In Property by Clyde Mooney

Click here to share this article with a friend

The six-week all-star campaign for the Marlborough Hotel has culminated with Bruce Solomon and celebrity chef partner Matt Moran taking the keys for $33 million.

John Singleton, Geoff Dixon and Mark Carnegie’s $300m Australian Pub Fund (APF) began offering its Riversdale assets to the stock-starved pub market last November with rumours the large-format Marlborough, popularly known as The Marly, was available.

In typical media-savvy style for the business high-flyers, this was followed by the surprise sale of three of APF’s pubs at once – the Peakhurst selling for $22m to John Feros’ JDA Hotels, and Oscars Hotels buying the Bristol Arms for $19.5m and the Como Hotel for $5.6 million.

The Marly listing became official in February, Geoff Dixon pontificating that everything is for sale “at the right price” and Ray White Asia-Pacific director Andrew Jolliffe offering that few hotels “have such business depth as does The Marlborough”.

Before the end of February, news emerged that Mitchell Waugh’s Public House Management Group had unleashed the chequebook again, buying APF’s Toxteth Hotel in Glebe for $22 million.

The off-market sales have only added to the intrigue around the high-profile on-market sale of the Marlborough, which sources say attracted big-money international interests currently circling Australian pub portfolios.

But ultimately “expert domestic knowledge” saw Solotel add yet another to its rapidly growing spread of A-grade hotel operations – now counting 30, in its 30 years of operation – and further cementing its dominance in the foodie-mecca precinct.

“Solotel is delighted to add to the Marlborough Hotel to the existing four hotels we manage in the Newtown area,” proclaimed CEO Bruce Solomon of the acquisitive Group.

“Solotel will be by the end of this year operating over 30 hospitality businesses in Sydney and Brisbane.”

Almost a year ago, Solomon officially announced a hotel partnership with famed chef Matt Moran, kick-started with their joint acquisition of The Australian Hotel, slated to have a 15-storey tower built above it as part of the monstrous Central Park development of the old Carlton & United brewery site.

Newtown is already one of Sydney’s premium restaurant districts, and the Marlborough Hotel, with its almost 1,000 m² across three levels, annual turnover in excess of $10m and approved DA for a rooftop bar, is prime to be quite literally taken to another level as a gastro pub.

APF, and operational arm Riversdale, have done well out of the sale, having bought it in run-down condition for $12.175 million in 2012, and benefiting from strategic capital injection in a prime location.

“The large footprint the hotel adorns, complete with multiple outdoor areas and 30 very valuable gaming machines, enabled us to significantly grow the earnings of the pub during our ownership period,” advised APF CEO and former Solotel CEO, Andrew Gibbs.

The Marly – a traditional haunt of attendees of the proximate Sydney University and UTS – meets the criteria for what Jolliffe terms a ‘super A-grade’ hotel, encompassing high-value characteristics including location, size, access to transport and population densities, and boasting “multiple revenue streams, preferably incorporating the ownership and operation of gaming devices”.

As such the potential buyer was most likely going to be someone of the calibre of the Solomon-Moran collaboration, but Jolliffe confirmed they were up against some overseas competition.

“However, it should also be said that the level of international interest was significant, and is reflective of material off-shore equity tranches looking for a home in high -yielding Australian property investments with exposure to management functions, and business operation.”

APF is understood to be entertaining interest on its remaining pubs, which include Darlinghurst’s Kinselas, Balmain’s Unity Hall, Marrickville’s Vic on the Park, and the Stock Exchange in Brisbane and Elephant in Fortitude Valley.