News for the Hospitality Executive
Bank of America Commits to a $60 million Hotel in Downtown
Charlotte - The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte at the Bank
of America Corporate Center
|By Rick Rothacker, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jul. 21, 2005 -- When he unveiled a new luxury hotel for Charlotte on Wednesday, Bank of America Corp. Chairman Ken Lewis was glib, relaxed and in the civic spotlight -- a different look for an executive better known for running his big bank.
Since taking the helm in 2001, Lewis has been less visible on the Charlotte community scene than predecessor Hugh McColl Jr. He's been busy raking in record profits at the nation's No. 2 bank and making deals such as last month's $35 billion MBNA Corp. purchase.
But on Wednesday, he emceed the announcement of a new $60 million Ritz-Carlton Hotel the bank will build across the street from its Charlotte headquarters. It's the first new Bank of America project in its hometown since the 46-story Hearst Tower, which opened in 2002 but was launched on McColl's watch.
During the Founders Hall news conference, Lewis urged the audience to take free cookies and joked that employees in the crowd were hurting productivity. He got "ooohs" by saying the hotel's official name: Ritz-Carlton Charlotte at the Bank of America Corporate Center.
About nine months ago, Bank of America contacted Ritz-Carlton about building a hotel, and Lewis, 57, met with hotel officials early on to show the company's commitment. Later, he reviewed design proposals, choosing ones that reflected the corporate center's architectural style.
In an unusual twist, Bank of America is asking city officials to consider earmarking taxes generated by the project toward uptown cultural projects in a complex led by rival Wachovia Corp.
"That's one of great beauties of this city," said Lewis, who has teamed with Wachovia Chairman Ken Thompson on an uptown arena financing deal. "We compete in the marketplace but we come together when there are things we think will benefit the city."
Wednesday's announcement capped a whirlwind couple of years for Lewis, who has experienced the highs of big mergers and the lows of multimillion-dollar legal settlements and large layoffs. Just since mid-June, he has invested $3 billion in a Chinese bank, bought credit card giant MBNA, announced $4.3 billion in quarterly earnings and kicked off the Ritz-Carlton.
Asked if he has more deals in the works, he said: "I think this will culminate any announcements, but you never know."
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