September 05, 2007

Following a five-month search, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has tapped Frits van Paasschen, former president and CEO of the Coors Brewing Co., as its new CEO. Van Paasschen, who begins his new job Sept. 24, takes over from Bruce Duncan, who has served as the global chain's CEO since April, when Steven Heyer resigned because of repeated clashes with the company's board over his management style.

Executives at ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership met with senior members of the Internal Revenue Service last week to discuss concerns about the newly redesigned Form 990, which affects how tax-exempt organizations file returns, and to ask for an extension of the 90-day comment period on the changes due to expire Sept. 14. Jim Clark, senior vice president of public policy for ASAE, said that while the agency declined to extend its deadline, he was left with the impression that the IRS is willing to consider changes to the document. The new Form 990 could require some associations to provide detailed financial information about meetings held overseas, but of primary concern to ASAE, Clark said, is the way the new form emphasizes executive compensation on its summary page, which could spark public-relations problems for associations.

Peninsula Hotels opened its eighth luxury property, the 347-room Peninsula Tokyo, on Sept. 1. The 24-story building, the first free-standing luxury hotel to be built in the city in more than 10 years, is in Tokyo's Marunouchi district. The Peninsula has five restaurants, the Peninsula Spa by ESPA, two ballrooms, six function rooms, a fitness center and more. Meeting space at the hotel totals 13,000 square feet of space.

Last week, American Airlines unveiled a new $1.3 billion terminal at New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport. The 1.58 million-square-foot facility features 84 ticket counters, 44 self-service check-in booths, security checkpoints capable of processing 1,800 travelers an hour, and a new U.S. Customs and Immigration facility. At the same ceremony, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched NYC & Company's new citywide tourism campaign, dubbed "Just Ask The Locals," designed to welcome international visitors to the city of New York. Elements of the campaign include outdoor advertising throughout the city's five boroughs, a hotline with insider tips from celebrity residents and a new tourism website.

The 282-room Plaza Hotel New York has pushed back its projected reopening date from Oct. 1, 2007, to Jan. 1, 2008. The property's $400 million, 27-month transformation is decreasing the number of guest rooms from 805 to 282; the remaining rooms are being converted into 152 condo hotel rooms. There will be 15,000 square feet of meeting space divided over seven meeting rooms on the hotel's third floor, and the 4,800-square-foot, landmark Grand Ballroom will be restored to its original 1929 look. Additional amenities include a spa, a fitness center and a salon, as well as the restored Palm Court and Oak Room dining venues.

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165, representing casino and laundry workers in Nevada, revealed they have a multimillion-dollar strike fund in place, funded by UNITE HERE, the unions' international parent organization. Despite recent contract settlements with MGM Mirage and the Riviera Hotel and Casino, more than 12,000 Las Vegas workers continue to work on extended contracts and will vote Sept. 12 whether to authorize a strike. About 1,000 Culinary Union workers at Reno's Grand Sierra Resort authorized a strike in an Aug. 30 vote. In the event of a walkout, UNITE HERE's support fund would allow the union to pay benefits, offer support and cover logistical costs "indefinitely," according to the Culinary Workers Union.