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The 434 room J.R.'s Executive Inn in Paducah, Kentucky Acquired
 by Bhupinder Singh for $5.7 million; Millions Pledged for Renovations
By Brian Peach, The Paducah Sun, Ky.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

July 8, 2006 - --By the end of next year, J.R.'s Executive Inn won't exist. Sure, the structure will remain, but major changes are in store -- changes that will cost new owner Bhupinder Singh between $10 million and $18 million and that he expects will turn the hotel into a four-star destination. That's on top of the $5.7 million he spent to buy the massive building along the Ohio River. The sale contract has been signed by outgoing owner Yvonne Holsapple and Singh, who has been in Paducah for about 10 days.

Hotel employees are already cleaning heavily, and Singh expects major changes in the next several months: Internet access in every room, new restaurants, and a business center where people can fax, compose letters or seek advice will soon be available. Also on the way: a new name, though he's not ready to unveil that just yet.

"It will not be closed," Singh said of the hotel. Renovations "will be done on a wing-to-wing basis." "We want to give it a look where people are dying to come back." That will including reworking the roads surrounding the Executive Inn to make it more accessible, a project the city will have a hand in. Additional employees will probably be added by the time the renovations are completed within the next 10 to 18 months, he said, and none will be fired as a result of the construction.

Singh, who appeared at Friday's news conference with his wife, Daljeet, said the hotel was initially low on the list of possible purchases by his family-owned company, Imperial Hotels and Investments LLC of Riverside, Calif. His company dabbles in all sort of investments, including recent purchases of hotels in Arkansas, he said.

Singh said the Executive Inn, after much research, was found to be "a diamond in hiding." "Hopefully, we'll be able to bring a lot of businesses here," Singh said. "We do realize that as the hotel stands today, bringing in the business class might be a problem." Singh said he was returning to California but would be coming back to Paducah after a week.

The rumor mill churned heavily on Thursday after many city leaders and business people attended a Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast. However, among those left to wonder whether the rumors were true were Mayor Bill Paxton, City Manager Jim Zumwalt and chamber President Elaine Spalding, none of whom had received an official word of the sale. Both Holsapple and hotel sales director Linda Peters were tight-lipped about whether any transactions had been made. "It's a fragile situation," Peters said on Thursday, noting that employees had been told they would lose their jobs if they spoke about what they were told in private.

The sale -- which Singh said will be final in a few months -- culminates years of trying to find new ownership willing to invest heavily to renovate the hotel. "If he was serious about fixing up the hotel, the city and county will jump through hoops to help," Paxton said.

"That's why we have been so reluctant to talk about this in the past." A year ago, a hopeful Paxton said on public access Channel 11 TV that a deal involving the hotel's sale was imminent, but he later retracted those comments, saying no contract had been signed.

Then, on May 3, he said city and county officials were talking with investors who would give the hotel "the Holiday Inn flag." That deal didn't pan out, either. In fact, no deal with the city or county resulted in the sale. Paxton admittedly didn't know about the sale until Friday, and he didn't meet Singh until about an hour before Friday's 4 p.m. press conference. After hearing the rumors on

Thursday, the mayor was worried about being kept in the dark, particularly because the city and county had offered to give incentives and assistance to an investor willing to fix up the hotel. "I guess I found it a little bit strange," Paxton said in his office Thursday. "I can't believe somebody would purchase it without seeing if the city intends to give incentives." The mayor added that the city would be cautious about whom it gave incentives to. But after meeting Singh on Friday, Paxton said financial incentives could still be made available.

A new offer Paxton made was that the city and county will each spend $500,000 to improve the Julian Carroll Convention Center to the same level as the hotel, if it's repaired as promised. County Administrator Steve Doolittle was among the people attending the news conference, but did not participate. The city and county own the convention center and Paducah Expo Center, which are connected to the Executive Inn. The properties were leased to Holsapple through the local convention center board. "I really look forward to working with them," said Holsapple, who missed the press conference because she was tending to her mother, who underwent surgery Thursday. "They are very, very fine people," she said of the Singhs.

Paducah/McCracken County Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Mary Hammond told Singh the hotel has "really been the missing link in the community." "Give us a good product, and we can sell it," she told him.


Copyright (c) 2006, The Paducah Sun, Ky.

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