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Starwood Hotels' President Resigns After Only a Year

April 22, 1999| From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. President and Chief Operating Officer Richard Nanula resigned under pressure after only a year at the White Plains, N.Y.-based company. Starwood said there were no immediate plans to name a successor.

The chief executives of Starwood's hotel and gaming units will now report directly to Chairman Barry Sternlicht.

Sternlicht hired former Walt Disney Co. executive Nanula, a classmate at Harvard Business School and decade-long friend, last April to help him pull together the roughly 550 hotels acquired since the beginning of 1997. But the two reportedly clashed, with the current issue of Fortune magazine describing their relationship as "imploding."

Nanula's aim was to find the cost savings and improvements that Starwood has promised from its more than 712 hotels in 72 countries, analysts said. Starwood is the world's largest hotel owner, with brands that include Sheraton and Westin.

Speculation has Nanula possibly returning to Disney, where he was well liked by Chief Executive Michael D. Eisner. But Disney last year named Thomas Staggs to take Nanula's former job as the company's chief financial officer.

"It would be highly speculative to suggest Richard is coming back to Disney," a Disney spokesman said. "He did a good job for us. We were sorry to see him go, but we recognized it was a world-class opportunity for him and we're sorry it didn't work out."

News of the resignation comes as Starwood reportedly received a $3.1-billion bid from Mirage Resorts Inc. for its Caesars World casinos, according to CNBC, which cited unidentified sources. The financial news network also said there is speculation that Sun International Hotels Ltd. may make a bid.

Starwood has conducted negotiations with Park Place Entertainment Corp., the world's largest casino company, people familiar with the talks have said.

Officials with Mirage and Sun could not be immediately reached for comment.

Starwood said earlier this month that it was in talks to sell the casino business, a move that would allow the company to focus on its hotels.

Nanula's exit was announced after the close of trading on Tuesday. The company's stock closed at $32, down $2, on the New York Stock Exchange.

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