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Columbia Sussex Now Owns the Hilton Anchorage
and the Anchorage Marriott Downtown

By Sarana Schell, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

January 6, 2006 - The holidays meant sudden job loss for a dozen employees of the Hilton Anchorage after the hotel was purchased by the owners of the Anchorage Marriott Downtown. 

Alan Budahl, general manager of the Anchorage Marriott, said cuts were mainly in the human resources department of the hotel, which has about 330 employees. New owner Columbia Sussex Corp. handles most human resources work for the more than 80 hotels it owns at its headquarters in Fort Mitchell, Ky., Budahl said. 

Columbia Sussex bought the Hilton Anchorage for $65 million and took it over Dec. 28.

A management changeover typically takes a month or more, but this one was unusually fast, Budahl said, leaving little time to give employees much notice.

"They called us the Thursday before Christmas saying, 'You're taking over on the 27th as of midnight,' " Budahl said. "Everyone had to fly up on Christmas."

Budahl said 12 positions had been cut as of Thursday. A few more might go, he said, and a few more might be added back later.

Alisa Young said she was laid off with only days' notice, after having worked in the human resources department for 2 1/2 years.

"They showed us a film on Columbia Sussex," Young said, and "told us our jobs were not in jeopardy."

The general manager, Kevin Batters, left to seek another Hilton position, Budahl said.

Remaining employees will retain their seniority and gain a pension, something union employees have now, Budahl said. 

All union employees kept their jobs, said Marvin Jones, president of Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Local 878, which Jones said represents 230 to 270 nonmanagement Hilton workers, from bartenders to bellhops.

The union's contract expires in 2008, Jones said.

"We're going to remain optimistic they'll come to the table and bargain in good faith, as did the Hilton," Jones said.

The Anchorage hotel was one of 20 sold last year by the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Hilton Hotels Corp., which owns hotels primarily in the United States. Meanwhile, Hilton was negotiating to buy the lodging assets of United Kingdom-based Hilton Group, which owns rights to the Hilton name outside the United States.

Budahl said Hilton pressed to close the Anchorage sale before the $5.7 billion British deal, which was announced Dec. 29 and is expected to be final soon. 

In Anchorage, Budahl said, the two Columbia Sussex hotels will still compete to host meetings and conventions but will share some staff. And if one hotel is full, it can refer customers to the other.

"We're all hoping the Anchorage economy will stay strong," Budahl said, and that occupancy rates will rise. "It certainly feels like that." 


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Copyright (c) 2005, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska

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