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Meet the Money® 2014

ADA defense and compliance

EB-5 financing

Workouts, bankruptcies & receiverships

Hotel Management Agreements

Hotel Franchise & License Agreements

Hotel industry trends

This is Jim Butler, author of www.HotelLawBlog.com and hotel lawyer. Please contact me at Jim Butler at jbutler@jmbm.com or 310.201.3526.

Published on:

27 April 2016

In Memoriam: William G. Sipple

All of us in the hospitality industry will miss the warm smile, good humor and practical insights of our colleague, Bill Sipple, who left us too soon. I am proud to have counted Bill as a good and long-time friend.

A seasoned hospitality executive, he was the consummate professional and all who worked with him in any capacity recognized the value of his leadership. It was always great working with Bill on any transaction, whichever side of the transaction he was on, but I always liked being on his side the best. His talents, focus, and energy made him one of the lights of our industry. He calmed rough waters, got deals done, and was just plain fun to spend time with.

Thanks for all you gave to our industry, Bill. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers.

The Sipple family suggests donations to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research in lieu of flowers.

Sipple 2

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

Meet the Money® 2016 – May 2-4, 2016: 26th National Hotel Finance & Investment Conference in Los Angeles

Getting to the winner’s circle – marathon, sprint or obstacle course?

LOS ANGELES  The 26th annual edition of Meet the Money®, the national hotel finance and investment conference, will be at the Sheraton LAX May 2-4, 2016. The conference will host hotel owners, developers, operators, brands, lenders, investors and other capital providers.

Conference speakers will explore financing, re-financing, development, and deals, as they try to answer the questions: what part of the investment cycle are we in? And what should you do about it?

“Industry fundamentals continue to be positive,” said Jim Butler, Chairman of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®. “Investor sentiment seems to be shifting. With the REITs on the sidelines, some see this as a great buying opportunity. Others see storm clouds on the horizon and seek shelter from investment risk. Uncertain times like this make it important to decide what strategies will get you to the winner’s circle.”

Meet the Money® 2016 will present 25 panels and special presentations featuring more than 100 industry leaders, including:

  • Thought leaders from the Executive Suite
  • Changes in Chinese investment in U.S. hotels, and what this means to you
  • Investment strategies in a changing market
  • Many panels with lenders, equity investors and other capital providers
  • Construction financing
  • Bread & butter financing
  • EB-5 financing
  • Buying and selling hotels
  • Optimizing hotel value with brands and management
  • Cybersecurity breaches and preventative measures
  • Dress for distress–avoiding pitfalls and finding opportunities

New this year: Workout Boot Camp

A special 2-hour pre-conference session on Monday, May 2 will provide a refresher course on the fundamentals of a workout and bankruptcy basics for new asset managers, loan servicers, in-house counsel and brokers. The “Workout boot camp” will be hosted by JMBM bankruptcy partner Robert B. Kaplan, and is available at no additional cost to conference attendees.

New this year: Capital Connections™

Meet the Money® is also launching a new program, “Capital Connections™,” to help capital providers and capital consumers meet at the conference to discuss development and investment opportunities. Koss REsource, a Gold Sponsor, will use their online platform to connect attendees with capital providers for in-person meetings. Capital Connections™ will take place Wednesday afternoon, May 4, and is included in the registration fee.

Register Now

Registration is $950, and includes meals and conference materials. For registration information, a full program, and other details, visit the Meet the Money® website at www.MeetTheMoney.com.

About Meet the Money®

Every year in May, Meet the Money® brings hospitality executives and capital providers together in Los Angeles for learning, networking, and deal making. Meet the Money® is the national hotel finance and investment conference presented by JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® – the most experienced legal and advisory team in the industry, with more than $71 billion in hotel transaction experience involving more than 3,800 properties around the globe.

Contact:

Doreen Filice
(310) 201-3589
DFilice@jmbm.com

Published on:

23 February 2016

As the number of ADA lawsuits continues to explode, both Federal and California lawmakers are considering steps to limit abusive ADA lawsuits.

Here is an update on these positive developments from my partner, Marty Orlick, who heads JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group that has defended more than 600 ADA cases and DOJ investigations.

Amid Growing Concerns Over the Proliferation of ADA Lawsuits, Congress and the California Legislature Address Measures to Curb ADA Abuse
by
Martin H. Orlick, Chair, JMBM’s ADA Compliance and Defense Group

Since 2004, more than 20,000 ADA lawsuits have been filed in the country’s federal courts. The number of ADA filings in state courts is unavailable, but likely runs in the thousands. Nearly one half of all ADA lawsuits were filed in California with no end in sight.

