04 July, 2007: US private equity group Blackstone - owner of Galileo, Gullivers and Orbitz - is to buy Hilton Hotels Corporation in a $26 billion cash deal.
The group,which already owns 100,000 hotel rooms in the US and Europe, has pledged to expand Hilton, which has 480,000 rooms in 2,800 properties worldwide.
Hotel workers in the US welcomed the deal, which is due to be completed by the end of the year.
A statement from Blackstone, whose hotel brands include La Quinta, said the company intends to invest in the Hilton properties and brands globally "to enhance and grow the business".
Blackstone´s senior managing director Jonathan Gray said: "It is hard to imagine a better strategic fit for us than Hilton. This transaction is about building the premier global hospitality business."
The US hotel workers union - UNITE HERE - applauded the prospect of a major new player in the worldwide hospitality industry.
General president Bruce Raynor said: "We welcome this combination. We enjoy a positive partnership with Hilton Hotels. And, for its part, Blackstone has demonstrated its commitment to fair treatment for thousands of hotel workers in several major markets. This combination is good news for the workers of what will be the largest hotel owner in the world."