April 12, 2017

Wright Investments on the Move

The Commercial Appeal

By Tom Bailey

April 12, 2017

Larry F. Wright Jr. was showing a reporter the rooftop deck at Downtown’s Residence Inn Marriott when he spotted a couple taking a selfie with the Mississippi River in the background, and offered to snap the photo for them.

“I’m one of the owners of the hotel… Thanks for your business,” Wright told guests Renee and Pete Turpa of Valparaiso, Indiana, before posing them against the railing. “One, two three… Let me get another angle. It’s a little tough because of the sun.”

The Turpas seemed thrilled. Renee volunteered that they are Gold Marriott members. “Yeah!” Wright responded, giving her a high five. “That’s what we love.”

That’s the kind of attention to guest services that is spurring Wright Investments’ growth and its impending move to a larger, more upscale headquarters.

The 35-year-old firm buys, fixes and sells hotels. Wright Investments has owned and/or managed about 180 of them since Wright’s father, Larry Wright Sr., founded the company in 1982.

The firm has 25 hotels now, 13 of which it has some ownership in.

Now, Wright Investments is building its second “Hospitality Opportunity Fund” from a pool of about 65 individual investors. Pooling its own funds, investors’ money and a loan, the firm expects to close on financing within 60 days to buy another $350 million to $400 million worth of hotels..

Wright Investments also expects by June to move from the 6,500-square-foot building it owns at 277 German Oak Drive to Boyle Investment’s Ridgeway Center where it will lease 8,000 square feet at 850 Ridge Lake.

 “It’s a much more efficient space,” Wright said of the Ridgeway Center building. “Frankly, it really takes us up a notch.”

Wright could easily manage another 20 hotels out of the Ridgeway Center space, ”and we’ve got room to expand there,” he said.

Kelly Truitt and Pat Gamble of the CBRE Tenant Advisory Group represented Wright Investments in the lease.

Wright Investments is “really good at identifying good markets with properties that have great potential, good bones,” said hotel industry consultant Chuck Pinkowski of Pinkowski & Company. “They know how to do a renovation that is the right dollar amount for the success of the property. They don’t go overboard, spending more money than they need to to make the property become successful…

“They’ve got a lot of investors who have been very happy with almost all the properties they have invested in.”

Asked if Wright Investments could be compared to companies that fix and flip houses, Wright responded with a laugh, “It’s very similar but definitely more sophisticated than that.

“It’s as simple as buying an asset for 75 cents, getting another 75 cents in a couple of years, and then hopefully selling it for $2 or $3,” he said.

On average, Wright keeps ownership of a hotel for five or seven years. Enough time to “allow us to create that value. Get in there and work with the staff and maximize the value of the asset and sell it at the appropriate time.”

The Downtown Residence Inn Marriott is a good example. Wright Investments has owned the hotel multiple times and renovated it twice.

The historic William Len Hotel building had been multifamily apartments before Wright Investments first bought it and converted it to a Residence Inn in 2004. Wright sold it in 2006, bought it back in 2012 and renovated it again.

“We’ve been in this asset multiple times in different iterations,” Wright said. “And we’ve treated everybody right throughout.”