Starwood Hotels, parent of such brands as Sheraton, Westin, Four Points, W, Le Meridien and more has agreed to be acquired by Marriott for $12.2 billion in cash and Marriott stock. The result will be the world's largest hotel group, as shown in the graphic.
There have been rumors for months that Hyatt or a Chinese group or Intercontinental (IHG) would take over Starwood; Marriott wasn't mentioned as often. The deal is to be completed during 2016. Starwood shareholders will receive about $2 and .92 Marriott shares for each share they hold.
Starwood has been seen by the industry as drifting in recent years and missing opportunities, and there have been management changes and pledges of renewal. Nonetheless, it has a portfolio of well-known brands, some of which have a decidedly more upscale image than some of the Marriotts. That may make the merger an especially good move for Marriott.
For many of us, though, the question will be "What's in it for me?" and if you're one of those 21 million Starwood loyalty program members, that's a real question. Starwood's program has been considered one of the most desirable, both because of its fairly easy redemption for rooms, as well as its favorable rates for conversion to airline miles or American Express Membership Rewards points. And its AMEX card has usually come with sizable opening bonuses.
Arne Sorenson, Marriott President and CEO, who will head the combined company has praised the Starwood program and its app, and told analysts in the conference call announcing the merger that "we will take the best of both programs and make sure that those bests are preserved and that the program is enhanced."
Zach Honig, of thepointsguy.com, pointed out that there is a possible precedent for keeping the two programs separate, as IHG is doing with the Kimpton Hotels loyalty program, but Sorenson's words sound more like combining. We SPG members will have to keep a close eye on developments; if it looks like anything bad is happening to convertibility, there should be time to move the miles to airlines or AMEX.