Located in the inner west, the Imperial Hotel Erskineville has been a Sydney institution since its construction in 1880.

The venue, known as the birthplace of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, was saved from closure by The Sydney Collective’s Fraser Short and Australian Hotels Association NSW President Scott Leach in 2015. The venue was reopened just in time for the 2018 Mardi Gras, and has continued to be a favourite among Sydney’s LGBTQIA+ community.

Short and Leach have sold the venue through JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group, and the purchaser has been identified as Universal Hotels. This follows Short’s February divestment of his share in hotels jointly owned with publican Arthur Laundy.

Universal Hotels is owned and operated by the Kospetas family, whose Sydney venues include the nearby Newtown Hotel, the Civic Hotel and Crown Hotel in Surry Hills, and popular LGBTQIA+ venues on Sydney’s Oxford Street, The Riley, Oxford Hotel, and Universal.

“The opportunity to transact on the Imperial was one in which we believed had great synergy with our group of venues. We have a strong connection with the LGBTQIA+ community and are very excited about the next chapter for the venue,” noted Universal Hotels CEO Harris Kospetas.

“The acquisition fits our strategy of acquiring outstanding assets, where our operational and geographical synergies can unlock value. I would like to thank Fraser and Scott for their outstanding rebuild and subsequent stewardship of the venue,” Kospetas continued.

Universal Hotels plan to strengthen its relationships with the Imperial’s staff and community before making significant changes to the venue.

“We are attracted to the strong legacy of the Imperial and will endeavour to continually improve and evolve the venue,” Kospetas added.

The sale was negotiated by JLL Senior Vice President Kate MacDonald, on behalf of the vendors.

“This is a natural addition to the Universal Hotels portfolio as they continue to invest in venues with strong and diverse income streams, many of which rely on entertainment as a key business driver. The Kospetas family and their incredibly capable team will provide the Erskineville community with the same good vibes as they have done all over Sydney for more than two decades,” MacDonald commented.

Though there have been fewer venue sales since the NSW State election in March, the sale of the Imperial is indicative of a growing number of investors capitalising on purchase opportunities that have been lacking over the last two years.

From Imperial to Royal

The Royal Hotel in Scone, NSW, has been sold on behalf of Kelly & Co Hotels, led by publican Rodney ‘Ned’ Kelly, as Kelly seeks to consolidate his portfolio to focus on larger projects on the NSW coast.

The venue encompasses a single bar operation, several dining areas, and a weatherproof beer garden. It also includes 10 refurbished motel suites, 19 first floor pub-style accommodation rooms, 9 gaming machine entitlements, and an approved development application for the construction of a new gaming lounge on the northern boundary.

The sale of the freehold going concern was conducted via an on-market Expressions of Interest process and drew a variety of interested parties. The Royal was successfully purchased by an established Hunter Valley group looking to expand in the Upper Hunter region.

Affectionately termed the horse capital of Australia, Scone is expected to see substantial growth, with the Upper Hunter’s population expected to grow by 100,000 residents by 2041. Scone benefits from strong local economic drivers, including agricultural production, mining and renewable energy, and the region will see major projects such as The Upper Hunter Energy Park, The Hunter Regional Transport Plan 2041, and the Scone Racetrack and Equine Hospital upgrade.

The sale was overseen by JLL Vice President Greg Jeloudev, Executive Edward Browne, and Senior Vice President Kate MacDonald.

“The location and inherent features of the hotel were the ultimate drivers in facilitating a sale outcome. An extremely varied buyer pool emerged from the process, including new market entrants, established hoteliers and larger hospitality groups seeking exposure to the Upper Hunter Region. Ned has provided solid foundations for the successful purchaser, and with the approved DA, has established a blueprint for success to maximise the earnings of this hotel,” Jeloudev concluded.

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