MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET) in a joint venture with Thayer Lodging Group recently acquired The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco for approximately $161 million. The sale bears historical significance for MetLife as the current hotel was the company’s west coast headquarters from 1909-1973.
“This is a tremendous acquisition for MetLife,” said Robert Merck, global head of MetLife Real Estate Investors. “The building boasts a long-standing history for our brand, making it a bit of a homecoming for us. We are thrilled to have the iconic building as part of our commercial real estate portfolio.”
The structure was designed by Napoleon Le Brun & Sons of New York and featured a white cube with four Ionic columns, rich filigree and two large bronze doors. A torch-like lamp hanged over the entrance way to symbolize the company’s “watchful service to policy holders” under the shadow of “the light that never fails.”
Over the years, several expansions and renovations took place, including a monument-like façade, 18 Ionic columns supporting an entablature of winged hourglasses, and 185 lion's heads sprawled across the building’s courtyards.Eighty years after its opening, the building became vacant; however an extensive four-year renovation restored it to its original stature, and in 1991, the building re-opened as The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. Continued renovations are expected over the next two years under the stewardship of Thayer Lodging Group and MetLife Real Estate Investors. “This investment complements our long-term approach to real estate properties,” continued Merck. “We focus on quality properties in major markets, and we’re confident the San Francisco market is poised for a continued recovery, particularly within the hotel sector.” MetLife originated, through its real estate investments department, more than $9.6 billion in commercial mortgage loans in 2012. The company continues to be the largest portfolio lender in the insurance industry with $43.1 billion in commercial mortgages outstanding at year end 2012. MetLife’s real estate portfolio includes investments in office, apartment, retail, industrial and hotel properties.