The Escarpment Group has paid more than $5 million for Peppers Convent Hotel in the Hunter Valley, offloaded by former News Corp Australian boss and ex-RM Williams chairman Ken Cowley and his family.
Owned by husband-and-wife hoteliers George Saad and Huong Nguyen, The Escarpment Group operates boutique luxury hotels in the Blue Mountains including the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Parklands Country Gardens and Lodges and Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort and Spa.
The acquisition of the Peppers Convent is their first outside the Blue Mountains.
It was second-time lucky for the Cowleys, who paid $6 million for the boutique Hunter Valley property in 2010 and who were prepared to meet the market this time round.
The 17-room hotel and restaurant Circa 1876 plus a pool, tennis court and conference facilities on 2933 hectares in Pokolbin sold as a going concern with a 10-year licence agreement with Peppers, part of ASX-listed hotel operator Mantra Group.
Relocated and rebuilt
Built in 1909 for the Brigidine nuns in Coonamble, NSW, it was dismantled, relocated and rebuilt in Pokolbin in 1990 by media magnate James Fairfax in collaboration with restaurateurs Robert and Sally Molines.
CBRE Hotel’s Rob Cross sold the properties in conjunction with Alan Jurd from Jurd’s Real Estate on behalf of the Cowley family, owners of the vendor, Strathig Pty Ltd.
Ralf Bruegger, Escarpment Group GM, said buying the Convent was a “strategic investment” which further demonstrated its commitment to regional tourism in Australia,
“We recognise the heritage value of both the Convent and Circa 1876,” Mr Bruegger said. “We are the largest employer of hospitality staff in the Blue Mountains and understand the opportunities and challenges of operating in a regional location.”
CBRE’s Mr Cross said Escarpment Group was “an experienced owner and operator of premium properties in the world heritage listed Blue Mountains.”
Mr Jurd told The Australian Financial Review when the sales campaign was launched in May that the Convent hotel had the potential to be highly profitable. Current occupancy sits at about 70 per cent with room rates about $350 a night on weekends.