|By Steve Huettel, St. Petersburg Times,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 16, 2010--An Internet hotel booking company in Tampa has filed for bankruptcy protection to stop room suppliers from canceling customer reservations.
Irish-owned 1800Hotels has a dispute over debts it owes to several companies for hotel rooms it resells to travelers online. On Sunday, 1800Hotels learned that two suppliers, Gullivers Travel Associates and Tourico Holidays, had canceled as many as 3,600 reservations.
On Wednesday, Bankruptcy Court Judge Caryl Delano agreed to a temporary restraining order prohibiting suppliers from canceling reservations after the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing Monday, said Steven Berman, who represents 1800Hotels and parent Happy Duck Limited in Dublin.
Dubliner Graham Peakin founded 1800Hotels in 2003 to sell discount hotel rooms to Irish travelers. The company expanded to Tampa in 2008 with the website 1800Hotels.com for the U.S. market.
The two sites employ about 65 in Dublin and an office on N MacDill Avenue, Berman said. Florida corporate records identify Peakin as managing director with a South Tampa address.
On Thursday, a message on 1800Hotels.com notified customers of the filing and had no booking service.
The Irish website said the company had been forced by two suppliers into bankruptcy. It advised customers with reservations to contact their hotel directly.
The U.S. and Irish operations owe suppliers between $8 million and $9 million, said Berman. Gullivers Travel, the major supplier, had given 1800Hotels extra time to pay for rooms bought by its customers, then suddenly insisted on the faster payments spelled out in their contract, he said.
The websites generate about $7.7 million in monthly sales and were valued recently at $25 million, Berman said.
Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.
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