Four Seasons Hotels Fields $3.7 Billion Offer from Bill Gates, Others, to Go Private

Investors including Microsoft's (MSFT) Bill Gates and Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal have joined forces with the Four Seasons Hotels' (FS) CEO in a plan to take the hotel chain private for $3.7 billion, or $82 per share, in cash.

The offer was made by Chairman and Chief Executive Isadore Sharp and Triples Holdings Limited, the controlling shareholder of Four Seasons, along with Kingdom Hotels International and Bill Gates' Cascade Investment LLC.

Kingdom Hotels is owned by a trust created by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud.

The Toronto-based company said it has set up a special committee of independent directors to consider the offer and make recommendations.

"This transaction is intended to ensure the legacy of the Four Seasons," Sharp told reporters in a teleconference. "This proposal achieves all my objectives for Four Seasons and my family, and is the only one that I am prepared to pursue."

Sharp and Triples agreed Kingdom and Cascade would acquire the limited voting shares of the Four Seasons Hotels Inc. for $82 per share, a 28.4 percent premium over the company's Friday closing price of $63.87 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Four Seasons jumped $20, or 31 percent, to $83.87 in morning trading.

Triples, which is the Sharp family's holding company, would keep its Four Seasons investment.

If the transaction is completed, Triples would hold about 10 percent of Four Seasons' shares through a separate class of special voting shares. The balance of the stock would be split equally between Kingdom and Cascade.

Sharp would remain Four Seasons' chairman and chief executive, continuing to direct all aspects of day-to-day operations and strategic direction of the company, which would remain headquartered in Toronto.

The transaction is subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals. If the deal closes, Sharp would receive $288 million in proceeds related to a long-term incentive agreement.

Gates and Prince Alwaleed "share my long-term vision and commitment to this company," Sharp said, and the deal provides a significant premium to minority shareholders as well as "continuity and stability for our hotel owners, customers and employees for the long term."

The transaction is subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals.