Montage is being sold to an investment firm

For the second time in less than a year, The Montage Laguna Beach could have a new owner.

Last week Chicago-based Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc. announced on its website that it would sell the beachside resort and other properties to the Blackstone Group, a New York-based investment firm, for $6 billion.

The proposed deal comes eight months after Strategic, which owns 17 high-end properties including the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, announced that it had offered $360 million to buy the 250-room South Laguna hotel from an affiliate of Ohana Real Estate Investors Inc.

Strategic's board of directors unanimously approved the merger, but company stockholders must vote on the transaction at a future meeting, the online statement said. If approved, the deal should be completed by April.

The Montage Laguna Beach's parent company, Montage Hotels & Resorts, will continue operating the oceanfront resort under an existing long-term management contract.

"Our associates and guests will continue to enjoy business as usual going forward under the current leadership team led by Managing Director, Rick Riess," Montage's corporate communications director Kacey Spies-Bruno said in an email.

Blackstone's real estate portfolio, with $92 billion in assets, includes hotel, office, retail, industrial and residential properties in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America.

"We are excited about the opportunity to acquire one of the highest quality luxury hotel portfolios in the U.S.," Tyler Henritze, Blackstone's co-head of U.S. acquisitions, said in the statement.

"As long-term investors in the lodging industry, we remain confident in the fundamentals of the sector despite recent market volatility."

Patrick Lee, an assistant professor at Cal Poly Pomona's Collins College of Hospitality Management, called two potential ownership changes in less than a year "unusual," but said in an email that improved consumer confidence could explain the moves.

"I can foresee a positive growth in corporate business sector in the hotel industry," Lee said. "Therefore, hotels would expect more consumers from the corporate business.

"On the other hand, there is growth in the luxury hotel market. It implies that more consumers can spend more money on their travel and stay in luxury hotels. Therefore, owners may pay high premiums to purchase hotels."