Centene quietly bought the St. Louis Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel for $98 million in 2018, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The newspaper confirmed ownership of the hotel, located in adjacent Clayton, through property tax appeal documents and confirmation from Centene executives.
A Centene spokesperson told the Post-Dispatch the acquisition "met an immediate need" for hotel accommodation. "The investment represents a small piece of the company's normal course, capital investment strategy," they said.
Centene is now reevaluating the hotel purchase and other "non-core assets," according to the Post-Dispatch.
"This seems like more of those old-school corporate empires, these CEOs that want to do these grandiose complexes," John Barrios, a professor at Washington University's Olin School of Business, told the Post-Dispatch. "This is a prime example of a CEO pet project."
The hotel purchase was part of a larger, previously planned $770 million Centene campus; the company received $100 million in public subsidies for that project following major growth. Clayton city officials told the Post-Dispatch it makes sense why the payer would purchase a large hotel near its headquarters. It also needed space for new employees to stay while training.
"They're a company with integrity," Mayor Michelle Harris said. "I think they had a plan for an amazing corporate campus."
Centene told the city it planned to build a new hotel by 2022, but it purchased the Ritz-Carlton property instead.
Mr. Barrios told the Post-Dispatch the $98 million purchasing price and eventual profits were too small for the payer to have to disclose the purchase in public Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
"It's probably small relative to the billions that they're getting through the healthcare," he said.