Opportunistic and casually ambitious – that’s one way to describe the team driving Veriu, a hotel brand that’s seemingly come from nowhere in the Australian marketplace, most recently winning the race to acquire the Punt Hill brand and leases on its 13 properties.
But Veriu is anything but an upstart with roots stretching back to 2002 when co-founders Alex Thorpe and Rhys Williams identified a niche in furnished accommodation leasing and started with two rooms in Bondi.
“No one was doing furnished accommodation at that time but there were a lot of people who wanted something they could move straight into,” says Thorpe.
Soon two rooms become four, four became eight, single apartments became whole buildings. Owners increasingly bought into the concept and now Furnished Property, the company they created, has 400 apartment keys and growing strongly. The creation and launch of Veriu in 2016, an inner-urban hotel concept, was a logical next step.
They still operate the same way – finding opportunities where they can add value for property owners, put the deal together and ensure Veriu wins has the management contract. The approach is working. Veriu now has five properties in the red-hot Sydney market – four branded and one unbranded – with several more on the way.
“More and more people are coming to us these days,” says Alex.
There’s no set funding model. In essence Thorpe says they source an opportunity and then put it out to their investor network.
“We deal with a lot of high net worth individuals,” he says. “Because we’ve been at this for more than 16 years we’ve built up a pretty good network of people. We self-fund where we can but there’s not a set way we do things.”
An example is the $44 million hotel fund Furnished Property has launched with the ASX listed property company Folkestone to develop a 144 room Veriu property at Green Square in Sydney.
He said the Punt Hill acquisition was a mix of internal and partner funding. The deal made a lot of sense but it’s one that nearly didn’t happen.
“We weren’t on the original tender list but someone we know suggested we should be there.” And the rest is history. “Our niche is in the 20 to 150 keys space where the big boys don’t play,” Thorpe says.
The actual building is less important to Veriu than location. “As long as location is attractive to guests and there’s good local F&B we are interested.
“Punt Hill is obviously a lot more corporate, our products really match well.” He says Punt Hill can feed corporate guests into Veriu properties while the reverse also applies. “We’d like to get Punt Hill more leisure focused.”
The move into hotels could not have been better timed. “Sydney is ridiculously strong at the moment (and) we’ve had a lot of success pushing rates and occupancy, especially at Camperdown.”
As for the future: “We don’t have big empire building ambitions, we don’t have any grand plans – we look at things on a deal by deal basis,” Thorpe says. “We take a really long-term view. We love the business, we love hospitality.”