Source: Meeting Held To Discuss Peabody Hotel Sale

(UPDATE: Fairwood Capital LLC is considering purchasing the hotel.)

A meeting was held Wednesday regarding the potential sale of the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, a source told Arkansas Business.

The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the city of Little Rock would issue a news release concerning the matter on Thursday.

The Peabody Hotel adjoins the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock. The convention center is operated by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Board, which also holds a long-term lease on the Peabody.

The Peabody Little Rock is operated by the Peabody Hotel Group, a subsidiary of Belz Enterprises of Memphis. It is the state's largest hotel by revenue, reporting $16.1 million in revenue, or $38,600 per room, in 2011. According to Arkansas Business' annual list of hotels (PDF), revenue for the Peabody declined nearly 3 percent from the previous year.

On Wednesday, Fox 16 News reported that anonymous sources had told the station that the hotel was for sale. The station said that Marty Belz, who heads the Peabody Hotel Group, met with city leaders Wednesday.

But Arkansas Business' source said it was Belz Enterprises COO Ronald Belz, not Marty Belz, who was at the meeting with city leaders. The source declined to give further details. A call to Mayor Mark Stodola was not immediately returned, nor was a call to Gretchen Hall, president of the LRCVB.

Gene Fortson, who sits on the Little Rock board of directors and is a member of the Advertising & Promotion Commission, said neither the city board nor the A&P Commission were notified of nor invited to the meeting.

If the luxury hotel sells, the city will have to approve the deal because Little Rock owns the property, Fortson said.

From Excelsior to Peabody

The Peabody, formerly the Excelsior Hotel, has more than 400 guest rooms, 40,000-SF of exhibition space, two lounges and a restaurant, Capriccio. It opened in 2002 after a $33 million renovation of the Excelsior.

The Excelsior was built by Doyle Rogers for $20 million in 1982. He sold the hotel to Green Stamp America Inc. in 1989 for the reported price of $24 million. After the sale, during the mid- to late-1990s, the Excelsior saw revenue drop about 20 percent.

In 1999, the city first announced the Peabody's decision to buy 51 percent of the Excelsior from Green Stamp, renovate it and call it the Peabody Little Rock.

The project gave the hotel a dramatic new look, as workers replaced marble floors, added new carpet, enclosed the plaza, built a new car port and refurbished every guest and public space.

Two other Peabody Hotels operate in Memphis and Orlando, Fla. The hotels are famous for their marching ducks, which reside on the roof of the hotel and are escorted down the elevator and into the fountain in the lobby of the hotel by a “duck master” twice a day.

(Kate Knable contributed to this report.)