Developer takes over Hotel du Pont; country club for sale
Buccini/Pollin is keeping Wilmington afloat as DuPont pulls out
Wilmington-based developer and hotelier Buccini/Pollin Group has agreed to acquire the struggling city's landmark Hotel du Pont from DuPont Co.
Buccini/Pollin's PM Hotel Group will continue to run the 217-bed hospitality complex, with its ornate Gold Ballroom and fancy Green Room restaurant, under the Hotel du Pont name. The parties declined to disclose terms of the deal.
The property transfer, scheduled to close Feb. 28, will end the last of DuPont's former headquarters operations in its longtime hometown, as the company consolidates to suburban offices in preparation for its merger with Dow Chemical Co. DuPont says it's also looking for buyers for its country club and three golf courses near its recently consolidated headquarters and labs just west of the city.
Since the hotel opened in 1913 as part of the company's attempt to offer big-city amenities to its managers, clients, and recruits in out-of-the-way Wilmington, "DuPont has been proud to offer luxury accommodations and first-rate service to its guests," said Richard C. Olson, senior vice president, DuPont Corporate Services. "We are very pleased to have found the right owner to ensure a bright future."
"We are extremely proud that DuPont has entrusted the Buccini/Pollin Group and PM Hotel Group as stewards of this great hotel," partner David B. Pollin said in a statement.
In 2015, during his campaign to replace part of the company's board and squeeze more cash for himself and other shareholders, Nelson Peltz, one of DuPont's largest shareholders, cited the hotel and golf courses as symbols of what he considered DuPont's outdated, bloated, "country club" central management.
Though Peltz's candidates lost that election, his push to cut costs and amenities is being realized under DuPont CEO Edward Breen, who joined the board and took over the top job with Peltz's support. Breen has also cut central management and research staff while preparing to merge with Dow and break the combined company into separate pesticide, materials, and specialized-products companies.
Buccini/Pollin has bet big on the city's future post-DuPont. The partners previously acquired DuPont's former parking garage and the DuPont Building, the company's headquarters for a century, facing Wilmington's central Rodney Square.
The ex-headquarters remains home to Chemours Co., a DuPont spin-off, and to a group of retail businesses, plus the hotel and the Playhouse on Rodney Square, formerly the DuPont Theatre, which the company formerly maintained as Delaware's only Actors' Equity house.
Buccini/Pollin -- run locally by brothers Rob and Chris Buccini, whose parents' building services company helped launch them as developers -- has also redeveloped scores of other properties in Wilmington's half-empty Market Street business corridor, its busy Delaware Avenue office district, and the Christina River redevelopment zone, and others in suburban Wilmington, along the Delaware County waterfront, in the Conshohocken-King of Prussia area, and in the Washington-Baltimore area.
Its PM Hotel Group has also operated hotels under the Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, and Choice brands. Buccini/Pollin promised "capital improvement projects" at the Hotel du Pont and a "comprehensive restoration plan" in the near future.
The Buccinis have been replacing older Wilmington offices with apartments and restaurants in an attempt to rejuvenate the downtown area, which has suffered from the sale or merger of the city's five major publicly traded companies, including cuts at DuPont pending the Dow merger.
New corporate construction in recent years, including the headquarters of drugmaker Incyte and business-formation giant Corporation Service Co., has largely taken place on the city's fringes.
The Buccinis were instrumental in redeveloping and opening the former Queen Theater as a group of live-performance spaces managed by Philadelphia-based Hal Real, which also runs World Cafe Live in University City. Real has said he plans to end his management of the Queen this spring because of disappointing attendance, leaving the Buccinis and other backers looking for new management.