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VOL. 132 | NO. 196 | Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Daily Digest

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Hilton Renovating Memphis Offices

Hilton Worldwide has filed a multimillion-dollar building permit application to renovate a portion of its Memphis operations center.

The Virginia-based company is planning a roughly $2.7 million renovation of Building C of its 755 Crossover Lane campus, according to the application filed with construction code officials.

Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc. is listed as the contractor on the permit.

In addition to Building C, Hilton’s Memphis campus includes three other office buildings located on a 31-acre parcel near the intersection of Park Avenue and Perkins Road. The Shelby County Assessor’s 2017 combined appraisal of the four buildings is $24.2 million.

– Patrick Lantrip

Hotel Management Co. to Buy Up to $400M in Properties

Wright Investments, a Memphis-based hotel management, investment and project management company, is planning to acquire up to $400 million in hotel properties over the next two to three years by investing the firm’s newly raised Hospitality Opportunity Fund II.

The company’s Hospitality Opportunity Fund I, which is now fully deployed, enabled Wright Investments to acquire about $180 million in hotels, including those under major brands such as Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International and InterContinental Hotels Group. Wright is a second-generation company founded in 1982 by Larry Wright Sr., and has been involved in more than 180 hotels in 27 states and Washington, D.C., via management or ownership.

The company’s current president and CEO is Larry Wright Jr., who said the company’s model involves buying assets “that represent significant value enhancement opportunities.”

“Essentially, we breathe new life into the hotels we invest in by executing an innovative but proven approach to operations, asset management, renovations and the overall customer experience,” Wright said in a statement about the company’s plans. “We work collaboratively with our capital partners to ensure near- and mid-term plans are intensely adhered to for the long-term viability of the hotel.”

The company’s investment preference is for primary and secondary markets, as well as destination locations. The objective it’s looking for through the hotel investments is to create “strong risk-adjusted returns for investment partners with repositioned business plans.”

Wright’s model is hotel-specific and includes approaches that encompass investment, hotel management – both for its own account and third parties – as well as hotel project management.

– Andy Meek

Beale Task Force to Offer 2 Options on Cover Charge

The Beale Street Task Force is preparing two recommendations for the Memphis City Council -- both of which would keep some form of a cover charge to get in the entertainment district after 10 p.m. on Saturdays in the spring and summer.

The group, which met Monday, Oct. 2, is recommending two options

The first is a $10 cover charge, of which $5 would be rebated back to the customer in the form of coupons usable at Beale businesses and $5 would go to a fund for improvements to the district, including safety measures like better lighting and possibly programming in public areas.

The other option is a $5 cover charge with $5 in coupons, and the money made from the unredeemed coupons would go into the fund for improvements.

The group also recommends that those with tickets from events such as basketball, football or baseball games be allowed to enter without paying the cover.

The recommendation goes to the city council in Oct. 17 committee sessions.

– Bill Dries

EEOC Sues Flash Market Over Sexual Harassment

Flash Market LLC, the owner and operator of Mid-South convenience-store gas stations, is being sued by a federal agency over alleged sexual harassment and retaliation at a Memphis store.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission federal lawsuit charges Flash Market permitted a mid-level supervisor to create a sexually hostile work environment for a female cashier at the Shell Flash Market at Poplar Avenue and Hollywood Street, then fired the employee for complaining.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Memphis Division, claims the area supervisor repeatedly propositioned the former Shell employee for sex and made lewd remarks and sexual overtures toward her. She complained to the store manager about the supervisor’s behavior, but the manager told the former employee the supervisor was sexually harassing her as well and she could do nothing about it.

The employee filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC in September 2013. According to the lawsuit, the area manager fired the employee in retaliation for filing the charge.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit after attempting to reach a voluntary prelitigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting Flash Market from discriminating against its female employees, as well as lost wages, compensatory damages and other relief for the former employee.

Flash Market owns and operates more than 90 convenience-store gas stations in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee under the Citgo, Phillips, Conoco and Shell brands. The stores employ approximately 700 employees.

“This case demonstrates that sexual harassment remains a serious problem in the workplace,” Katharine W. Kores, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis district office, said in a statement. “Employers must take care to ensure that they protect their employees from this sort of abuse. When they fail to do so, the EEOC will continue to take action.”

– Daily News staff

Whitmor Inc. Acquires Home-Organization Provider

Whitmor Inc., a Southaven-based provider of home storage, organization and laundry accessory products on the global retail market, has acquired Neat Method, a luxury home-organization services provider with more than 25 offices across the country.

The acquisition, announced Monday, Oct. 2, is the first in Whitmor’s history and is believed to be the first business combination within the storage and organization sector of the housewares industry that brings together a product-focused retail supplier and a service provider, according to the company.

Mill Valley, California-based Neat Method offers in-home organization services as well as online services that give customers one-on-one time with an organizer, plus personal shopping lists and step-by-step organization instructions.

“In recent years we identified a real opportunity for our company to become strategically aligned with a home organization service provider,” Whitmor executive vice president Scott Felsenthal said in a release. “Quickly after commencing conversations with Neat Method we knew, without a doubt, that they were the perfect fit for our vision.”

Neat Method co-founders Ashley Murphy and Molly Graves said joining forces with Whitmor was a “natural fit.”

“After many years of building our business and providing the best home organizing services in the industry to clients across the country, we have learned just how important products are to the successful outcome of a project and a home,” they said in the release.

– Daily News staff

Memphis to Receive $1.1M To Process Rape Kit Backlog

The city of Memphis is set to receive nearly $1.1 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice to help process untested rape kits.

The funding, announced by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen on Friday, Sept. 29, comes from the Justice Department’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, which provides grants to address unsubmitted sexual assault kits in law enforcement custody.

“This grant will help the city of Memphis and our local law enforcement track down assailants, help victims get justice, and protect individuals from becoming victimized by recidivists,” Cohen said in a statement.

At its peak, the backlog reached 12,000 untested kits in Memphis, with an estimated 400,000 sitting in evidence rooms nationwide. In 2015, Memphis received $3.8 million in grants to help reduce the backlog, including $1.9 million from the SAKI program.

In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment offered by Cohen to include an additional $4 million in the fiscal 2018 House appropriations package for SAKI grants nationwide. If it becomes law, Congress will have increased SAKI funding nationally from $36 million to $49 million since 2014, a 36 percent increase.

– Daily News staff

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 19 170
BUILDING PERMITS 0 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 20 118 736
BUSINESS LICENSES 27 53 329
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0