Grand Ole Opry owner sells hotel brand to Marriott

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Grand Ole Opry owner Gaylord Entertainment has agreed to sell its hotel brand and the rights to manage its four hotels to Marriott for $210 million in cash.

The deal announced Thursday follows six months of reviewing options for its business. It will still own the four hotels it's letting Marriott manage. By handing over day-to-day control of the hotels to Marriott, Gaylord expects to save between $33 million and $40 million a year.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord then plans to reorganize as a real estate investment trust on Jan. 1, in a move aimed at significantly lowering its tax bill. It will continue to own and operate the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium (formerly the Grand Ole Opry house) and other attractions as taxable real estate investment trust subsidiaries.

The hotels Marriott will take over are the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland, Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Gaylord Palms in Orlando and Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas.

Marriott said the deal is part of its plan to expand its group travel and meetings business.

Marriott International Inc., based in Bethesda, Md., has more than 3,700 properties in 73 countries and territories under 17 brands, including Marriott Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites and Residence Inn.

The deal is subject to certain conditions, including shareholders' approval of Gaylord becoming a real estate investment trust.

Gaylord shares climbed 6 percent on the news, adding $2.06 to reach $36.54 in morning trading after rising as high as $38.76 earlier in the day. Shares of Marriott lost 61 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $37.67.

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