Sam Nazarian makes his hotel comeback, focusing on millennials and Gen Z

New brand partners with Wyndham & Marc Anthony, offering affordable travel

Sam Nazarian Returns to the Hotel Arena
SBE's Sam Nazarian and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts' Geoff Ballotti (SBE, LinkedIn, Getty)

Three years after getting out of the hotel business, Sam Nazarian is charting his path back into the industry.

Nazarian, chief executive officer of SBE Entertainment Group, is partnering with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts on a new brand, the Wall Street Journal reported. Nazarian aims to open 50 locations of the brand, dubbed Project HQ Hotels & Residences, by the end of the decade.

Nazarian was once focused on high-end hotels, rising to become an impresario of the nightclub scene in Los Angeles, Miami and New York City, the hospitality honcho is flipping the script by dabbling in affordable hotels geared towards young travelers, a consumer base of increasing interest to the industry post-Covid. Food and beverage options will have a major impact on the brand.

Specifics haven’t been locked in, but room rates are expected to range from $200 to $250 per night, relatively affordable compared to the thousands charged by some high-end properties. While it will be affordable by Nazarian’s past standards, it will be among the most expensive offerings among Wyndham’s two dozen brands.

“It will be in that really upscale, lifestyle, luxury experience that’s affordable,” Wyndham CEO Geoff Ballotti told the Journal.

The brand will be part of the Wyndham Rewards program and locations are expected to span the globe.

Nazarian told the Journal that this was about “getting back in and finding the right opportunity and right story.”

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His hotelier days seemed to come to an end in 2020, when he closed a deal to sell his remaining stake in SBE Entertainment’s hotel brands to the French hospitality company Accor. Mondrian, SLS, Hyde and Delano were among the brands to change hands as Nazarian focused more on ghost kitchens and digital restaurant brands, which he still manages through his business, C3.

In an interview for “The Closing” with The Real Deal following the sale of the brands, Nazarian admitted that there was some hesitation about selling off brands he personally created, but said the exhausting pace and having a young family pushed him towards an exit.  

Last year, Nazarian popped up again when the mogul acquired food technology business Nextbite, which partners delivery-only brands with restaurant kitchens to allow branded foods to be made and delivered from a physical space.

Now, Nazarian is back to hotels with some star power for SBE: He’s brought in singer Marc Anthony and his company Magnus as a new equity partner, in what will be Anthony’s first hospitality venture.

Holden Walter-Warner

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