Front Desk

Fairmont's future

It seems a certainty that big changes are ahead for Fairmont Hotels, that hard-to-define, sometimes-quirky collection of hotels with a superb history and pedigree. Investment shark Carl Icahn is circling around the company, looking to buy a controlling interest and then flipping either the whole company or some of its valuable real estate parts.

The officers of the Toronto-based firm will probably fight the takeover attempt, but the likely outcome will be some significant reincarnation of the chain. At the least, the company will be forced to divest itself of most or all of its considerable real estate holdings. If he gains control, Icahn might seek to sell-off the real estate and then sell the valuable brand name to another lodging firm (Cendant, InterContinental, Marriott, even Starwood all come to mind).

This kind of corporate intrigue and asset swapping comes with the public ownership of companies, and it's the kind of exercise that makes the corporate world go around. I fear, however, that the rich tradition of the Fairmont name and some of the innovative and forward-thinking operating practices the company has developed will get lost in the shuffle. The travel industry needs more companies with individual style and personality. I hope the Fairmont style doesnâ€â„¢t become a casualty of corporate warfare.

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