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Hotel Veteran Moves to Capitalize on Expected Upturn in California Industry

Michael Barnard forms Blu Hotel Investors and Blu Lodging Group

Anticipating a rebound in the hotel industry, veteran lodging executive Michael Barnard has formed two companies: Blu Hotel Investors to acquire and develop properties along the California coast and in other high-barrier markets, and Blu Lodging Group to provide management services for owned properties as well as third-party hotels.

Barnard, who has 25 years in the lodging industry, most recently as president and COO of Pacifica Hotel Co., Pacifica Hotel Investors and Pacifica Design Group, will head both new companies.

“We’ve reached an important inflection point in the hotel business that offers astute investors what we believe is a tremendous upside opportunity,” Barnard said. “The recession has hurt the lodging industry more than many other industries, and the inevitable result is an impact on supply. But as the economy improves and travel improves with it, we’re going to see a major rebound in demand. We think that means the opportunity for acquiring strategic properties begins right now.”

Blu Lodging Group will focus on branded management of properties in coastal California markets, providing value with a streamlined corporate structure, an emphasis on revenue management, sales and marketing, tight cost controls and a focus on high quality service.

“Where owners and operators are in trouble, we think we can offer them a strategic change with an owner’s eye on the bottom line,” Barnard said.

He and his team are already working on several projects with launch dates scheduled to coincide with an improved hotel market. Blu Hotel Investors is also providing advisory services ranging from deal structuring, finance, design, acquisitions, development, redevelopment, management operations, asset management, branding and franchising.

“We are currently looking for acquisitions that meet our investment criteria, and we will be partnering those deals with selected investors,” Barnard said. “This is an extremely exciting time for me and my management team because we see an enormous window of opportunity to capitalize on our experience and expertise in acquiring, developing and managing quality properties the right way.”

In addition to eight years at Pacifica Hotel Co., Barnard’s career includes positions as vice president of acquisitions and capital investments for Choice Hotels International in Silver Spring, Md., and five years with Marriott Corp. in various positions including finance, development finance, and feasibility. He received a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and finance from USC.

— Steve Fox is a publicist.

 
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