Starwood close to champagne group

Starwood Capital Group, the US-based real estate and private equity firm, is buying Taittinger, the French hotel and champagne group. The offer from Starwood, which was founded 15 years ago by Barry Sternlicht, would value the champagne business at €1.166bn and the Societe du Louvre hotel subsidiary at an additional €1.691bn.

Starwood is buying an initial 65% of Taittinger and 65.48% of Societe du Louvre and will make an offer for the remaining shares. BNP Paribas and Rothschild are running the sales process.

Fresh from a joint venture with Lehman to buy hotel assets from Le Meridien, Starwood outbid several private equity rivals to acquire Taittinger. The next highest bid was from a consortium of Wendel Investissement and Carlyle. A joint bid from Eurazeo, Credit Agricole and US-based Colony Capital came in at third place, followed by a team comprising PAI/Blackstone and Terra Firma.

The vendors were representatives of the Taittinger family and minority shareholders Albert Freres and the Peugeot family. Credit Agricole might, reportedly, acquire all of the champagne and wine business from Starwood. The touted price is €450m. Sternlicht is keen to line up a buyer for the champagne business before finalising the agreement. Pernod Ricard, the French wine and spirits group, has also been linked with a potential purchase.

Starwood was also part of the BLB group, which recently bought the US gaming assets of Wembley, the UK-listed gaming group.