January 04, 2006

U.S.-based Hilton Hotels Corp. announced an agreement Dec. 29 to acquire the lodging assets of U.K.-based Hilton Group plc, which are collectively known as Hilton International, for $5.71 billion. Hilton Group's gambling business, not part of the transaction, will be renamed Ladbrokes plc. Hilton Hotels Corp. will be the largest lodging company in the world, with nearly 2,800 hotels and 475,000 rooms in 80 countries. The transaction is expected to close this quarter.

Bankrupt carrier Independence Air will cease operations as of 7 p.m., Jan. 5. More than 2,700 employees and 37 destinations will be affected, along with ticket holders for future flights. The company is now seeking bankruptcy court approval to refund customers holding reservations for flights scheduled after Thursday, but banks and debt-holders will vie for that same money. "This is a profoundly sad day for all of us," said Kerry Skeen, chairman and CEO of Independence Air. "We could not be more proud of our employees and everything they have accomplished."

The board of directors of the Convention Industry Council intends to distribute a request for proposal for the association's future management. CIC president and CEO Mary Power explained that the announcement does not indicate any discontent with Association Management Group, which has led the group for the past seven years, but it is an act of due diligence. "We're a different group now," said Power. "It's a good thing once in a while to take a look at who your vendors are." Bids will be solicited in the next few months, and the CIC board hopes to secure a new contract by May.

The Society of Incentive and Travel Executives will hold its 2006 Executive Summit at the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Hotel in Cancun, Mexico. The event, which will take place March 6, traditionally is held in an emerging incentive destination; the organization selected the established incentive locale to show its support for the area, which was ravaged by Hurricane Wilma in October. The seminar will feature topics such as disaster recovery, emergency preparedness and promoting destinations in the wake of disasters.

Mandarin Oriental announced the sale of The Mark, New York, for $150 million, to New York City real estate moguls Izak Senbahar and Simon Elias. The sale is expected to close by the end of the month; the 177-room hotel will not remain a part of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.