From September 2013- December 2014 (the last time period the figures are available) more than 3,000 ADA lawsuits were reported to the California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA). According to the CCDA, more than one-half – 54% – of all construction-related accessibility complaints filed in California were filed by 2 law firms (one of the lawyers is fighting a State Bar suspension stemming from ADA litigation).

According to the CCDA, 46% of all complaints were filed by 14 plaintiffs seeking quick settlements rather than correction of the alleged access violations. For years, thousands of businesses, including many small minority-owned businesses, have been targeted by a growing number of repeat plaintiffs and law firms. This increasing trend has prompted state and federal action to curb ADA abuse.

For example, these findings prompted the California Legislature to enact Civil Code Section 425.55 which is intended to curb ADA abuse. Section 425.55 defines these serial plaintiffs and their attorneys as “high-frequency litigants” and requires specific procedural and substantive conditions to be met before they can file litigation.

For all who own or operate businesses serving the general public, it is important to know about state and federal efforts requiring would-be plaintiffs and their attorneys to provide a specific pre-filing notice and opportunity to cure before they can initiate litigation and how these new laws impact you. Thus far, there are no notice and cure requirements. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

08 February 2016

Hotel Lawyer in Los Angeles at the latest EB-5 Summit

If you have been thinking about tapping into EB-5 financing for your development project, this is the time to make your decision and act quickly. If you need background on what the EB-5 program is about, how it has gone mainstream with institutional investors for several years, and is now providing a steady stream of reliable capital, please see the articles referenced at the bottom.

We think that JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® EB-5 financing team has a pretty good perspective on the opportunity, the risks, and how to get clean execution. For the 18 months ended December 31, 2015, our team closed more than $1 billion of EB-5 financing loans, and we sourced more than $700 million of these loans for our clients.

If you have missed our reporting of key events affecting the availability of EB-5 financing here, you need to know that the EB-5 program was extended for another year through September 30, 2016 without any changes. But just as the maximum number of visas has been reached in each of the past two years, the experts expect that we will “cap out” at the maximum 10,000 visas even earlier in 2016 – possibly as early as May or June.

And the “reformers” are still out there, with proposals to revise the EB-5 program the next time it comes up for renewal. So this is a great time to move into action while EB-5 financing continues to be accessible for top developers with great projects and a strong track record.

We are confident that most people who delay will wish they had started earlier and gotten in on this great source of relatively inexpensive financing early in the game. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

27 January 2016

Hotel Lawyers with first signs of a sea change in investor sentiment about the hotel sector

As our team of hotel lawyers returns from the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (or ALIS) in Los Angeles, we all noticed a big change. This is the first industry conference since the beginning of the recovery from the Great Recession where we have seen a clear turnaround in hotel investor sentiment that seems to be gaining traction. Unfortunately it is a negative turnaround.

Until now, the discussions have always been about how long the recovery will last (what inning are we in)? And how high values and fundamentals will go before they peak and start down in the next cycle. Not so much this time.

The irony is that hotel industry fundamentals remain sound and continue to improve, although perhaps a bit more slowly. But the downturn in the price of hotel REIT and C-corp stocks (many are about half of their value a year ago) now seems to be shaping an important part of the industry psyche and investment mindset. In this scenario, Wall Street is driving Main Street, instead of the other way around. In other words, the jaundiced perspective of Wall Street is having a real world effect on the hotel industry.

What is happening on Wall Street?

Here is how it works according to one industry analyst:

  • Wall Street investors became infatuated with hotel REITs and stocks because of record growth rate in RevPAR and other indicators as the industry recovered from the Great Recession.
  • For decades, an annual RevPAR growth rate of 5% or 6% was remarkable, perhaps record-setting.
  • For several years in a row, hotel RevPAR growth in many markets has equaled or exceeded the 5% or 6% records, and Wall Street loved it.
  • Now, that we are back to peak levels (or near there in most markets), growth rates are slowing a bit. And the prospect of a “mere” 4% RevPAR growth rate is freaking out Wall Street investors . . . or at least making them think that they should direct their attention elsewhere where growth rates are more robust.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

11 January 2016

What part do hotel owners play in preventing a cyberattack and the resulting data breach? The hospitality industry relies on its reputation for confidence, and that confidence can be shattered when guests learn that their private information has been compromised. What can hotel owners do and how should they work with brands and management to prevent a cyberattack?

In the article below, my partner, Bob Braun reminds hotel owners that because they are generally required to indemnify brands and managers for costs the managers and brands incur – which could include a costly data breach – it is in the owners’ best interests to have a comprehensive plan in place.  This article first appeared in Hotel Business Review in December 2015, and is reprinted with permission from www.hotelexecutive.com.

