Budget hotel operator Travelodge has been bought by Dubai International Capital (DIC) in a £675m deal that is expected to close in September.
DIC is a Dubai-based investment company that was set up in 2004 as a subsidiary of the diversified Dubai Holding group. Its UK buys to date have included the Tussauds Group (for £800m) and engineering firm Doncasters Group (for £700m).
The sale has been anticipated since private equity group Permira hired investment bank UBS earlier this year to examine the options for Travelodge, which it acquired in February 2003 from Compass for £712m, along with the Little Chef roadside restaurant chain.
"This is a great day for Travelodge, our employees and all hotel customers as DIC's investment will allow us to accelerate our low price revolution," Hearn said.
"We will continue to lead the industry through our innovation and growth in the UK and look at international opportunities in the longer term."
"Travelodge is a strong brand with good growth potential, and an excellent fit for DIC," said Sarneer Al Ansari, chief executive officer at DIC. "The budget hotel sector is growing and, in our view, is underdeveloped in the UK market."
Travelodge has become the UK's fastest-growing hotel company under Permira, expanding from 220 hotels with 13,000 bedrooms to 291 hotels with 20,000 bedrooms by the end of the current year.
The group, which employs 4,700 staff, plans to grow to 32,000 bedrooms within the next five years.
The portfolio includes nine properties in Ireland and three in Spain and the focus is increasingly on city centres, especially London where Travelodge plans to be the biggest budget operator by the 2012 Olympics with 7,000 bedrooms.
In a bid to woo the one-third of Britons who do not use hotels, Travelodge this year launched one million rooms at the low rate of £26 per room.
Forte opened the first Travelodge - which is the UK's oldest budget brand - near Lichfield in 1985.
By Angela Frewin