November 15, 2006

The Palm Beach County Convention & Visitors Bureau has confirmed that president and CEO Warren E. "Mac" McLaughlin resigned yesterday. That, plus Friday's resignation of vice president of finance Lee H. Davis follow allegations last week that former controller Donna M. Duffer stole more than $1.5 million from the bureau. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, at a meeting of the bureau's executive committee last week, concern was voiced that the financial systems in place to make sure money could not be embezzled were ignored. McLaughlin had held the post since 1987 and oversaw the opening of the $83 million Palm Beach County Convention Center in January 2004. A spokesperson for the bureau said criminal action will be brought against Duffer, although she has not been formally charged yet. The executive committee was scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. today to discuss possible replacements for McLaughlin.

Voters in Lake Charles, La., have approved a new casino for the city. Ground will be broken next year on the $350 million Sugarcane Bay Casino Hotel, which will be owned and managed by Pinnacle Entertainment. The property, to open in 2009, takes over the casino license that Pinnacle bought from Harrah's Entertainment this summer. The new casino will be built adjacent to the Pinnacle's 743-room L'Auberge du Lac Hotel & Casino, which opened in May 2005 with 26,000 square feet of meeting space. A 250-room expansion to that property will open by the end of 2007.

Barceló Hotels & Resorts is building a fifth property at its Barceló Maya Beach Resort on Mexico's Riviera Maya. The 756-suite hotel will add to the resort's current roster of 2,000 guest rooms. The new property will open in December 2007. No further details are available.

IMEX, the Frankfurt-based meetings industry exhibition, will expand the number of planners it hosts from the United States, Australia, China and India. Show organizer Regent Exhibitions expects more than 3,500 hosted buyers to attend the 2007 IMEX, which takes place April 17-19.

Spanish hospitality firm NH Hoteles and Banca Intesa have signed an agreement with the owners of Jolly Hotels to take control of the 70-property Italian chain. Under the terms, the two investors will form a holding company, Grande Jolly, which will control 75 percent of Jolly Hotels and launch a bid to buy the outstanding capital.