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Built for $35 million, the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center Sold for $13 million
to Partnership Between Linchris Hotel Corporation and Blue Vista Capital Management

By David Falchek, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 23, 2010--The Hilton Scranton & Conference Center, which cost $35 million to build, has been purchased by a partnership for $13 million.

The partnership has plans to spend $3 million in improvements to the rooms and corridors, said Hanover, Mass.-based Linchris Hotel Corp. Chief Executive Chris Gistis.

"We are very excited and we expect to be good citizens," Mr. Gistis said. "Buying a hotel is an investment in not just a building, but a community."

The partnership includes officers from Linchris and Chicago-based Blue Vista Capital Management. It will be operated by Linchris, the company's 25th property.

Linchris' managed properties are concentrated in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont under banners such as Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn and Double Tree.

The Hilton Scranton & Conference Center, with 175 guests rooms, has been on the market since summer. There was no asking price.

The hotel opened in 2003, built for about $35 million.

Mr. Gistis liked the area and described the economy as "diversified and thriving" with strong educational and medical sectors.

Linchris tapped Brian Anderson to help integrate the Hilton Scranton into the business. Mr. Anderson has managed several properties with Linchris during his 10 years with the company and knows the Pennsylvania market. He was raised just outside Williamsport and worked in the late 1990s at the Holiday Inn near Wilkes-Barre.

"Since I left the area, Scranton has had a rebirth," he said.

While the hotel may be viewed as new, Mr. Anderson said guest rooms require remodeling after 7 years. To that end, Linchris expects to fully renovate guest rooms, replacing wallpaper, curtains, sheers and carpets. Rooms will be outfitted with 37-inch or larger high-definition televisions.

"This is a great, newer facility, but it is seven years old, and it's time for a facelift," Mr. Anderson said.

The Hilton Scranton is one of the finest hotels in Linchris's fold, Mr. Anderson said. The hotel's conference facilities, he said, are impressive.

"I am overly impressed with the facility and the team in place here," Mr. Anderson said. "The state-of-the-art conference space is tremendous asset that we will market hard."

For his first full week on the job, Mr. Andrerson said he will get familiar with the facility and the employees while sharing the company culture.

"Our company strives to provide our guests with the best experience -- and we strive for the same with our staff," Mr. Anderson said.

Linchris was founded in 1985 by Mr. Gistis, who immigrated from Greece with his family when he was 12. He taught himself English and worked his way up through a Inns of America chain before starting Linchris.

He identifies strongly with more recent immigrants, supporting refugee causes and celebrating the attainment of citizenship among his employees in the company newsletter.

"I don't want to complain, we had a good life in Greece. But I had never been in a home with plumbing or electricity until we came to the United States," Mr. Gistis said. "I pinch myself sometimes because I can't believe how lucky I have been to become a naturalized citizen and get where I am now. I see my father's work ethic in the people of Scranton."

Despite its New England base, company officials have ties to the Pennsylvania. Mr. Gistis worked in Harrisburg early in his career. Robb M. Moskowitz, senior vice president of operations, graduated from East Stroudsburg University.

"We view this as returning to Pennsylvania," he said.

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