|By Brendan M. Case, The Dallas Morning
NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
January 16, 2009 --Dallas billionaire Robert Rowling intensified efforts to assume a greater role in running Gaylord Entertainment Co., a hotel company in which he already is the largest shareholder, unveiling plans Thursday to nominate four people for the board.
In a letter to shareholders, Rowling said Gaylord's chairman and chief executive, Colin Reed, was overpaid and overly fond of the company's private jet.
"We are convinced that Gaylord has lost its way, and we therefore believe it is time for a change at the company," said Rowling, whose Irving-based holding company, TRT Holdings Inc., owns nearly 15 percent of Gaylord shares.
Gaylord defended its record and said Rowling, who also owns Omni Hotels, was trying to grab a competitor on the cheap.
"TRT's filing today is the continued attempt by a competitor to control Gaylord Entertainment without paying a premium," said Gaylord, which is based in Nashville, Tenn., and owns the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine.
Rowling spent nearly $146 million for his Gaylord shares. At the Thursday share price of $11.41, his stake would be worth about $70 million.
In November, Rowling proposed increasing his stake to 30 percent and replacing three board members with people he would designate. Gaylord's board said no.
Thursday, he faulted managers for what he called subpar financial performance, poor strategic decisions and waste on goodies including a $15 million Gulfstream.
"The plane is often used to fly back and forth to locations in Mississippi and Florida, where Gaylord's CEO maintains a personal farm and a vacation home," Rowling said.
Gaylord replied that it has operated "with the highest levels of integrity and the strongest commitment to good corporate governance."
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