|By Jeff McCready, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 21, 2004 - A day shy of the fifth anniversary of the death of Frank Pasquerilla, who built Crown American from the ground up, the company said it is selling 81 percent of its hotel properties.
Capital Lodging, a recently organized hospitality real-estate investment trust, bought 22 of Crown's 27 hotels. No address was listed for Capital and Crown declined to provide additional information.
Crown American Hotels, based at Pasquerilla Plaza in downtown Johnstown, has about 50 employees and the company would not comment about possible layoffs.
Any jobs eliminated would be in addition to the approximately 134 lost when Crown American Realty Trust sold its malls to Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust of Philadelphia.
Crown will keep five of its properties, including Holiday Inn, 250 Market St. in downtown Johnstown, and Holiday Inn Express, 1440 Scalp Ave. in Richland Township. It also will keep hotels in Macon, Ga., Rock Hill, S.C., and Harrisburg.
Mark Pasquerilla took over Crown American Realty Trust and Crown Hotels after the death of his father on April 21, 1999. Frank Pasquerilla built a mighty empire out of Crown, which was started in a garage and two rented rooms in Ferndale.
In November, Crown completed the sale of its 26 mall properties to a Philadelphia company for $381 million in stock.
The sale "is contingent upon various conditions," a four-paragraph press release announcing the sale said yesterday.
Normally an examination of financial statements and the properties, known as due diligence, must be completed to the satisfaction of the buyer.
Donato Zucco, who joined Crown's hotel operation after the sale of Crown's malls, declined to answer questions yesterday, referring comments to Crown's corporate communications.
Allison Troy Finui, communications director, said she could not give any additional information other than what was in the press release.
"He is not accepting phone calls," she told a reporter who asked to speak to Mark Pasquerilla.
When asked Monday afternoon about reports that Crown was selling its hotels, Zucco replied, "We don't comment on rumors," a response given many times last year when asked about the reported sale of Crown's malls.
Zucco, who also is mayor of Johnstown, said that there had been no layoffs.
Yesterday's announcement comes about a month after Mark Pasquerilla said the hotel business was looking up because of an improving economy.
The president of the hotel and lodging association agrees with him.
"After a long, cold session of snowstorms and falling occupancy, spring has finally arrived, bringing the return of business travelers and a barrage of leisure guests to our hotels," Joseph A. McInerney said in a letter on the association's Web site.
No record of Capital Lodging exists at Department of State in Harrisburg, where businesses must be listed, or American Hotel and Lodging Association, a Washington trade group.
-----To see more of The Tribune-Democrat or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.tribune-democrat.com
(c) 2004, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.