Not Just Heads in Beds – Cybersecurity for Hotel Owners

by
Bob Braun, Hotel Lawyer and Data Security Advisor

The basics of the hotel business have traditionally been simple: good location, fair prices, appropriate amenities and good service were the keys to success. While those factors are important today, hotels are no longer simply a “heads in beds” business; hotels are increasingly brand-oriented. Brands focus not only on the services and products they sell, but on developing the perception and recognition of the brand associated with those goods and services. That means that hotels, like all brands, need to focus more and more on understanding their customers and how to reach them, whether through loyalty programs, advertising, social media or otherwise.

The upshot of the focus on branding in the hospitality business is that hotels gather lots of information about their guests, ranging from credit card data to addresses, phone numbers, travel plans and preferences, birthdays, and more – all of which are valuable not just to the hotel brands and operators, but to cyberthieves. While hotel companies have understood this for years, they are, along with other customer-intensive industries, learning that collecting that information comes with responsibilities and, possibly, liability.

Cybercrime is big business. In 2014, there were 42.8 million detected security incidents (and, most likely, many more that were never discovered). Estimates of annual cost of cybercrime to the global economy ranges from $375 billion to as much as $575 billion as companies face increased vulnerability, ranging from greater technology available to cybercriminals and new types of cybercrime, like crypto-ransom. Cybercriminals began targeting hotels years ago. In a 2010, a Forbes magazine article quoted Nicholas Percoco, who said that “The hospitality industry was the flavor of the year for cybercrime. These companies have a lot of data, there are easy ways in and the intrusions can take a very long time to detect.” The lesson for hotel owners is that they cannot stand idly by – hotel owners must be proactive by instituting best practices in their own operations, requiring the same from managers, and obtaining insurance coverage to fund the inevitable costs of a breach.

The Wyndham Case

The threat to the hospitality industry became particularly evident in the recent federal court case brought by the Federal Trade Commission (the FTC) against Wyndham Hotels. On August 24, 2015, the Third Circuit United States Court of Appeals issued its ruling in the case FTC v. Wyndham Worldwide Corporation. The case was highly anticipated by the data security community generally for its expected ruling on the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to regulate data security standards, but nowhere was the anticipation more keen than in the hospitality industry. After all, this decision didn’t deal with retailers, banks or dating sites – it addressed a major hotel player and, by implication, all operators, brands and owners in the industry. The decision should be a wake-up call to hotel owners because, as described below, hotel owners may ultimately bear the cost of data breaches involving their hotels. Owners should look at the Wyndham decision as an opportunity to consider whether their brands and managers have taken the steps necessary to protect guests and, ultimately, the hotel owner.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

18 December 2015

Hotel lawyer with great news for developers: the EB-5 immigrant visa financing program has been renewed — approved by Congress and signed by the President. It is being continued without change through September 30, 2016.

As of December 31, 2015, JMBM’s team has closed more than $1 billion of EB-5 loans, and sourced more than $700 million of EB-5 funding for our developer clients.

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2016 Federal budget approval last week. One of the “riders” to the omnibus appropriations bill was the EB-5 legislation sponsored by Senators Leahy and Grassley. For months preceding the scheduled Congressional action, many stakeholders in the EB-5 industry spent untold hours in negotiating complex provisions to deal with certain concerns regarding the program. These negotiations resulted in multiple drafts of the proposed legislation being exchanged between Congressional staff and industry leaders, with the “final” draft receiving the unanimous approval of the trade organization for regional centers, the Invest in the USA or IIUSA. It was a good compromise on many knotty issues.

Then at the proverbial 11th hour . . . on Wednesday, December 16, the elaborate “final” compromise proposal was jettisoned in favor of a simple extension of the expiration date for the Regional Center program to September 30, 2016, without any other changes to the program.

The EB-5 regional center program is extended without any other changes.

Yes. That is right. After all the discussions and proposals, THE ONLY CHANGE IN THE LAW IS AN EXTENSION OF THE EFFECTIVE DATE FOR THE PROGRAM THROUGH NEXT YEAR.

Now, as the program has been renewed without a single change, lenders and foreign investors are now rushing to fill the pipeline again. And it is much more desirable to be at the front of the line, rather than at the back of the line.

Nothing was done about any other issues, including the following: CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

08 December 2015

Editor’s note: The EB-5 program has been renewed! The article below describes the changes to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa program that were ALMOST enacted in December 2015. At the eleventh hour, Congress completely shelved all the proposals discussed below, and instead decided to continue the program, without any change, through September 15, 2016. 

