This week, our spotlight is on the lodging sector of the commercial real estate industry, and our guest subject is William Blackham, who recently became CEO of Norfolk, Neb.-based Supertel Hospitality Inc., a real estate investment trust (REIT). He was previously president and CEO of Eagle Hospitality, a hotel REIT.
Q: What attracted to you become the leader of the Supertel team?
William Blackham: The opportunity to grow another public company and, in the process, create significant shareholder value, was highly attractive to my decision to come to Supertel. The ability to take an existing public platform, adjust the strategy and direction, implement those changes and a revised business plan, and report to a highly qualified, existing and established board of directors is a unique set of circumstances that spoke greatly to me.
Q: How would you categorize the current state of the U.S. hospitality industry?
William Blackham: My perspective is that the industry is somewhere in the middle innings of a nine inning baseball game, depending upon the geographic location and chain scale in which a particular hotel is positioned. While in some cities and chain scales the REVPAR exceeds the past cycle peak, in other locations and chain scales there is distance to surpass the last REVPAR peak. It all depends, however. In my mind, the more important issues are the strength of the economy, the return of group business and the fact that demand growth still exceeds supply growth significantly, factors that suggest there is still a respectable period ahead of favorable conditions absent any event that causes disruption.
Q: Why should investors consider hotel REITs as a great investment?
William Blackham: Attractive dividend yields, the prospect for earnings increases given the economic conditions I previously described that could drive stock price growth, and a sector that has deleveraged significantly in the last three years thereby having more attractive balance sheets. The combination of these factors should provide attractive risk adjusted returns to alternatives.
Q: What are your goals for Supertel?
William Blackham: It is premature to get specific until the board approves the plan. However, a higher quality portfolio of hotels in higher chain scales in a significantly larger company would certainly describe my vision.
Supertel Hospitality is online at www.supertelinc.com.
Phil Hall has been (among other things) a United Nations-based radio journalist, the president of a public relations and marketing agency, a financial magazine editor, the author of six books and a horror movie actor. Also, as you will discover, he is not shy about stating his views.