Did you hear the one about a Saudi prince, a Silicon Valley billionaire and a hotel manager?
This is no joke. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Isadore Sharp, CEO of Four Seasons Hotels Inc., are teaming up to buy the luxury hotel group for $3.37 billion.
The company is being taken private, with shareholders being offered $82 per share for the hotel group whose hotels include the George V in Paris and the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, California, operates in 31 countries.
The joke is actually a little old, the news having first emerged in November last year. Shares in Four Seasons have risen 31 per cent since then, but dropped $2.49 yesterday to settle at $81.39.
Shares rose above $82 after the purchase announcement on speculation among investors of an increased offer from the buyers, said analysts.
Prince Alwaleed is bidding through Kingdom Hotels International, and Gates will purchase his stake through Cascade Investment LLC.
The Saudi Prince was already a 22 per cent stake holder in Four Seasons.
In April, Kingdom & Colony Capital LLC acquired Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Inc., the Toronto-based hotel chain that manages the Savoy of London and Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, for $3.24 billion.
Alwaleed is Four Seasons' biggest holder, with 7.57 million shares, or 22 percent of the company according to data compiled by Bloomberg on Feb. 2. The Gates Foundation held 1.98 million shares, making it the fifth-biggest holder.
Gates and Alwaleed have collaborated for at least two years. After attending a dinner at Gates' Bellevue, Washington, home in early 2004, Alwaleed agreed to explore ways to assist Microsoft's expansion in Saudi Arabia.
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