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Sylvania, the Lighting Products Company, Files Lawsuit Against Boca Raton Resort & Club;
 Claims Hotel Trying to Bump Sylvania's Annual Sales Meeting for Another Group Providing
 More Room Nights, Higher Rate

By Luis F. Perez, South Florida Sun-SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 8, 2007 - Sylvania likes to hold its annual national sales meeting at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, and it's going to court to make sure it can do so again this year.

The company filed a lawsuit on June 29 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court asking a judge to order the resort to honor a 2004 contract for meeting space and hotel rooms.

Formally known as Osram Sylvania Products Inc., the lighting company said in its court filing that resort officials said they planned to bump Sylvania for another group that wanted more rooms for more days, including the dates Sylvania wanted, at a higher rate.

The resort, part of Luxury Resorts & Hotels, a company owned by the New York-based private equity giant The Blackstone Group, offered Sylvania rooms and meeting space at two sister properties on different dates. But the dates didn't fit Sylvania's time frame, according to the lawsuit. The company, based in Danvers, Mass., tried to find other space but couldn't. So it's asking the court to step in.

"This is a major event for our company," Stephanie J. Anderson, Sylvania's corporate spokeswoman, said Thursday.

It's the only event that brings the entire sales force for the company's largest division together each year. The facility and dates are important, she said.

Carole Boucard, a resort spokesperson, said it's the resort's policy not to comment on litigation.

Virginia Haley, president of the Florida Association of Conventions & Visitors Bureau, said a convention site and a company can usually work something out in contract disputes with the resort giving discounts or offering other concessions.

"But unfortunately, some of those contracts do wind up in court," said Haley, who also is president of the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In the lawsuit, Sylvania said it has held its national sales meeting at the Boca Raton resort 17 times since 1984 because it offers a unique combination of meeting space, hotel amenities and service. The company booked 30 rooms for October 20, 421 rooms for October 21 to 24 and the resort's Mizner Center meeting space.

The company holds the meeting during those dates because they're just after it begins the new fiscal year and before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The dates of the meeting, which all of the company's 244 sales representatives are expected to attend, were announced last year. It's at the annual meetings that the company rolls out its plan and trains the sales force for the new fiscal year.

Anderson wouldn't say whether Sylvania has other plans for its sales meeting in case it loses in court.

"At this point, we're focusing on enforcement of the contract," she said.

Luis F. Perez can be reached at lfperez@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6641.

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Copyright (c) 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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