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Graduate Hotels Acquired by Hilton

Pairing the loyal Graduate Hotels fanbase with the size and scale of Hilton will create new opportunities for owners and guests in college towns

By Todd R. Berger

3.14.24 Graduate Hotels Chapel Hill-Check-In-Desk-Photo-Credit-Graduate-Hotels
Graduate Chapel Hill in North Carolina is one of many Graduate Hotels locations acquired by Hilton. || Courtesy of Hilton

Hilton has come to an agreement with Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners to acquire the Graduate Hotels brand, adding a significant growth opportunity for the company in the fast-growing lifestyle hotel market.

Hilton will pay $210 million to acquire all rights to the Graduate brand worldwide, enter into franchise agreements for all existing and signed pipeline Graduate Hotels, and become responsible for the brand’s future development and growth. AJ Capital will remain the owner of the more than 35 operating and pipeline Graduate Hotels, each of which will be operated under long-term Hilton franchise agreements. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

“Adding Graduate Hotels to Hilton’s portfolio of award-winning brands accelerates our expansion in the lifestyle space by pairing an existing, much-loved brand with the power of Hilton’s strong commercial engine to drive growth,” says Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton, in a prepared statement. “We have long had a high bar for adding brands to our portfolio, whether organically or through acquisition, and Graduate will be another driver of growth for us, presenting a unique opportunity to serve more guests in sought-after destinations. With thousands of colleges and universities around the world, we believe the addressable market for the Graduate brand is 400-500 hotels globally.”

The addition of Graduate Hotels to Hilton’s global portfolio will offer millions of travelers access to unparalleled hospitality in their favorite university towns. Each Graduate hotel—steeped in local history, charm, and nostalgia—reflects the unique character of its university, offering the perfect setting for game days, reunions, graduations, campus visits, and more. Since its inception in 2014, the brand has grown to span the U.S. and the United Kingdom, including locations in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Knoxville, Tennessee; Palo Alto, California; State College, Pennsylvania; and Oxford and Cambridge, England, with new hotels opening soon in Austin and Dallas, Texas; Auburn, Alabama; and Princeton, New Jersey.

“We’re proud to embark on this new chapter for Graduate Hotels with Hilton, the ideal partner to steer the brand’s continued growth,” says Ben Weprin, founder of Graduate Hotels and CEO of AJ Capital. “Both Hilton and Graduate Hotels are committed to delivering exceptional experiences and making a positive impact on communities. Our shared values and close collaboration will ensure a smooth transition while keeping the Graduate Hotels’ unique brand identity intact. With Hilton’s extensive network behind us, guests can anticipate even more exciting opportunities. We’re certain this partnership will propel Graduate Hotels to even greater heights, while AJ’s ongoing ownership of the real estate assets lays a strong foundation for our future success.”

The Graduate Hotels brand will be incorporated into Hilton’s fast-growing lifestyle portfolio alongside Canopy by HiltonCurio Collection by HiltonTapestry Collection by Hilton, Tempo by Hilton, and Motto by Hilton—each of which has been launched in the last 10 years to respond to growing demand from travelers for localized travel experiences. Hilton’s 2024 Trends Report identified that nearly a quarter of global travelers are planning getaways for concerts, sporting events, and other one-of-a-kind, local experiences this year, many of which are happening in secondary markets anchored by universities.

Graduate Hotels are expected to be available for booking via Hilton channels later this year and will participate in Hilton Honors, Hilton’s guest loyalty program. Members who book directly with Hilton can access a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of points and money to book a stay, exclusive member discounts, free standard Wi-Fi, and the Hilton Honors mobile app.