The company started by famed television bandleader Lawrence Welk in 1964 grew as a family-owned business to include eight Welk-branded vacation resorts in four U.S. states and Mexico that will now be rebranded as Hyatt Residence Club properties. In addition to golf and other traditional amenities, the company has become known for developing innovative activity programming, including underwater virtual reality and escape rooms.
Welk Hospitality Group, which grew out of the venture started in 1964 by famed television bandleader Lawrence Welk, has entered into an agreement with Marriott Vacations Worldwide (MVW) Corporation to sell the Welk Resorts portfolio of vacation resorts, programs and property management contracts for approximately $430 million, including approximately 1.4 million MVW common shares. The acquisition is expected to close early in the second quarter of 2021.
After the transaction closes, MVW intends to rebrand the eight Welk-branded vacation resorts in California, Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico as Hyatt Residence Club properties. That will bring the Hyatt Residence Club portfolio to 24 upper upscale resorts and complement its existing locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, Puerto Rico and Texas.
Welk Resorts got its start in 1964 when Lawrence Welk, whose television show was among the most popular in the U.S. during its run from 1951 to 1962, bought a motel and nine-hole golf course north of San Diego, Calif. The original San Diego resort location has expanded over the years and currently sits on 450 acres with two 18-hole golf courses, seven swimming pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center, five recreation centers, two waterslides, two escape rooms, a spa, theater, restaurants and more.
As the other seven Welk Resorts in the western U.S. and Cabo San Lucas were added to the portfolio, the company became known for its award-winning activity programming, called Inspired For You, with underwater virtual reality, escape rooms, digital printers and other innovative experiences.
Welk Resorts opened The Ranahan in Breckenridge, Colo. in early 2020 and announced management contracts with several resorts in late 2019 and early 2020, including El Corazon de Santa Fe by Welk Resorts in Santa Fe, N.M. as well as the Eagle Point Vacation Community in Vail, Colo. Several years ago, the company also introduced its Experiences Collection by Welk Resorts, which includes an additional 16 vacation resorts available to Welk Resorts’ Platinum Owners, such as the Four Seasons and Disney Vacation Club, in desirable locations from Florida to Hawaii.
Welk Resorts’ owners also have access to the RCI Exchange Portfolio of over 4,300 resorts in 110 countries.
Welk Resorts has continued to be majority family-owned through four generations and is now led by Welk’s grandson, President and CEO Jon Fredricks.
“It is bittersweet after 57 wonderful years of memories and accomplishments to be welcoming a new owner for Welk Resorts,” Fredricks said. “We are confident in MVW and its shared commitment to excellence. Our board and family recognized that its vision, resources and globally recognized brand ensure the best long-term future for our valued team members and owners.”
In addition to Fredricks, Lawrence Welk’s son, Larry Welk, is chairman of the Welk Resorts’ Board and his great-grandson, Robert Segall, also works as a sales and marketing director for the business.
Larry Welk also launched Welk Resorts’ vacation ownership business in 1985 with Lawrence Welk Resort Villas in Escondido, Calif., and today, he is also CEO and chairman of a sister Welk company in the real estate and entertainment business, which is not a part of this acquisition.
Also not included in this transaction is The Lawrence Welk Family Foundation, which funds non-profit organizations serving families in need and is managed by its President Lisa Parker, a granddaughter of Lawrence Welk. Welk Hospitality Group is majority-owned by members of the Welk family. with a 12 percent share owned by its employees through an employee stock-ownership plan.
“We appreciate that Welk Resorts’ leadership has entrusted MVW to build on the solid foundation laid by generations of the Welk family and the company’s team members,” said MVW CEO Stephen Weisz. “We have been in the vacation ownership industry for decades and have deep respect for the strength of the Welk name, operation and legacy.”