October 11, 2006

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have reported that Harrah's Entertainment, the largest casino operator in the world with 40 gaming properties, including the brands Caesars and Bally's, is reviewing a buyout offer by equity firms Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group for $15.05 billion in cash. Harrah's currently has a debt of $10.5 billion, which puts the total buyout offer at close to $26 billion.

Renaissance Hotels & Resorts will invest $3 billion over the next three years to enhance the brand throughout North America. Key brand standards to be incorporated at all properties include upgraded guest rooms with high-end amenities, a signature lobby, new restaurant concepts, hotelwide wireless Internet access, and Enlightened Event, which features enhanced services for meeting planners and groups.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion to New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center will take place Oct. 16. Plans call for 340,000 additional square feet of exhibit space, 180,000 square feet of meeting space and 400,000 square feet of prefunction space, bringing the totals to 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space, 210,000 square feet of meeting space and 940,000 square feet of prefunction space. The current goal is to have the expanded center open by 2010.

Talks are under way to sell the 273-room Ritz-Carlton, Boston, the legendary property at the western edge of Boston's Public Garden, to the Indian Hotels Co., part of the Tata Group. The deal would add the hotel to the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces portfolio. A spokesperson for the Ritz-Carlton Boston confirmed the deal is being discussed. According to multiple reports from India, Indian Hotels' vice chairman, R.K. Krishna Kumar indicated the acquisition would be completed through the company's New York City-based subsidiary for US$170 million.

UNITE HERE Local 5 and the Hilton Hawaiian Village reached a tentative agreement on a new contract for the property's 1,554 unionized workers on Monday. The specific details of the contract, which still is subject to a union vote, have not been released.

InterContinental Hotels Group will open a $50 million, 122-room Hotel Indigo in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood. The property will have a boardroom, a rooftop garden and a street-level cafe. Groundbreaking is scheduled for this month, with the opening scheduled for the third quarter of 2008.

Nan Marchand joined the Pasadena (Calif.) Convention & Visitors Bureau as executive director last week, succeeding Barbara Garcia, who left the post in April. Marchand, who has been running her own tourism marketing company since 2001, also has served as vice president of sales for Universal Studios Hollywood.

France will ban smoking in public places beginning in February. The exemptions are bars, restaurants and nightclubs, which will have a reprieve until January 2008. And yet another loophole: Establishments that want to permit smoking will have to provide smoke-proof "fumoirs," or smoking rooms, to which serving staff will not be permitted access.