Slieve Donard sold for £40m

Slieve Donard sold for £40m

13 October 2021

NEWCASTLE’S iconic Slieve Donard Resort and Spa has been sold in a £40m deal to American investors.

Owned by the Hastings family since 1972, the world famous five-star hotel has been acquired by US-based AJ Capital Partners which is planning a major upgrade.

After weeks of speculation that the hotel had been sold, the news was finally confirmed last Thursday with the new owner a Nashville-headquartered real estate developer and hotel operator with more than 40 hotels across the US and Britain, including St Andrews in Scotland.

Announcing that the Newcastle hotel has been acquired, AJ Capital also confirmed that renovation work is planned to start in October next year, with the work completed by the following spring.

During the planned upgrade, the hotel will remain closed.

Howard Hastings — the managing director of Hastings Hotels — described AJ Capital Partners’s acquisition of the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa as “encouraging news” for hospitality and tourism in Northern Ireland.

He said it also represented a boost for the burgeoning golf tourism industry which “has been an important driver of local tourism in recent years and shows significant growth potential in the future”.

Mr Hastings added: “I have every confidence that AJ Capital Partners will be sympathetic to the heritage of the hotel and that, under their leadership, it will continue to flourish and maintain its reputation as an iconic destination in Northern Ireland.

“This investment is a strong sign of confidence in the local market by a major international hotel operator with exciting ambitions for the Slieve Donard in the coming years. Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts is a collection of luxury hotels located in the world’s most premier golf destinations.”

The Newcastle hotel will be operated by AJ Capital Partners under its Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts brand, with the acquisition of the Slieve Donard helping expand the new owner into one of the premier golf markets in Northern Ireland.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility and honour to be the next steward of this timeless asset,” said Ben Weprin, chief executive of AJ Capital.

“The Hastings family has held that distinction for nearly 50 years and we plan to carry and uphold the tradition and spirit of this iconic property and connect it with our existing assets to create a collection unparalleled in the golf world,” he continued.

Positioned adjacent to the world-renowned Royal County Down Golf Club, the 181-key hotel will be the first Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts property in Northern Ireland and the fourth hotel in its collection. 

The Slieve Donard Resort and Spa joins Marine & Lawn properties launched this summer in Scotland, including Rusacks St Andrews, North Berwick and Marine Troon.

Mr Weprin said AJ Capital Partners is “honoured” to welcome the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa to the Marine & Lawn collection.

The majestic hotel features four food and beverage venues, 11 meeting and conference rooms, a ballroom and a two-floor spa, which includes a swimming pool, vitality pool, fitness studio, steam room, relaxation room, and 14 treatment rooms. 

Widely regarded as one of the most iconic hotels in Northern Ireland, the Newcastle hotel has served as host to several prominent golf events, including The British Amateur Championship, The Curtis Cup, The Walker Cup and, most recently, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Confirming the planned closure to pave the way for upgrade work, the new owners say that when the hotel reopens in the spring of 2023 the “reimagined Slieve Donard” will offer decor inspired by the narratives of the destination’s rich past, including updated guest rooms and renovated food and beverage and meeting and event spaces.

South Down MLA Colin McGrath and Mournes councillor Laura Devlin said the sale of the Newcastle hotel “highlights the appeal of the area’s tourism and hospitality product” and that news the sale has been finalised will be of huge significance to people right across the country.

“From the staff who have served the resort so faithfully to its patrons near and far, the Slieve Donard is known all across the world and is synonymous with Newcastle and the Mournes in particular,” he said.

“The Slieve Donard is in many respects the jewel in our tourism crown. Its sale represents a major indicator of the attractiveness of our tourism and hospitality industry, especially as we emerge from the pandemic and tourism returns to full capacity.  

“The hotel’s success is a testament to Hastings and the staff who have made it the tourism and hospitality benchmark that it is. It was completed in 1898 as an ‘end of the line’ attraction for the railway and now that it is beginning a new chapter.”

Mr McGrath said the hotel’s sale marks the next stage of its development and growth.

He added: “I welcome news that the hotel itself will continue as a going concern, that the jobs of all staff are secure and that all bookings, including those for functions and weddings, treatments and vouchers will be honoured. 

“As the resort changes hands I would hope that it will retain its local character that reflects all that is attractive about our area.”