and Wyndham declined to comment. Hilton Grand Vacations didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment