We will always strive to achieve the best result
Interview with Anders Braks, founder and CEO of Event Hotels
Event Hotels has been on the market for 25years now. It started when you decided to add a hotel management component to what was until then a purely real estate focused business – what was the reason behind this decision?
I started realizing that the only way to maximize the value for operational real estate such as hotels, is to have the interest of owner and operator/manager completely aligned. When the opportunity arose to either find a new tenant for my hotel assets or to operate and manage them myself, I hired some of the existing talent and started to bring my vision of a successful hospitality business to life.
And you started to grow the portfolio …
Some organic growth at first, property by property, small portfolios – the big push was when we started the joint ventures with private equity, i.e. with Blackstone, after five years. This laid the basis for several sizeable single assets
and medium to large portfolios. At the beginning of 2021 Event Hotels owns, operates and manages 73hotels in 50 markets across Europe.
What about the alignment you mentioned earlier?
We put our money where our mouth is – Event Hotels always takes a minority stake in the PropCo and in the OpCo – as such we have the intrinsic interest to maximize the value of the asset by boosting revenues, improving efficiency and thus optimizing the EBITDA. We share the mindset of our investors and hence – with the help of our big operational platforms – we deliver full underwritings and business plans.
And there is yet another big differentiator …
Our in-house project-, property- and asset-management team has unique experience and know-how in all sorts of renovations, refurbishments and technical installations. Across Europe there is a wide range of projects that we realized in perfect quality, in time and on budget. A close communication between investor, hotel operation, craftsmen and project management is key to ensure a minimum of displacement and a successful completion. As an example, the consolidated capex budget for 2021, that is being steered, planned and executed by this department, amounts to 90 mio€.
How do you decide which could be the “right” deals and assets for Event Hotels and its partners?
It starts with market knowledge, hospitality expertise and in-depth due diligence – we evaluate pros and cons of location and the asset, search for potential upside in space planning or business mix, evaluate if and how existing sales and marketing can be improved, scrutinize the profit and loss statements – and all this converges into a business
plan which either does or does not justify the required investment.
What in your view attracts big private equity or institutional firms to deal with the Event Hotels family office?
In my view it is things that complement their own organizations – a flexible approach, a short decision-making process and an actual human being to take responsibility for the outcome of those decisions.
“Hospitality at heart” is what Event hotels stands for – how does that translate in relation to your business partners?
We love each other of course … but seriously, apart from the economical ambition to achieve the best possible basis and
decisions for our mutual business (which is at the “Heart” of our cooperation), the personal interaction between principals, but also between all kinds of team members, plays an important role. We are open and approachable!
With all you just laid out – in your view, what do your partners value most about your partnership?
Besides our bespoke efficiency and our proven track record, our partners appreciate our tailor-made solutions and flexibility – dedicated and comprehensive business plans for each individual hotel property, concerted set-up of joint ventures, distinct reporting packages, and full flexibility for our partners at the end of the hold period: assets can be sold with our management in place or unencumbered in order to maximize proceeds. Our partners range from family offices to private equity and we have long-standing relationships and repeat projects with many of them.
2020 proved to be an “annus horribilis” especially for the hotel industry – but apart from that crisis, hospitality inherits an economic cycle within a 7– 10-year period. How do you prepare to meet the resulting challenges?
We take a very proactive approach here – the way we have set up our organization and the hotels, allows us to act quickly and implement necessary measures. Of course, you cannot foresee nor prepare for a global pandemic that we just experience, but a periodic downturn, a temporary
oversupply in a specific market or a looming financial crisis – those are things we can and will prepare for with predefined crisis scenarios that are simply kick-started when needed. And during Covid-19 times our central organization was instrumental when learning about and dealing with new fields of expertise, such as furlough of employees and application for government subsidies which would have been a chaos to coordinate in each individual asset otherwise.
Did the experience of the recent Covid-crisis change your definition of “success”?
My comprehension of “success” has always been ambitious yet realistic, and there was no need to change that attitude – we will always strive to achieve the best possible result, but yet accept immutable realities.
What is your view on the future?
The very essence of being an entrepreneur is to believe in what you do and what you can achieve – things will undoubtedly improve again! Will everything be the same as precrisis – certainly not! Some negative impact of Covid-19 will prevail, both for the hotel operational and for the real estate side of the business, however any crisis also inherits opportunity and at least there will be a chance to rethink business models and to test the status quo.