|By Mike Pramik, The Columbus Dispatch,
Ohio McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Nov. 1, 2006 --When the owners of the struggling Adam's Mark Hotel put the Downtown property up for sale in 2003, a wellknown bidder surfaced.
John W. Marriott III, whose grandfather founded the Marriott International hotel chain, had begun assembling a portfolio of hotels for his family's trust. He heard about the Columbus property and took a chance on it, not entirely sure if he would be successful.
"I was really, really busy with my day job (at Marriott) and a buddy of mine said to make an offer," Marriott said recently. "We made a really low offer. And I got a call back, and I won the bid.
"And I'm like, 'Oh. Now I've got to do some work.' "
Three years and $15 million later, Marriott's bid seems to have paid off. He came to the city last week to christen the Columbus, a Renaissance Hotel, 50 N. 3 rd St. The Renaissance has a new lobby, restaurant and bar, updated pool and fitness areas, and 408 renovated rooms.
It's only the third Renaissance-branded hotel in Ohio and is one of a dozen properties owned by JWM Family Enterprises, the Marriott's family trust.
Whether that earns the Columbus property a little more attention from the family business remains to be seen. Marriott said the hotel already is posi- tioned to succeed.
Marriott said he paid less than $25 million for the Adam's Mark, making his investment with renovations $40 million. That adds up to about $100,000 per room, far less than what it would cost to build a new, full-service hotel.
"To build this building with the location and the land, it would be $300,000 a room," he said. "It really helps to find a deal where it is underperforming so that you can go in and make some changes.
"It's a great location and it's a good hotel. It was kind of run down and certainly needed investment. But the bones were there."
The Renaissance already has a captive audience. The Marriott Rewards frequent-purchase program has 24 million members who could seek out the Renaissance when they're shopping for a hotel Downtown.
That could help turn around the fortunes of the property, which struggled as the Adam's Mark and was still lagging other Downtown hotels this year.
Through the first nine months of 2006, the Renaissance's occupancy rate was 57 percent, according to Experience Columbus, the city's convention bureau. The Renaissance trailed the Hyatt Regency (74 percent), Crowne Plaza (67 percent) and Hyatt on Capitol Square (64 percent) and also the Downtown average occupancy of 67 percent.
However, the Renaissance has been operating as a construction zone for most of this year and 2005. In September, the hotel was 75 percent full, and this month should show the full effect of the renovations.
The public-space changes at the Renaissance include the restaurant, Latitude 41 and a lounge, Bar 41. There's wireless Internet access in the lobby and bar areas and high-speed access in the rooms.
The hotel's 22,000 square feet of meeting space is slated to be renovated in 2007.
Joe Marinelli, senior vice president of Experience Columbus, thinks the property will be sought-after by conventioneers and visitors.
"The Renaissance brand will help us when we're trying to lure future business," he said. "To me, there's a little bit of a big-city edge to it in terms of the guest experience.
"I really like what I see."
So does Marriott, who left his position at Marriott International last year to concentrate on the family trust business. He was in line to succeed his father, J.W. "Bill" Marriott, as chief executive of the 2,800-property chain.
But while he remains vice chairman of Marriott International's board, John Marriott is no longer involved in the company's day-to-day business.
Marriott said he began working on his grandmother's estate plan, which led him to begin assembling hotels.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
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