Long considered one of the most sought after and well patronized New England region hotel assets, the Whitebull Hotel in Armidale has been sold for $13.25 million, a record sale for the city.
The Gurr family of Armidale sold the legendary Whitebull Hotel via real estate agency HTL Property to active hotelier Jim Knox.
Former owner Pat Gurr said that he was looking forward to 'taking stock' and 'taking it easy' with his wife Karen after 40 years in the business.
"It will be good to have a break because they are a seven-day-a-week operation," Mr Gurr said.
"We'll do a bit of travel once the borders open up. Karen was very much 'hands-on' and an integral part of the business. We made a good team, I believe.
"It was very pleasant for us to see our sons take up an interest in the hotels, and they are very capable young men that understand the industry. We are in a good space, I think."
A strong market combined with an opportunity presenting at the right time caused Mr Gurr to sell.
"It was an off-market advance by another family hotel operator, and I was approaching retirement age," Mr Gurr said.
"We actually shook hands on the deal on my 65th birthday, so it just seemed that all the stars aligned.
"Jim Knox is at the opposite end of the spectrum to me and is looking to build up his portfolio."
Hotelier Jim Knox has hotel investments in both Griffith and Grafton. Mr Gurr said the best part of the deal was that his two sons Ben and Tom, would stay at the Whitebull.
"They have been virtually running the property and will work with Jim to ensure the best outcomes for him as the new owner," he said.
After four decades behind the bar, Mr Gurr has seen significant changes in the hotel industry, including the improvement of the food offering, which means hotels are now much more family and female-friendly.
"The biggest change is the transition from the old public bar routine to a much more attractive and inviting environment," he said.
"The transformation is that they are not just pubs anymore they are community hubs. People use them to socialise in safety, and we try to ensure that they do."
Mr Gurr's parents were not in the pub business, but he had the opportunity to go out and manage a hotel while studying at university.
"It ended up taking priority over the accounting degree," he said.
Over the years, the Gurr family have operated hotels in Pittsworth, Chinchilla, and Toowoomba in Queensland and Wagga in NSW, and they still have an interest in a pub in Wyong, but say it is not a 'hands-on' arrangement.
"We've had an exceptional journey in the regional hotel space," Mr Gurr said.
The sale of the Whitebull Hotel was managed exclusively by HTL Property agent Blake Edwards.
"We're delighted to have managed this significant transaction on behalf of Pat and Karen Gurr and look forward to announcing further similar sales in the region in the approaching weeks," Mr Edwards said.
"A rewarding part of this particular sale process is that Pat and Karen's two sons, Ben and Tom, will stay on in the business. This is not a typical outcome but is one that best illustrates the quality of people involved in the transaction.
"In these unprecedented times, this sale recognises the vision and commitment of a career publican, as aggregation becomes the new normal in this ever increasingly tightly held asset class."
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