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The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club to get new owner

The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club will soon have a new owner. FelCor Lodging Trust, the owner of the historic Vinoy resort in downtown St. Petersburg, is being acquired by RLJ Lodging Trust, the publicly traded real estate investment trust owned by BET founder Robert Johnson. [Tampa Bay Times photo]
Published Jul. 11, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is about to get a new owner.

Maryland-based FelCor Lodging Trust, the owner of the historic Vinoy resort in downtown St. Petersburg, is being acquired by RLJ Lodging Trust, the publicly traded real estate investment trust owned by BET founder Robert Johnson.

FelCor purchased the Vinoy in 2007, and recently announced a three-year plan to make $50 million in upgrades to the property. These include building a new parking structure, a new 200-seat restaurant, and renovating the spa, fitness center, golf course and clubhouse. The company owns hotels across the country, including a few Embassy Suites in South Florida and a DoubleTree Suites in Orlando.

Previous Coverage: St. Petersburg's Vinoy Renaissance resort breaks ground on renovations

RLJ Lodging Trust owns 122 hotels with more than 20,100 rooms in 21 states. The acquisition of Felcor will expand the company's reach to the country's West Coast. It will also create a $7 billion company with stakes in 160 hotels across 26 states and Washington D.C., making it one of the largest public hotel real estate firms in the country. Johnson will oversee the merged companies as executive chairman.

The all-stock transaction is expected to close by the end of the year. A sales price and other terms were not disclosed.

Johnson and his ex-wife are the founders of BET, an American cable network launched as the Black Entertainment Television in 1980. They sold it to Viacom in 2001. Johnson's ex-wife, Sheila Johnson, owns her own hospitality company, Salamander Hotels & Resorts, which purchased the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, in 2007. Together, Johnson and his wife are known as the first African-American billionaires.

Previous Coverage: Billionaire Sheila Johnson has vision for Innisbrook golf resort

The Vinoy, a historic St. Petersburg landmark at 501 Fifth Ave. NE, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It opened in 1925 and was leased to U.S. Army Air Forces and U.S. Maritime Commission during World War II. It reopened to the public in 1944 and closed in 1974. The hotel sat neglected until it was renovated by New York developer Fred Guest. It reopened in 1992.

The hotel is managed by Marriott. It's unclear if that will change under the new ownership. Calls to both RLJ Lodging Trust and FelCor Lodging Trust were not returned.

The Vinoy is the second iconic upscale hotel in the St. Petersburg area to find new ownership this year. In January, the Don CeSar on St. Pete Beach was purchased by Host Hotels & Resorts. Formerly managed by Loews, the historic Pink Palace is now run by Davidson Hotels & Resorts.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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