Development's White Knight

They don't charge in on a white steed, but White Lodging often rides to the rescue when brands need an experienced, flexible developer. Last year alone, our choice for Developer of the Year:

  • received Hilton's Developer of the Year award for the Hilton Garden Inn brand;

  • opened the 333-room SpringHill Suites and Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown project in Louisville, KY;

  • opened the first Sheraton brand hotel in Erie, PA;

  • opened the 523-room Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites Chicago River North;

  • announced the addition of 100 new jobs at its Merrillville, IN headquarters by 2012;

  • acquired the management contract for the 401-room Richmond (VA) Marriott Convention Hotel;

  • was named one of Training Magazine's Top 125 in employer-sponsored workforce training and development.

“Our culture is not one of reading our own press clippings, but we do appreciate the recognition of the hard work and commitment of many talented individuals,” says Deno Yiankes, president and COO of White Lodging's Investments and Development division. Over the last 10 years, the company's managed portfolio has increased from 52 hotels to 135, while the number of associates grew from 2,100 to more than 6,500. Its midscale to upscale properties are spread across 17 states.

Since 1985, when White Lodging was the management company for the Holiday Inn at Star Plaza complex (now the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza), the company has become a leader in developing and operating select- and full-service hotels. Today, White Lodging plans to add 100 new properties, 2,500 managers and $1.5 billion in managed assets over the next five years.

THE WHITE KINGDOM

White Lodging's impressive portfolio features a wide variety of brands, including JW Marriott, Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Renaissance, Radisson Hotels, Sheraton, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites and Summerfield Suites.

Recently, the company landed management contracts for the Hyatt Summerfield Suites Austin/Arboretum and Houston/Galleria district, both in Texas, as well as the Hyatt Summerfield Suites Colorado Springs, CO. These are the first Hyatt Summerfield Suites managed by White Lodging. Privately held RLJ Development, LLC — controlled by Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET and owner of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats — owns all three hotels. RLJ acquired 100 hotels from White Lodging and its affiliates in 2006, in a deal estimated at $1.7 billion.

White Lodging recently broke ground on a Courtyard and Fairfield Inn & Suites in Chandler, AZ, its fourth dual-branded hotel, slated to open late next year. Yiankes is optimistic about the Chandler area. “The strong Marriott brand and our strategic location near the Chandler Fashion Center shopping district make an exciting combination,” he says.

But White Lodging's pipeline of more than 40 projects would be dead in the water if they were contingent upon third-party equity. Instead, their owners stand behind each project with real equity.

“We like coming out of a downturn owning and operating newly constructed, premium-branded hotels in strong locations versus older, recycled hotels that can no longer compete effectively,” Yiankes says. And construction prices have been improving over the last 90 days “as contractors face the reality of their pipeline drying up for 2009 and 2010.”

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