|By Bert Caldwell, The Spokesman-Review,
Spokane, Wash.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
January 15, 2010 --The directors of Red Lion Hotels Corp. have removed Anupam Narayan as chief executive officer, replacing him with board member and longtime Avista Corp. executive Jon Eliassen.
In a statement released after the close of markets Thursday, the Spokane-based hotel chain said Narayan left Red Lion Wednesday. No reason was given for his departure.
Narayan, who joined Red Lion in 2004, had been CEO since February 2008. During his tenure, Red Lion reduced its properties from 52 to 45, in part by severing relationships with franchisees unable or unwilling to make upgrades sought by the company.
Red Lion also rebuffed a buyout proposal by a Seattle investment company offering $9.50 per share in June 2008. Shares closed Thursday at $4.85, although the company has reported profits for the last two quarters. The fourth-quarter and 12-month report is due next month.
Columbia Pacific Opportunity Fund remains a large shareholder, but Eliassen said the Seattle company was not informed of the board's plans, and had nothing to do with the decision.
Narayan could not be reached for comment.
Eliassen declined to discuss Narayan's ouster, saying only that the directors thought a change was needed that would enable the company to pursue opportunities for expanding the Red Lion brand, primarily through franchising.
"It wasn't a performance issue," said Eliassen, a board member since 2003.
Members also have confidence in the abilities of the remaining management team to go forward, he said.
Chief Financial Officer Tony Dombrowik said the downturn in the hospitality industry has created opportunities to attract property owners unhappy with revenues.
With a new sales-tracking system, he said, Red Lion can handle a significant expansion.
Eliassen, Avista's former chief financial officer, is also chairman of Itron Corp.'s board of directors.
He was president of the Spokane Area Economic Development Council before it was folded into Greater Spokane Inc.
Eliassen was appointed on an interim basis and does not plan to serve beyond 2010.
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