A Year after its Arrival, Uncertainty Persists About Marriott's Continued Operations in Stamford
Paul Schott | Connecticut Post, Bridgeport | September 20, 2017 1:00am
Sept. 20--STAMFORD -- A year after its arrival, Marriott International is still booked into the city's economy. But many details of its stay remain unclear.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of Marriott's $13 billion acquisition of Stamford-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, a deal that created the world's largest hotel company. The merger has resulted in major layoffs, but public officials remain optimistic the firm will maintain some local operations.
"We were hopeful that they would decide to keep that nucleus of talent in Stamford," Stamford Mayor David Martin said in a speech in Bridgeport last week. "That might still happen. We knew they've taken a number of the jobs down to Bethesda," the Maryland city that hosts Marriott's headquarters.
Messages left this week for Marriott and Building and Land Technology, the landlord of its South End building at 333 Ludlow St., were not immediately returned.
Starwood moved its headquarters in 2012 to Stamford, from White Plains, N.Y. It would grow into one of Stamford's largest employers, operating with a reported contingent of about 700 around the time of the merger.
By adding Starwood, Marriott expanded its distribution by some 1,300 hotels. It now manages more than 6,000 properties worldwide. Starwood brands include Sheraton, W Hotels, Westin, Le Meridien and St. Regis.
In comparison, Hilton Worldwide operates as the second-largest business in the industry with about 5,000 properties.
Within about four months of the deal closing, Marriott had announced the layoff of some 220 Stamford employees. The cuts mostly affected vice president, director and other managerial posts.
Martin suggested in the Bridgeport speech that Stamford might have benefited more from an acquisition from a Chinese banking and insurance firm that had traded bids with Marriott. Anbang Insurance Group made a $14 billion offer for Starwood before walking away in the spring of 2016.
"We would have preferred if they were bought by a Chinese investment company, whose fundamental agenda I'm not certain I would agree with," Martin said. "Nonetheless, they would have kept Starwood in Stamford."
While they review their Stamford offices, Marriott executives are looking for a new headquarters in the Washington, D.C., area. About 4,000 Marriott employees are based in Bethesda and in satellite offices in the surrounding area. Marriott's headquarters lease runs until 2022.
In an interview after the Bridgeport speech, Martin said public funding might help to prolong Starwood's presence in Connecticut. State officials announced in May 2014 that they would provide a loan of $5 million and up to $20 million in tax credits to support Starwood creating 340 more jobs in the state. Those incentives are still in effect, state Department of Economic and Community Development officials said this week.
"I think they're going to play out those economic incentives for the medium term, and maybe this will play out so they make a decision to retain and grow in the long term," Martin said. "But I don't think we can count on that."
Since the Starwood acquisition, Marriott has rebounded from initial losses. In the first half of 2017, its revenues were flat, but its bottom line rose 33 percent to an adjusted total of $827 million.
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