Fox family, owner of Carleton, adds Drake Oak Brook Hotel to portfolio

• Early investors in commercial real estate in Oak Park, Foxes say Drake and Carleton a good pairing. Headquarters stays in Oak Park.

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By DREW CARTER

Carleton Hotel owners and Oak Park real estate investors Ron and Mike Fox expect to finalize purchase of the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook by early March, a move that would increase the total value of their company properties by 15 percent to 20 percent, Mike Fox said last week.

Mike Fox said he has had his eye on the Drake for about two years.

"I really like that place," he said. "It fits what we do."

Fox would not disclose a purchase price for the Drake.

The Foxes are partners in Fox Partners LLC, the company involved in the deal. Also, Ron Fox is president and founder of R.P. Fox & Associates, which owns the Carleton, Philander's Restaurant and investment properties, including substantial retail spaces in Downtown Oak Park and The Avenue and residential properties throughout the village. R.P. Fox & Associates began buying key commercial parcels in Oak Park in the 1970s, an era when few investors saw Oak Park as a savvy location for economic development.

Ron's son, Mike, serves as vice president at R.P. Fox & Associates, whose web site credits him with growing residential holdings from 50 to 1,000 units in the past decade, half of which have been sold as condominiums.

The Foxes have been looking for another hotel to purchase for years, but only a half-dozen or so would jibe with the company, Mike Fox said.

They looked for hotels that not only were similar to the Carleton in size and emphasis on food-and-beverage services such as for weddings or conferences, but also in proximity.

Both Foxes live in Elmhurst, which makes Oak Brook a short ride.

"It's easy for us to check up on [the Drake]," Mike Fox said. "There is a certain synergy between us and them that seems to work very well."

Fox said he contacted the hotel's owner, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, before it went on the market in November, but never got a response.

The Drake is operated by Dallas-based Wyndham International, Inc., a franchiser with hotels in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. The Foxes would take over Drake operations if the deal is finalized, but would keep the franchise for name recognition in booking rooms in a competitive Oak Brook market, in which Hyatt, Marriott and others operate.

Purchase of the Drake would increase the two companies' combined portfolio by 15 percent to 20 percent, Fox estimated.

"We're excited," he said. "It's a nice opportunity for us."

Fox said company offices would remain at the Carleton Hotel, 1110 Pleasant St., after the purchase, and that the Drake would keep the staff it has in place. However, Fox said the deal could mean new opportunities for Carleton employees to move up in the future.

The move is not part of an ongoing bulk-up of the company, though. "We're not going to rush into another [acquisition] after this," Fox said. "Our real estate [investments] keep us really busy."

Fox, whose Oak Park business ties include a recent presidency of Downtown Oak Park and board membership on the board of the newly formed Business and Civic Council, said he would not likely be as involved in Oak Brook's business organizations.

Contact: dcarter@wjinc.com

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