Hyatt sells Austin’s Driskill Hotel, where Satchmo stayed, LBJ wooed Lady Bird

Dallas-based Woodbine buys `most haunted place in Texas’

Cattle baron Jesse Driskill and Austin's Driskill Hotel at 604 Brazos Street (Driskill Hotel, iStock)
Cattle baron Jesse Driskill and Austin's Driskill Hotel at 604 Brazos Street (Driskill Hotel, iStock)

Hyatt Hotels sold the historic Driskill Hotel in Austin, named the state’s most-haunted place, but they ain’t afraid of no ghost: the company will continue to run the property.

Chicago-based Hyatt sold the property at 604 Brazos Street to Dallas-based Woodbine Development for $125 million, according to the Austin Business Journal. Hyatt bought the hotel in 2013. Though financial details weren’t initially disclosed, Hyatt confirmed with CultureMap that the buyer was Woodbine. The sale was part of Hyatt’s long-term plan to sell real estate totaling $2 billion.

Built in 1886 by cattle baron Jesse Driskill, the storied hotel represents a century and a half of Austin history, from hosting Louis Armstrong for a three-night gig in 1931 to being the site of the future President Lyndon B. Johnson’s first date with future First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. The four-story property was saved from the wrecking ball in 1969 after it was declared a national historic landmark.

Last year, Yelp ranked The Driskill as the most haunted place in Texas. It’s said to house a handful of restless spirits, including its founder and a young girl who fell to her death in 1887 from the grand staircase while chasing her ball.

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“We want to reassure our colleagues, guests, customers, and community that Hyatt will continue to manage The Driskill under a long-term management agreement, and there will be no business disruption with this transfer of ownership at this time,” a Hyatt spokesperson told CultureMap.

The 206,685-square-foot building sits on slightly more than half an acre surrounded by Austin cultural fixtures such as Congress Ave and Museum of the Weird. While the 189-room hotel still faces the same pandemic-related drop in travel that has plagued the luxury hospitality industry, the Driskill has seen a promising increase in “experienced-based” bookings, according to sales and events director Ashley Famalette.

“While this has been a trend for some time, the pandemic has really put a renewed focus on interactive-experience led travel and immersive experiences, Famalette said in an email to the ABJ. “Guests want more than just to sleep in a comfy bed and eat at a restaurant, they want to feel like a local and have exclusive experiences that they can’t have anywhere else.”

Beginning with its sales of the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines and the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in 2021, the hotel giant is set to unload $2 billion worth of real estate by the end of 2024 as it moves toward becoming more of a fee-based company. Last week, Hyatt reported $1.3 billion in first quarter revenue beating Wall Street estimates.

The sale of The Driskill was one of three by Hyatt in April. The other two —the Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk and the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa in California— were picked up by Arizona nonprofit CFC-SA LLC with the support of San Antonio City Council. Including the pending sale of the Confidante Miami Beach, which is expected to close in the second quarter, the four properties are expected to generate $812 million for the company.

[ABJ] — Maddy Sperling

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