Not a lot of people, perhaps, have heard of the fast-growing company Equity Lifestyle Properties Inc. (ELP), but it’s likely they will soon, especially in the RV industry.
The Chicago company, formerly known as Manufactured Home Communities Inc., has completed the $160 million acquisition of the corporate entity that owns 57 properties and about 3,000 acres of vacant land currently operated by Thousand Trails Inc., a Frisco, Texas campground membership company.
Equity Lifestyle Properties also has received approval from the New York Stock Exchange to change its ticker symbol from MHC to ELS, effective Nov. 23, reflecting the company’s recently announced name change.
Although name changes typically take a while to be absorbed, Equity Lifestyle Properties is a name that probably will become familiar quickly in the RV industry. With the Thousand Trails acquisition, ELP now owns or has an interest in 272 quality communities in 25 states and British Columbia, for a total of 100,203 sites.
Equity Lifestyle Properties is a self-administered, self-managed, real estate investment trust (REIT).
The Thousand Trails properties contain 17,911 sites in 16 states, primarily in the Western and Southern United States and British Columbia. ELP’s management says it will lease back the Thousand Trails properties to Thousand Trails Operations Holding Co., L.P., the largest U.S. operator of membership-based campgrounds, with roughly 108,000 members.
Thousand Trails is owned by an affiliate of Kohlberg & Co. L.L.C., a private merchant banking firm with offices in New York and California.
“We are excited about our increased presence in the Western part of the U.S.,” said ELP CEO and President Thomas Heneghan. “We look forward to working with Thousand Trails as we introduce the customers of both companies to the increased lifestyle opportunities that exist.”
From Thousand Trails’ perspective, the new arrangement is the start of what appears to be a long-term partnership.
“The transaction is an opportunity for us to provide value for our shareholders while establishing a long-term partnership with MHC,” Thousand Trails President John Malone stated when the real estate transaction was first announced earlier this fall. “Our members and employees will not see significant changes in our preserves or how we operate our business. After the transaction, we’ll still have the same management, the same employees and be in the same business of operating our preserves, selling memberships and serving our members.”
The only visible difference, Malone added, is that ELP will likely develop the 3,000 acres of vacant land previously held by Thousand Trails.