Newcomer Sageblan backs up its belief in Montreal tourism with heavy investment

The upstart hotel investment firm is betting an expected rebound in tourism in Quebec will generate big returns over the next decade.

Article content

An upstart investment firm is plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into Quebec hotels in the belief that a tourism rebound can generate big returns.

Advertisement

Article content

SageBlan Investments has spent about $160 million to buy and revamp four Quebec properties in the past 18 months, including the Vogue Montreal downtown and the former Hôtel Place Dupuis near the Berri-UQAM métro station. Although another $40 million worth of renovations are ongoing, SageBlan is already thinking about its next acquisitions, managing partner and president Gaurav Gupta said.

Article content

“We think the future is bright here,” Gupta, 30, told the Montreal Gazette in an interview.

Whether such optimism is warranted will depend on tourism’s ability to overcome COVID-19‘s economic toll. Local assets may need up to two years to return to pre-pandemic profit levels, the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal said last week.

Advertisement

Article content

Originally from the Toronto area, Gupta teamed up with adopted Torontonians Anil and Bleda Basegmez — Turkish-born, Swiss-raised cousins with a family background in real estate — to create SageBlan in early 2019. All three investors subsequently moved to Montreal and are now taking French lessons, according to Gupta.

Article content

“Montreal is one of the best cities that we’ve ever lived in,” he said. “French is a beautiful language and I want to learn it. Within the next 12 months I’ll have a better handle.”

SageBlan made its first acquisition in mid-2019 with the purchase of Hotel Plaza Valleyfield and closed its latest transactions — the Vogue Montreal and Quebec’s City’s Delta — a year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing.

Advertisement

Article content

“The deals were struck pre-COVID, they were renegotiated during COVID, and closing them at the height of the pandemic was no easy task,” Gupta said. “We are long-term investors and we believe in the resilience of the Quebec marketplace. We would make these investments again today.”

SageBlan’s hotels “are all repositioning plays,” Gupta said. “The properties are being renovated, rebranded or being made more efficient.”

Article content

The acquisition spree means SageBlan now oversees about 1,000 rooms. It has about 500 hotel employees, in addition to about 20 executives.

Before starting SageBlan, Gupta spent several years working for his family’s Sunray Group, a hotel company that owns more than 50 properties and is run by his uncle.

Advertisement

Article content

“In my previous job, I was spending two weeks a month here and I fell in love with Montreal on a couple of fronts,” he said. “On a personal front, I discovered a vibrant city with culture, dining, architecture and this European feeling that you couldn’t capture anywhere else in Canada. On the business front, I felt there was a huge runway for growth, and that Montreal was on the cusp of a real estate boom. It’s a world-class city. That’s the reason we’re focused on Montreal in terms of investment opportunities.”

SageBlan’s most advanced project is the 30-storey, 354-room Hôtel Place Dupuis, which is being converted into a Hyatt Place for about $25 million. Work is due to be completed in September, Gupta said.

“It’s a complete gut renovation,” he said. “We’re trying to bring life back to that hotel, which is located in an under-served area that’s now receiving a lot of investment. We want to make a difference and become almost an anchor for other businesses. The area is gentrifying and will be completely changing over time” with the renovation of Place Émilie-Gamelin and the coming Radio-Canada tower and Molson brewery real-estate projects, he said.

Advertisement

Article content

SageBlan is also busy redeveloping the 148-room Vogue Montreal on de la Montagne St. Once work is done, probably in March, the asset will become the first hotel in Canada to operate under Hilton’s Curio Collection banner. It will include a new ground-floor café and a restaurant run by celebrity chef Antonio Park.

“This is a true five-star asset,” Gupta said.

As a young company run by thirtysomething executives, SageBlan is eager to adopt cutting-edge technologies for all its hotels. Key features will include mobile check-ins as well as “army-grade” air and water purification systems, Gupta said.

“We’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy so that we can be at the forefront of guest expectations,” he said.

Much time is also being spent canvassing acquisitions.

“As you get settled in a market, it’s good to have your ear to the ground,” Gupta said. “We have a couple of strategic assets that we’re looking at within Quebec and downtown Montreal that would be a good fit for the portfolio. Stay tuned.”

ftomesco@postmedia.com

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Source link

Sign in

Sign Up

Forgotten Password

Job Quick Search

Cart

Cart