LA QUINTA PUSHES COMPANY GROWTH

Fresh on the heels of the $3.4-billion acquisition by private equity firm Blackstone Group, La Quinta franchisees and company officials gathered in Dallas last month to learn about changes at the now-private lodging firm, including plans for aggressive expansion and a focus on adding corporate-owned hotels. New President and CEO Wayne Goldberg detailed plans to tap Blackstone's deep pockets to invest more than $275 million over the next couple of years to upgrade corporate properties.

After years of focusing on adding franchise operators, the company will concentrate on adding 100 corporate-owned hotels this year. Franchising will continue, with plans this year to open 60 new locations, but in a more selective manner, said Rajiv Trivedi, executive vice president, franchising. Growth will concentrate in the eastern U.S. and Canada. As for the change in direction, “franchisees seem to embrace being part of a system that's going to grow and that's going to be more selective, with more limited access,” said Goldberg.

Concurrent with the convention, Cendant Hotel Group announced its acquisition of the Baymont Inn & Suites brand and system of 115 franchised properties from affiliates of The Blackstone Group. La Quinta will hold onto about 100 Baymont properties and convert them to La Quinta, Goldberg said. La Quinta purchased 185 Baymont, Woodfield Suites and Budgetel properties and franchise agreements in 2004.

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