Red Lion Hotels of Spokane said it has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to explore possible moves "including a potential sale of the company or a strategic combination with a third party."

Red Lion Hotels of Spokane said it has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to explore possible moves “including a potential sale of the company or a strategic combination with a third party.”

The company, owner or franchiser of 48 Red Lion hotels across the West, has been under pressure from Columbia Pacific Opportunity Fund, a Seattle investment fund that owns nearly 29 percent of Red Lion. In January it urged Red Lion to find a buyer.

“A number of other significant shareholders have also expressed to us similar sentiments,” the hotel chain said last week in a regulatory filing.

Red Lion said it has named three independent directors to work with the investment bank, adding, “Our board and management team are open minded about the process and intend to evaluate all options thoughtfully and carefully.”

Red Lion stock closed up 11 cents, or 1.4 percent, at $8.07 Monday. It has traded in a 52-week range between $6 and $9.29. It’s up 16.5 percent so far this year.