During the last week and a half, John Q. Hammons has stepped out of day-to-day operations, leaving questions about the company's future. A subsequent executive shakeup and a state investigation into the health and care of Hammons has produced some answers. JQH Hotels veteran Jacquie Dowdy has taken the reins.
SBJ photo illustration by APRIL TURNER
JQH Hotels proceeds without founder
A sudden shuffling of top executives, a state investigation into its founder’s health and care, and the public seemingly wondering what comes next – it wasn’t exactly a typical week for John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts.
The company founded by Springfield hotelier, businessman and philanthropist John Q. Hammons has experienced a shakeup in upper management that capped with the company’s former vice president of finance taking on Hammons’ role of CEO.
Jacquie Dowdy, a 38-year veteran at JQH Hotels, was appointed CEO of the company in late October in accordance with Hammons’ durable power of attorney form.
“I want to build a legacy for him,” said Dowdy, who is Hammons’ official legal guardian and had not spoken to media until Springfield Business Journal’s interview. “This is his company, there will only be one chairman. Springfield’s very lucky to have a benevolent visionary like he is.” JQH Hotels operates more than 80 hotels in 25 states nationwide.
The 91-year-old Hammons is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the company due to his multiple cardiovascular, lung and pulmonary disorders, said Justin Harris, the firm’s senior vice president and general counsel. Hammons is staying in a senior care center and receiving care by two doctors. Speculation regarding mistreatment of Hammons was found last week to be unsubstantiated by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Executive shakeup JQH Hotels will carry on in an uncertain hotel environment also without Scott Tarwater, the company’s longtime vice president of development, who no longer works with the company.
“Several weeks ago, Scott approached Jacquie Dowdy and (Human Resources Vice President) Kent Foster and indicated he had some other interests he wanted to pursue,” Harris said. “He said that he recognized hotel development industrywide and within our company was slow. He asked whether he could be released to pursue other interests.”
Tarwater was offered a severance package, which he declined, Harris said, adding that a noncompete clause was part of the package.
“Scott, I think, had some other opportunities,” Harris said, but refused to elaborate. Tarwater declined to comment on the situation.
Additionally, the company eliminated five positions in its architecture department and transferred two positions to the capital planning and asset management department.
Harris said JQH Hotels is interviewing candidates for a vice president of sales and revenue management and a vice president of capital planning and asset management.
“The rest of the executive management team for the operations side of the company is unchanged,” he said.
A reason for the job cuts, Harris said, is the slow economy, which has hindered the company’s attempts to obtain financing for projects.
“We’ve opened nine hotels since January 2008, which isn’t a lot,” Harris said. “The last one we opened was in January 2010. Since January 2010, we’ve had no new building.
“Our forecasts are that it may be a couple more years before construction financing really becomes available on terms that are acceptable. Right now, the financing that is out there is not financing that makes it financially feasible to build the kind of hotels that Mr. Hammons builds.”
Harris said all projects that have been announced by JQH Hotels are temporarily on hold. “Right now, we just don’t have much clarity on when things are going to be such that we can stick a shovel in the ground,” he said.
Projects that remain in limbo include a $90 million Colorado Springs Renaissance Hotel Spa and Conference Center that started construction April 28, 2008, but has been on hold since Oct. 31, 2009; a 14-story, 260-room Embassy Suites in Wilmington, N.C.; and a proposed hotel and convention center in Denton, Texas. In Osage Beach, plans were announced in March 2007 for a $100 million, 15-story, 320-room Chateau on Lake of the Ozarks scheduled to open in spring 2010.
On Hammons’ health During a Nov. 1 news conference, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder shed light on Hammons’ physical condition, describing a conversation he had with one of Hammons’ two doctors. The physicians tending to Hammons are Dr. Steven Atwood of CoxHealth and Dr. Brian Griffin, a cardiologist with the Cleveland Clinic.
“The doctor in Cleveland told me he was gravely concerned that Mr. Hammons might not survive while he was there. It was that serious,” said Kinder, the state’s official senior advocate, who led an investigation into the care of Hammons and the handling of his business.
Complaints received by Kinder’s office prompted the investigation, which the state Department of Health and Senior Services determined Nov. 2 to be unsubstantiated.
Despite a no-visitor order by doctors, Dowdy was allowed to visit Hammons Oct. 30–31 in the care center where he is receiving treatment. Along with other company officials, Dowdy declined to comment on his physical condition, citing Hammons’ wishes.
Among recent media reports, KOLR-10 footage would indicate Hammons is staying at the senior care center Manor at Elfindale, but the report did not identify the center.
Reached by telephone Oct. 29, Manor at Elfindale Administrator Matt Gould would neither confirm nor deny whether Hammons was a resident, citing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations.
Dowdy’s vision for JQH Hotels is very similar to that of Hammons, Harris said, noting that the company’s headquarters will remain in Springfield.
“Her vision, I would say, is very close to his vision, and that is to continue to grow the company, continue expanding its reputation as the premier hotel developer and operator in the country,” Harris said, declining to comment on the private company’s net worth. “She intends to keep this company growing and successful as a legacy for Mr. Hammons. She challenged all of us to look at it that way.”[[In-content Ad]]