Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. (HST) confirmed it has agreed to buy the New York Helmsley hotel, in the latest move to liquidate the real-estate empire Harry Helmsley took decades to build.

Host has agreed to pay $313.5 million for the 775-room property in midtown Manhattan. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday the real estate investment trust had reached the deal, citing people familiar with the matter.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. (HOT) will take over management of the property as an unbranded hotel at closing, Host said Thursday. Host expects to complete "significant property improvements" by early- to mid-2012, at which point the hotel will be operated under the Westin brand. Host expects the purchase to close in late March.

The seller is the estate of Leona Helmsley, who inherited her husband's real estate holdings, valued at about $5 billion, before dying in 2007. Since then the estate has been slowly selling assets, with most of the proceeds going to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The REIT, with a portfolio leaning toward higher-priced hotels, reported in October its third-quarter loss widened, but its adjusted loss beat expectations as revenue rose more than expected.

Shares closed Wednesday at $18.11 and were inactive premarket. The stock has gained 65% over the past year.

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