Bill Gates’ Cascade investment is revolutionizing the hotel industry, paying more than $2 billion to take control of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.
Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal has agreed to sell half of his stake in Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to co-owner Bill Gates, giving him control of a deal that values the luxury hotel operator at $10 billion.
Under terms the companies announced Wednesday, Cascade Investment LLC would pay $2.21 billion for a 23.75% stake in the Four Seasons owned by Prince Al-Waleed’s Kingdom Holding Company, increasing Cascade’s ownership to 71.3%.
Kingdom Holding will use the proceeds for investments and to repay some outstanding loans. The deal is expected to close in January 2022. Four Seasons chairman Isadore Sharp will retain his 5% stake.
Four Seasons shareholders acquired the company in 2007, with Gates and Al-Waleed leading the deal. The new owners expanded the company’s footprint into more markets to take advantage of a booming luxury travel market.
While the prince has interests in many companies such as Citigroup Inc and ride-hailing firm Lyft Inc, his investment company has sold his interests in hotels over the past 10 years.
Four Seasons operated 74 hotels when it agreed to be acquired by Gates and Alwaleed. It now operates 121 properties, with more than 50 projects in the pipeline.
It has also expanded its efforts to attach its brand to luxury homes as real estate developers realized that affluent buyers would pay more to live in a condo or residential community associated with the hotel brand.
An anti-corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia led to Prince Alwaleed being released from the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh with numerous royals, officials and businessmen in early 2018. Later that year, the prince told the Fox News Channel that his detention had been “forgiven and forgotten.”
Bill Gates and Prince Alwaleed’s relationship goes back decades. Gates described him as a “key partner” in their charity work in November 2017. The Microsoft founder and philanthropist was one of the few Western executives to express support for the prince while he was being held at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton hotel and charged with corruption by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Cascade, which is led by Gates’ money manager Michael Larson, first invested in Four Seasons in 1997 when the company went public.
Bill Gates had a net worth of $152 billion at the end of Wednesday’s trading session, while full-year profits were $20.3 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaire Index.