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Changing hands: Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa

PHILIP CHANDLER

Queenstown’s five-star Sofitel’s been bought by a New Zealand hotel fund that’s expected to take it to the next level.

Local hotelier Graham Wilkinson, who’s had the controlling stake in the CBD property since 2010, says ‘‘it was evident we had quite a bit of capital expenditure required for refurbishment and the like’’.

Early this year, he was approached by a partnership comprising Russell Property Group, New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Lockwood Property Group looking for ‘‘a trophy’’ in Queenstown to add to its portfolio of quality hotels.

‘‘It was just a nice little marriage between the two of us,’’ he says.

He’d had approaches from overseas interests but all owners ‘‘had a strong desire to keep it in NZ hands’’.

The sale, for an undisclosed sum, takes effect March 31, however Accor Asia Pacific will continue to manage the hotel.

Wilkinson, the founder developer of Queenstown’s Hotel St Moritz, first got involved with Sofitel in 2008, three years after it opened, when trading was very difficult, he says.

He and a partner bought all the commercial units and a large number of the 82 hotel units to own about half the property.

Over the years, they’ve ploughed in millions for upgrades, including the new foyer and French Revolution-themed 1789 bar.

Wilkinson says in the past four to six years ‘‘we had great returns’’.

Covid, which has robbed the hotel of its well-heeled overseas clientele, had made trading more difficult.

But once the Aussie bubble’s open, he expects the hotel to trade ‘‘very, very well’’.

Russell Property Group boss Brett Russell says they’ve got ‘‘full confidence’’ the hotel will continue to be a market leader over the long-term and they hope to ‘‘add further value to the asset’’.

Meanwhile, Shotover Street’s Base Backpackers has also sold – once the lease expires, the new owner will convert it into another five-star hotel.

scoop@scene.co.nz