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VOL. 129 | NO. 16 | Friday, January 24, 2014

Belz Launches Hotel Management Venture

By Andy Meek

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The night before Conduit Global announced this week it will hire 1,000 people to staff a large call center in Shelby County, representatives of the company stayed at The Peabody hotel.

Belz Enterprises is setting up the infrastructure to establish a new hotel and resort management venture to rebrand other properties into new Peabody hotels.

(Daily News File/Brandon Dill)

Not only did they let it be known they were impressed by the South’s Grand Hotel, they said they’d love to stay at the Peabody again when they come back to Memphis. Other groups also use the hotel for similar purposes – the University of Memphis men’s basketball team, for example, might bring recruits there, as might St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital when they bring a doctor to town they want to woo to the city.

Now, the Peabody wants to do something that replicates those encounters, by spreading the brand far beyond Memphis.

For a little more than a year, Belz Enterprises has been “setting up the infrastructure,” in the words of Peabody Memphis general manager Doug Browne, to establish a new hotel and resort management venture. The basic idea – Belz will look for hotels in other cities that are operated at a similar level of quality as the Peabody, negotiate deals to rebrand them and essentially turn them into new Peabody hotels in other cities, all without having to build them.

“All the same features you have here, we’ll institute and put in place at another hotel that we would brand and manage,” Browne said.

Browne also will be wearing a new hat as part of the change. He’ll be president of the new venture, Peabody Hotels & Resorts. Along with Browne’s expanded role, Peabody director of sales and marketing Craig Smith has been promoted to vice president of brand development for Peabody Hotels & Resorts.

He’ll be charged with aggressively pursuing and vetting hotel properties that meet the company's requirements. Browne, meanwhile, said the rebranded hotels – which will also be managed by Peabody Hotels & Resorts – will adopt the Memphis hotel’s core standards, values and traditions, down to the famous ducks.

Like the flagship property in Memphis, each new hotel will be home to five North American mallards that continue the 80-year tradition of the March of the Peabody Ducks.

Belz will be looking to do this replicating of the Peabody essence in cities like Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis and Chicago – and more.

The company is no stranger to expansion outside of Memphis, though it’s been selling off Peabody hotels in recent years. Last year, Belz announced a deal to sell the Peabody Orlando, following the sale in 2012 of the Peabody Little Rock.

Browne said the new effort won’t be limited to the South, although the region will be an area of focus. Also, every hotel will be unique, in that Belz won’t require them to mimic the entirety of the appearance of the Peabody.

When asked the motivation for the new pursuit by Belz, Browne responded, “Well, why not?”

“There’s a lot of brands out there that have done similar things, if you look at The Plaza Hotel in New York. The Waldorf Astoria. The St. Regis Starwood. The Peabody is a great brand, well-known, with a great history. We just felt we had something other people might enjoy being a part of.

“This brand has done a great job over the years of creating a great name for itself,” Browne said. “It’s well known. We’re a hotel people are proud of in this city.”

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