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Merger expands Benchmark Hospitality's global footprint

July 13, 2016 Updated: July 13, 2016 at 8:30 pm
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Companies that manage the Cheyenne Mountain Resort and Garden of the Gods Club and Resort have merged to create a combined firm that will operate 58 luxury hotels with more than 8,000 rooms and 10,000 employees in 17 states, Canada, Curacao and Japan.

Benchmark Hospitality International, a Houston- area company that manages Cheyenne Mountain Resort, announced Monday that it had merged with Gemstone Hotels & Resorts, a Utah-based affiliate of Gencom Group Co. that manages Garden of the Gods Club and Resort, and will operate under a name that will be selected this year as part of a strategic "envisioning and branding process," the companies said in a news release.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Cheyenne Mountain Resort was built in 1985 in southwest Colorado Springs and has 316 rooms and suites, more than 40,000 square feet of meeting space, three restaurants, a 9,000-square-foot fitness center, 17 tennis courts, five pools, a 35-acre lake and an 18-hole golf course. Garden of the Gods Club was opened in 1951 and was demolished and rebuilt in 1995; it includes 66 guest rooms, a 43,000-square-foot main building, a 21,000-square-foot golf clubhouse, a 27-hole golf course and a 28,000-square-foot International Health and Wellness Center now under construction.

Alex Cabañas, CEO of the combined company, said the merger would have minimal or no impact on members of the club or guests at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. He said he believes the merger will have "a great benefit of these two properties working together" in the Colorado Springs market. The properties employ more than 500.

"I believe the merger of the two companies is timely and strategic for the hospitality industry as a whole," Laura Neumann, general manager of Garden of the Gods Club and Resort, said Tuesday in an email statement. "Their combined resources should prove to be invaluable for many present and future stakeholders," including "operational synergies" between the two local properties, if owners approve. She spent 24 years of her career with Benchmark, including seven years as vice president and general manager of the Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

Cabañas said the merger discussions began in January 2015 at a breakfast in Los Angeles with him and Jeff McIntyre, principal partner of Gemstone. Neither company had been put on the market, but Cabañas said both companies were well aware of a wave of consolidation sweeping the hotel industry that has resulted in 35 deals during the past five years, including Marriott International Inc.'s pending $13.6 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

Benchmark and Gemstone notified employees and hotel owners of the deal Friday.

"This merger is in line with our overall strategic growth plans to double the size of our company within five years," said Burt Cabañas, founder of Benchmark and chairman of the combined company. "With this merger of these two incredible organizations, we're enthusiastically on our way toward achieving this significant goal, which will ultimately better serve the interests of our property owners and also create additional opportunities for our team members."

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

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