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Starwood Capital Unveils New U.K. Hotel Brand

GREENWICH, CT—Starwood Capital Group, a global private investment firm, will launch Principal, an urban lifestyle hotel group, on November 1, following a capital investment in the portfolio of approximately $195 million (£150 million).

Principal is a collection of city-center hotels based in landmark buildings in locations across the U.K. The distinctive heritage and resulting relationship between the properties and their surroundings are the cornerstones of the Principal brand, according to the company.

Each of the hotels has a story to tell—of its history, its design and architecture, its quirks and characters, and its role in shaping the city and forging relationships with local partners, whether corporate or creative, according to the company.Properties that fit the Principal brand can range from the Georgian townhouses that form the core of The Principal Edinburgh George Street (formerly The George Hotel) to the clock tower that’s synonymous with The Principal Manchester (formerly The Palace Hotel).

“At the heart of a great business is a unique and authentic story. Our people and our buildings have great stories to tell, and these stories differentiate you from the competition, giving your guests and your staff something to cheer about,” said Barry Sternlicht, chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group. “Reviving these historic, grande-dame hotels is a truly great story—they are spectacular buildings in which we can create dynamic scenes. The story of each hotel, its amazing history and architecture, is the opposite of the mass-produced chain hotel, and provides us with a canvas on which to curate a unique sense of place.”

Each Principal Hotel will feature a bar and restaurant that aims to resonate with locals and hotel guests alike. Other touchpoints will include vintage letterboxes in each lobby; a corner shop selling treats to stock the minibar and essentials; a box of complimentary snacks, as well as fresh milk and mineral water in the minibar; and a concierge service.

The Principal Manchester, on the corner of Oxford St. and Whitworth St., occupies three adjoining buildings dating between 1895 and 1932. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse, his son Paul and Stanley Birkett, all three buildings were commissioned by The Refuge Assurance Company as its company headquarters, and they include a clock tower.

The Principal Manchester underwent a top-to-bottom remodel to create 270 loft-style bedrooms and suites designed by Michaelis Boyd Architects; 17 meeting and event spaces, including a ballroom; The Refuge Dining Room and Public Bar, curated by DJs-turned-restaurateurs Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford; and a double-height lobby featuring a commissioned 10-ft.-high bronze horse sculpted by Sophie Dickens, a reference to the turning circle for horse-and-carriage that once occupied the center of the space.

The Principal York (formerly The Royal York Hotel) dates from 1878, and was built to complement and serve the significant expansion of York Railway Station, with landscaped, private gardens running to three acres. Local Tadcaster stone gives the exterior a honeyed glow, and the imposing facade suggests a grand country home more than a Victorian railway hotel, according to the company. The sensitive architectural restoration, by 3D Reid and Goddard Littlefair, places a garden room at the hub of the hotel, next to the main lobby and the staircase, where afternoon tea is served overlooking York Minster.

In addition to 155 guestrooms and suites, The Principal York offers an events center and 10 additional meeting and event spaces; a gym and indoor pool; the Chapter House bar, serving local craft ales alongside wines, spirits and cocktails; and The Refectory Kitchen & Terrace.

Completing the trio of hotels at launch, The Principal Edinburgh on George St. has been serving hotel guests since 1881. At its heart are five listed Georgian townhouses, built in 1775 as homes for Edinburgh’s most prosperous citizens, according to the company. The hotel houses The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen, where local Head Chef Colin Fleming offers modern Scottish cooking.

The Principal portfolio also includes Principal Partners—hotels that will join the brand over the course of 2017, among them The Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow, Scotland; The Hotel Russell in London, which is currently closed and is due to reopen next summer as The Principal London; and the former Martins Bank, which will open as The Principal Liverpool in early 2018.

The creation of Principal is a part of Starwood Capital Group’s rebranding of its portfolio of U.K. hotels under the new name of The Principal Hotel Company, comprising Principal in city centers, and De Vere—modern, country estate hotels, with mansion houses at the center, mixing leisure with conference facilities. The De Vere brand is scheduled to launch in spring/summer 2017, following an investment of more than $650 million (£50 million).