NEW YORK — A fight for control of the Starwood hotel chain is under way following a $14 billion buyout offer Monday from a consortium led by China’s Anbang Insurance Group.

Anbang, which remains largely unknown to most Americans, has quickly positioned itself to become a player in the U.S. hotel industry, acquiring marquee properties.

It made a splash in 2014 when it bought New York’s Waldorf Astoria for almost $2 billion. And just days ago, it cut a $6.5 billion deal for Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc., which owns tony properties like The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, JW Marriott Essex House in New York and Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. Strategic also owned five Four Seasons hotels, two Ritz Carltons and six other luxury properties.

Now it is going toe-to-toe with U.S. hotel giant Marriott International Inc., which said late last year that it would buy Starwood, the owner of Sheraton, Westin and St. Regis hotels, in a deal worth $12.2 billion. That acquisition would create the world’s largest hotel chain with 5,500 properties and more than 1.1 million rooms worldwide. Such scale would give the combined company pricing power when negotiating commissions with online travel agencies as well as help it land more corporate travel contracts.

The next-largest hotel company is Hilton Worldwide with 4,500 properties and 735,000 rooms.

Marriott and Starwood – like other chains – own few individual hotels. Instead they manage or franchise their brands to hundreds of individual owners, often real estate development companies. Those individual hotel owners are responsible for setting room rates. It isn’t uncommon for a developer to own a Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and Sheraton in the same city. That’s how Strategic, for instance, owned hotels under the Westin, JW Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and InterContinental brands.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. said it still favors the Marriott deal, but that it’s looking at the latest bid.

Shares jumped almost 7 percent to a new high for the year.

The offer from the Chinese group includes $76 per Starwood share and Interval Leisure Group stock valued at about $5.50 per Starwood share.


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