China's Anbang Insurance Group on Monday took two dramatic steps towards its goal of becoming a major player in the U.S. hotel industry, buying privately-held hotel assets and bidding $14 billion to break up a deal between Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (HOT) and Marriott International Inc. (MAR). Anbang, which in 2014 bought New York's Waldorf Astoria for $1.95 billion, is leading a consortium that is offering $76 a share for Starwood, a premium to Marriott's $72.08 a share offer. Anbang is reportedly joining on the bid by private equity firms JC Flowers & Co. and Primavera Capital Group. Stamford, Conn.-based Starwood in a statement confirmed receipt of the Anbang proposal, saying that though its board has not changed its recommendation supporting the Marriott deal, the group will engage in talks with the Anbang Group and will carefully consider its next move. Shareholders of both Starwood and Marriott are expected to vote on the deal on March 28. The Marriott-Starwood agreement includes a $400 million termination fee.
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