Hotel Online  Special Report

 Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Starwood Form Third
Party Development Arm for Restaurant Concepts in
Starwood Branded Hotels
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y - May 31, 2006 -- Internationally acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his partner Phil Suarez, hospitality leader Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT - News) and leading consumer-focused private equity firm Catterton Partners today announced that they have partnered to create an international, upscale, multi-concept restaurant and licensing business.

The new company will develop, own, operate, manage and license world-class restaurants created by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, including the highly successful Spice Market restaurant located in New York City, plus new to-be-developed multi-unit Jean-Georges restaurant concepts. Acclaimed by critics as "formidably gifted" and a "residential genius," Jean-Georges is one of the world's most celebrated chefs, currently holding an unprecedented total of 20 stars from The New York Times for his seven New York City restaurants. In addition, his Jean-Georges restaurant was recently awarded three coveted Michelin stars.

The new company will serve as a third party development arm for restaurant concepts in Starwood's upper-upscale and luxury hotel brands including W, Westin, Le Meridien and St. Regis. Additionally, the company will own and operate freestanding restaurants outside of Starwood's hotels.

Starwood Chief Executive Officer, Steven J. Heyer, sees opportunity to distinguish Starwood's brands by offering customers memorable dining experiences, while capturing a greater share of business from guests and generating increased local traffic.

"The hotel industry has commoditized hotel dining to the point that most restaurants are so unremarkable they're simply an option of last resort," said Heyer. "We see a wonderful opportunity to dramatically re-imagine hotel dining and provide customers an unforgettable, theatrical experience."

In addition to a strong alignment between Jean-Georges' restaurant brands and concepts and Starwood's brands, Heyer cited Jean-Georges' experience operating restaurants in diverse global markets from New York to Paris to Las Vegas to the Bahamas as elements that were attractive to Starwood.

"Starwood's brands fly their flags at some of the most prestigious addresses in the best locations around the world," said Jean-Georges. Suarez agrees and adds that, "By partnering with them, we are able to grow in a meaningful way that would be unattainable on our own. Starwood's commitment to quality, innovation and design, coupled with Catterton's understanding of the food industry, were important considerations as we looked to expand our business."

The new company will leverage Jean-Georges' existing infrastructure and experienced managers as well as build a larger team to roll out multiple units -- something that one-off partnerships with celebrity chefs can not achieve.

"The partnership unites the 'best in class,' each bringing to the table unique skills and capabilities," said J. Michael Chu, Managing Partner of Catterton Partners. "With Jean-Georges' culinary genius, proven concept development ability and infrastructure, combined with Starwood's acclaimed brands and large real estate pipeline, and our proven track record of creating market leading companies, we are extraordinarily confident in the success of this venture."

Starwood anticipates that Jean-Georges' restaurant concepts will be attractive to its hotel owners and will help command premium pricing while enhancing Starwood's brands. "We believe that there is terrific upside potential in developing viable restaurant concepts that will reinforce our core brand experiences, and provide incremental margins, and we expect our new restaurants to be meaningful profit centers," concluded Heyer.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with approximately 850 properties in more than 95 countries and 145,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. Starwood® Hotels is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels and resorts with the following internationally renowned brands: St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, Sheraton®, Westin®, Four Points® by Sheraton, W®, Le Meridien® and the recently announced Aloft(SM). Starwood Hotels also owns Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts. For more information, please visit

About Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Internationally renowned for his innovative, groundbreaking cuisine, Jean-Georges Vongerichten has emerged as one of the world's leading chefs. Acclaimed by critics as 'formidably gifted', a 'residential genius', and the 'enfant terrible of modern French cooking', his culinary vision has consistently set new standards and helped define today's generation of cooking. He currently holds an unprecedented total of 20 stars from the New York Times for seven of his New York City restaurants -- Jean-Georges, JoJo, Vong, Mercer Kitchen, Perry Street, Spice Market and 66. In addition, in 2005, Jean Georges restaurant in NYC was awarded three Michelin stars. A singularly notable accomplishment was the awarding of 3 major awards to Jean-Georges in 1998 by the James Beard Foundation -- Best New Restaurant for Jean Georges, America's Outstanding Chef, and Who's Who of Food & Beverage. This 'triple crown' to the same Chef in the same year was a first for the Beard Foundation. Jean-Georges has published several cookbooks including Simple to Spectacular, Simple Cuisine, and Cooking at Home with a Four Star Chef, for which he won the Best Cookbook Award from the James Beard Foundation in 1999. He has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Martha Stewart Living, Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee, and as a regular guest on the TV Food Network.

About Catterton Partners
With more than $2 billion under management, Catterton Partners is a leading private equity firm in the U.S. focused exclusively on the consumer industry. Since its founding in 1990, Catterton has leveraged its investment capital, strategic and operating skills, and network of industry contacts to establish one of the strongest investment track records in the consumer industry. Catterton considers investments across a number of targeted consumer industry "verticals": Food and Beverage, Retail and Restaurants, Consumer Products and Services, and Media and Marketing Services. Catterton's unique combination of value-added resources has resulted in the creation of numerous market leading companies, such as Build-A-Bear Workshop, Frederic Fekkai, Kettle Foods, PF Chang's China Bistro, Baja Fresh, Farley's and Sathers Candy Co., Titan Outdoor, Pharmaceuticals Holdings, Inc., Gold Coast Beverage Distributors, Odwalla, Inc., and Wellness Pet Food. More information about the firm can be found at

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of federal securities regulations. 


K.C. Kavanagh, 914-640-8339

Jean-Georges Vongerichten:
Phil Suarez

Catterton Partners:
Joele Frank

Also See: Celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer Planning to Build build the Charlie Palmer Hotel, a 35-story 400 room Boutique Non-gaming Condo Hotel; John Sharpe, Former COO with Four Seasons for 22 years, Joining Hotel Management / April 2006
Chef Daniel Boulud, a Favorite Among the Well-fed Since the Late '80s, Set to Open His First Restaurant Outside of New York City / June 2003
Benchmark Set to Open The Hotel ICON, $35-million Reinvention of Houston's Former Union National Bank Building; Includes a Jean-Georges Vongerichten Restaurant / December 2003

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