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Hundreds gather at Chateau to honor John Q. Hammons

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by Carol Harris

SBJ Contributing Writer

John Q. Hammons, chairman and chief executive officer of the Springfield-based John Q. Hammons Hotels Inc. makes one point perfectly clear midst the hoopla surrounding his four decades in the lodging industry: He's not going to retire soon.

"I don't have time to retire, and I don't plan to. We have 15 positions and sites acquired (for new hotel properties)," he said at a June 10 surprise dinner celebration, attended by more than 350 employees, friends, family and industry colleagues, at his company-owned Chateau on the Lake Resort Hotel and Convention Center near Branson.

Kemmons Wilson, founder of Holiday Inns Worldwide, was there to toast Hammons' achievements, along with well-wishers Ray Schultz, chairman and CEO of Promus Hotel Corp., and David Glass, chairman and CEO of Wal-Mart Corporation. Promus Hotel in 1997 named John Q. Hammons Hotels' Embassy Suites in Greenville, S.C., the No. 1 hotel in the chain of more than 140 Embassy Suites hotels.

Hammons entered the hotel industry in 1958 and joined with Roy Winegardner the following year to develop 10 Holiday Inn hotels. Winegardner & Hammons Inc., a hotel development company, was formed in 1961. By the late 1960s, WHI had constructed almost three dozen Holiday Inns. Hammons formed John Q. Hammons Hotels in 1969.

During the dinner, Hammons spoke briefly of recent company developments. "We will have built, owned and operated 128 hotels by the end of 1998," he said. Currently, John Q. Hammons Hotels Inc., traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange under JQH, owns 41 properties and operates 45 properties nationwide under the under the Embassy Suites, Radisson, Marriott, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn brand names.

Last year the company opened six new hotels, including Chateau on the Lake Resort Hotel near Branson, increasing its portfolio of hotels by 15 percent. In 1997, total revenues were $302 million and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were $87.9 million, both increasing by 12 percent.

Operating margins for the company's mature hotels improved for the fifth straight year.

Hammons, who personally selects all property sites for development, said, "We do not build where it is not market-driven. Low-interest money has really made a difference in the market."

Hammons said many of his new developments are in the southern states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, which have had strong economies. He describes other strong markets as state capitals, university towns and locations that have "demand generators," such as nearby airports, convention centers, shopping malls or entertainment centers.

Hammons said another reason for his company's recent growth has been the targeting of the upscale hotel market and offering full-service amenities, including larger rooms, convention meeting facilities, restaurants and atrium lobbies.

"We have avoided mid-scale and lower-scale hotels. Our predictions are that we have a five- to seven-year window in the upper-scale market," he said.

New developments announced for 1998 include Embassy Suites in Tampa, Fla., and Portland, Ore.; Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka, Kan.; and World Golf Resort Hotel & St. Johns County Convention Center in St. Augustine, Fla.

Another four properties are to be developed in 1999: Hampton Inns & Suites adjacent to the city-owned convention center in Mesquite, Texas; a 224-room Radisson Hotel at the PGA-owned Heron Bay Golf Course in Coral Springs, Fla.; an Embassy Suites adjacent to the new Bass Pro store near the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport; and a 275-room Renaissance/Marriott Hotel near the coliseum at Charlotte, N.C.

On the local front, Hammons said there is a planned expansion in about a year of the University Plaza in Springfield, including the development of another 35 acres and the addition of 150 to 180 new rooms.

Hammons' 40th anniversary celebration was part of a four-day biannual conference for corporate staff and general and regional managers of John Q. Hammons Hotels.

Also during the conference, Kenneth J. Weber, executive vice president and chief financial officer for the company, announced the placement of Paul Muellner in the newly-created position of vice president, controller.

Muellner, 41, most recently served as vice president/finance, hospitality group, for Carnival Hotels and Casinos, Miami, Fla., where he managed all financial programs for 30 hotels generating annual revenues of $300 million. Muellner has also held senior positions with Chartwell Leisure, Omni Hotels, Red Lion Hotels & Inns, Ramada Inc. and Marriott Corp.[[In-content Ad]]

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