Local group takes over Windsor Court

Posted on: October 8 2009
Local group takes over Windsor Court

Rooms to get major overhaul

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Times-Picayune

By Jaquetta White

Business writer

One of New Orleans' most luxurious hotels is now under local ownership.

The Windsor Court Hotel was sold Friday to Windsor Court Partners, LLC for an undisclosed amount. The New Orleans partnership purchased the property from Orient-Express Hotels Ltd.

Orient-Express had owned the 324-room Windsor Court since 1991 when its parent company Sea Containers Ltd. paid $55 million for the property.

Windsor Court Partners is a partnership led by The Berger Company, investor and Omega Hospital owner Dr. Eric George, and Crow Holdings, a Dallas real estate investment firm. The Berger Company has owned and developed several sites in New Orleans, including the Royal Orleans, Wyndham Riverfront and Loews New Orleans hotels.

The Gravier Street hotel, built in 1984 by the Coleman family of New Orleans, is best known for its distinctly Anglophilic styling, extensive art collection and restaurant, the Grill Room. This year, the Windsor Court was named to Travel and Leisure magazine's annual list of the "500 World's Best Hotels." The magazine also named the property the top hotel in New Orleans for 2009. The Windsor Court has counted former President George W. Bush, musician Paul McCartney and actress Uma Thurman as guests.

"This hotel has been a standard bearer of New Orleans," said Brandon Berger, a principal in The Berger Company. "It's a great victory that it's back in local hands."

The new owners say they plan to keep the feel of the hotel the same, but are planning a major overhaul, over the course of two years, to the property's guest rooms. The plan includes, among other things, upgrading the dated appearance of the rooms with flat screens and more modern bathroom fixtures. In rooms with kitchens, the remodel will include updating appliances and cabinets and replacing worn laminate countertops with granite ones. No structural changes are planned.

"We definitely want to keep the theme of traditional elegance," said Darryl Berger Jr., a principal of The Berger Company. "It's in wonderful condition, it just needs a little updating."

The property will remain open while renovations are conducted. Berger said a price tag for the renovation has not yet been set.

Little else will change at the property. David Teich, who joined the Windsor Court as general manager last year, will stay on in that position. Other staff will remain in place to "ensure a seamless transition," the new owners said in a statement.

The purchase comes as the national hospitality market is seeing significant declines as consumers and companies cut back on leisure and business travel. Locally, hotels have not been able to command as much per night for their rooms as they did last year. For the week ended Sept. 12, the average daily room rate in New Orleans fell 25.7 percent from the same period last year to $83.70.

But Brandon Berger said he was unconcerned about the current state of the travel market. He believes the hotel's now local ownership and devoted guests will help it continue to ride out bumps in the marketplace.

"We intend to ride out any economic storm the hotels are going through," Brandon Berger said. "And even in this economy, one thing you can never replace is the quality of the room product."

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Jaquetta White can be reached at jwhite@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3494.