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 RLJ Development Acquires Downtown Tampa's
360-room Embassy Suites for $77 million

Price Per Room One of Highest in Five Years for Tampa Bay Area

By Steve Huettel, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Apr. 24, 2010--Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson has added downtown Tampa's newest hotel to his vast lodging portfolio.

An arm of his private investment firm, RLJ Development, bought the Embassy Suites across from the Tampa Convention Center on April 16 for $77 million.

Local exerts in lodging were astounded by how much was paid for the 360-room hotel. "The price per (room) is one of the highest in the last five years in Tampa Bay," said Dilip Kanji, owner of the Westin Tampa Bay on Tampa's Rocky Point.

The hotel was on the market only about three months, said Richard Parks, vice president of WMP Construction, which built the Embassy Suites in 2006 for a group of investors.

The owners "got what we consider a fair price," said Parks. "Tampa's clearly on the way back."

Hotel broker Ken Olipra with Greene, Canfield, DeGeorge in Clearwater took the sale as a sign that investors were gaining confidence that the ailing hotel business is on the mend. "I hear everybody saying the bottom of the market is here."

Johnson, who launched Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 1980, sold it to Viacom in 2003, pocketing more than $1 billion, after taxes.

Johnson launched The RLJ Companies, a diverse holding company . His private investment firm, RLJ Development, and its affiliates controlled $3 billion in assets and 129 lodging properties in early 2006.

Local holdings include three limited-service properties in Brandon: a Homewood Suites, a Fairfield Inn and a Courtyard by Marriott. Johnson's ex-wife, Sheila Johnson, bought the Innisbrook Resort in July 2007 for $35 million from Golf Trust of America.

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226)-3384.

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