Convention-services firm sells property for $110M, leases it back

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A convention-services firm has sold its sprawling Las Vegas facility for more than $100 million and leased it back, giving the company a cash injection after a year of layoffs and dark conference halls.

Freeman sold its 38.3-acre industrial property in the southwest valley for $110 million to San Diego investment firm Realty Income Corp. and rented it back for 15 years with three five-year extension options, Clark County records show.

The filings do not disclose its rental rate.

Freeman’s main building, 6555 W. Sunset Road, just east of Rainbow Boulevard, spans more than 400,000 square feet, county records indicate.

The deal, which closed March 29, is one of several lucrative sale-leasebacks in Southern Nevada over the past few years. Most, however, took place before the coronavirus outbreak upended daily life and ravaged Las Vegas’ tourism-dependent economy.

Freeman, which is based in Dallas and has offices around the U.S. and in other countries, builds booths and provides other convention-related services. It was one of many companies to file layoff notices with the state of Nevada after the pandemic hit, disclosing plans last year to shed more than 600 workers in Las Vegas, state records show.

In a statement, Freeman spokeswoman Andrea Wood confirmed that the company sold its Las Vegas building and is leasing it back, saying, in part, that the sale “allows us to reinvest in the company.”

Wood also said that as with “most live event companies operating through the pandemic, Freeman furloughed or laid off many employees,” adding it covered health care and provided supplement benefits to furloughed staff.

“We have plans to welcome back hundreds of employees over the next few months,” Wood said.

According to Freeman research, 94 percent of attendees and 95 percent of exhibitors plan to return to in-person events by this winter, she said.

Realty Income says it acquires and manages freestanding commercial properties that generate rental revenue under long-term lease agreements. It owned nearly 6,600 properties at the end of last year, according to a securities filing.

The company did not respond to requests for comment.

Las Vegas’ convention industry had a record year in 2019, with an all-time high of 6.6 million-plus attendees. But the sector effectively went dark last year over fears of the coronavirus outbreak, as groups instead held gatherings online on Zoom or other video sites.

The only convention to be held at the recently expanded Las Vegas Convention Center since Southern Nevada rapidly shut down last March was car show Mecum Auctions, in November, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority spokeswoman Erica Johnson confirmed.

But with vaccines rolling out, the economy getting back on its feet and coronavirus-related restrictions being lifted, Las Vegas’ convention industry is poised to come back to life.

As of Thursday, around 60 conferences are scheduled to be held in Las Vegas from May through year’s end, as seen on the LVCVA’s convention calendar.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.