Snow King Hotel buyers keep project plans under wraps

February 21, 2019

The new owners of the Snow King Hotel say they will invest $5 million in “capital improvements to the property,” though they aren’t ready to disclose the nature of the projects.

KDG Capital, a real estate firm based in Tampa, Florida, announced last week that it had purchased the hotel. And according to Greg Champion, president of Benchmark, the hospitality company that operates the hotel, the firm is still finding its footing.

“At this stage of the game,” he said, “I don’t think they have things as close to finalized as they would like.”

Champion said KDG intends to do general renovations, like refurbishing rooms, upgrading the concierge area and creating a “grab-and-go” in the lobby — projects “of no impact to the local community.”

As for more intensive plans, however, the firm wants to “keep a super-low profile” while working out the details. He said it should have a better idea of what’s in store for the hotel by the end of summer.

“They’re doing their due diligence and making various trips out there,” Champion said, but they don’t want to “disappoint the community” by announcing anything before establishing a firm timeline.

Under the current master plan for the Snow King Resort District, the hotel has 452,000 square feet of development potential, shown as five additional wings fanning out from the main building.

However, town Planning Director Tyler Sinclair said that number isn’t fixed, since other entities in the resort district could give more square footage to the hotel, or vice versa. The town doesn’t oversee those exchanges, so it’s difficult to know where development potential actually lies.

According to land transfer records filed with the Teton County Clerk’s Office in late December, the hotel sold for $41 million. KDG purchased it through the Jackson Hole Acquisition Group, a Delaware LLC.

“We are excited to be a part of this iconic resort’s future and to contribute positively to the Jackson community,” said Greg Ogle, a partner at KDG, in a press release announcing the purchase.

A Tampa cardiologist and entrepreneur named Kiran Patel, who immigrated to the U.S. from Zambia in the 1970s, seems to be at the head of KDG. His signature is on the sale documents, and Florida state records list him as the company’s manager.

Articles in various newspapers and industry publications detail the doctor-turned-hotelier’s recent forays into the resort world and his ties to international chain Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.

Most recently, Asian Hospitality reported in October that Patel had taken over a $136 million project to develop a JW Marriott on Clearwater Beach along the Florida coast, as well as a $17 million renovation of the Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey.

Patel and partners at KDG also purchased the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in September 2017, according the the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Besides those purchases, Patel has spent the past decade acquiring hotels across the country, from Pittsburgh to Tucson, Arizona, to Minneapolis.

Patel is also well-known in Florida for his philanthropy. He has donated hundreds of millions to health care and education in the state and abroad, in India and Africa.

The FBI raided his health insurance company WellCare, where he made his fortune, during a Medicaid-fraud investigation several years after he sold it in 2002. Though executives were indicted in 2011, Patel was not implicated.

Since 2012 the Snow King Hotel has been owned by JMI Realty, a real estate firm based in San Diego. JMI purchased it from longtime owner Manuel Lopez.

Champion, of Benchmark — which will continue to operate the hotel — said he looks forward to working with the new owners. KDG is a “long-term holder of assets,” he said, and therefore takes a long-term view of its investments.

“They don’t buy and sell,” Champion said. “They have a vision of holding onto this asset and making it something everyone can be proud of.”

Soon after announcing the sale, Benchmark said it had appointed a new manager for the hotel. David Kingston, who in the past ran Hotel Terra Jackson Hole and the Snake River Lodge and Spa, took over management at Snow King.

“He comes to us with significant experience leading signature properties and also with an important understanding of and experience within the Jackson Hole market,” Champion said. “He is a welcome addition to the team.”