The Wall Street Journal
By Craig Karmin and Will Feuer

Hilton Worldwide Holdings has agreed to pay $210 million for a hotel operator that focuses on college towns, a bet that business near campuses can fuel the next leg of the lodging heavyweight’s growth.

It is acquiring Graduate Hotels, a 10-year old company that owns and operates dozens of hotels in some of the country’s biggest college towns, from Ann Arbor, Mich., and Oxford, Miss., to Chapel Hill, N.C. It also owns hotels in the U.K., including one by Cambridge University. AJ Capital Partners, the Nashville, Tenn.-based property firm selling the Graduate brand, will hold on to the real estate of the 37 hotels it owns or is developing in the portfolio. AJ Capital CEO Ben Weprin said Graduate Hotels benefit from the nostalgia people associate with their college experiences, as well as from demographic factors that have driven growth in their markets.

“These are not just college towns,” he said. “They’re state capitols. They’re hospital systems. They’re life-science markets. Those have grown exponentially around the world.”

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