For the current status of the EB-5 financing program, see “EB-5 Immigrant Visa program extension signed into law — without any changes. EB-5 financing continues for new development projects.

Hotel Lawyer preview of the new EB-5 financing rules.

Although minor tweaks and adjustments continue to be made to legislation in the final hours before Congress votes, it looks like we have a pretty good idea of what the new rules will be for EB-5 financing. Top takeaways for developers are:

  • The EB-5 regional center program will be extended for 5 years
  • Developers will be able to raise 60% more EB-5 capital on the same number of jobs
  • Minimum investment will be raised to $800,000 (not expected to deter investors)
  • TEAs will be forced into a “modified California model” of not more than 12 contiguous tracts
  • NOW is a good time to get started on EB-5 financing before the New Year rush
  • There will be much greater scrutiny and compliance required of those in the capital raising process, and there may be a trickle-down effect on developers (unless they want to form and use their own regional center)

Read on for more details. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

23 November 2015

As the biggest merger in the history of the hospitality industry,  the Marriott-Starwood merger, is grabbing headlines worldwide. Most of the recent press has focused on the sheer size of the potential transaction. But in his article below, my partner and hotel lawyer Bob Braun, considers the practical impact of the merger on hotel owners, franchisees and developers. With the loss of the Starwood family of brands as an independent and significant competitive force in the industry, the merger will bring mixed blessings to stakeholders.

 

The Marriott-Starwood merger – Is bigger really better?

Impact of the merger on hotel owners, franchisees and developers

by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

The proposed merger between Marriott and Starwood will, by all accounts, create a behemoth in the hotel industry. If the merger goes through as planned, the combined company will be the world’s largest hotel company, with more than 5,500 hotels under management or franchise, 1.1 million hotel rooms around the world, 30 hotel brands and up to 75 million hotel loyalty members.

While commentators have speculated as to whether the combined entity will benefit consumers, stockholders or frequent guests, little has been said about how it could impact hotel owners, franchisees and developers currently in either of the brand families or looking to them in the future. No one will really know until after the merger (if it is, in fact consummated, and there are a variety of hurdles to closing such a complex transaction), but the JMBM Global Hospitality Group has negotiated many hundreds of franchise agreements, including agreements with virtually every major hotel brand, and we believe hotel owners should consider a few important factors:

Will Owners Have Fewer Choices? The first, and most obvious, impact on any potential owner is that the field has been reduced by a significant player. Thirty brands (31, if we include the new Grand Sheraton brand) may remain, but in fact they will be operated by a single entity, and that entity will decide on what brands will be available in a given market. Moreover, the differences between particular brands in a given price or quality segment are likely to be reduced. How long, for example, will Sheraton or Le Meridien hotels be markedly different from Marriott or Renaissance properties? Where will they be positioned relative to other brands in the new combined family?

Any hotel owner, franchisee or investor should also recognize that the Marriott-Starwood merger might only be the first of its kind. Many analysts predict that other brands will merge to create the size and influence that will allow them better to compete with the largest hotel branding company in the world. If that happens – and transactions like this seem to occur in bunches – owners will have even fewer choices.

Will Owners Have Reduced Leverage? The immediate corollary to fewer choices is reduced leverage. A hotel owner will no longer be able to create a competition between two of the largest players in the business; Marriott/Starwood is unlikely to bid against itself for management or franchise opportunities.

This challenge is likely to extend beyond just the merger of Marriott and Starwood. Other major brands – Intercontinental Hotel Group, Hilton Hotels, Hyatt Hotels to name a few – will have greater bargaining power when negotiating with owners because there will simply be fewer competing companies.

Will Hotel Companies be Less Flexible? A common concern among hotel owners is the desire for their brands to acknowledge the unique qualities of each property. While some franchised or branded businesses can achieve a high degree of uniformity, hotels are special, and hotel owners need brands to recognize that. As much as brands strive to create a consistent experience at all properties operating under the same name, local differences – whether it be location, common amenities, zoning, legal restrictions, competition or otherwise – have to be addressed. But larger companies have greater reasons to increase efficiency and reduce variations between different properties, and hotel owners may have difficulty ensuring that local needs are met.

Will New Players Step Into the Breach? At the same time, it may be possible for new, smaller and more nimble brands to make inroads in this market. If there is less differentiation between different flags, if the larger players are less flexible, the smaller players may find inroads and opportunities that are closed to them now. It’s even possible that Marriott-Starwood may choose to shed some brands, for antitrust or business reasons, giving rise to new competition.

The JMBM Global Hospitality Group® believes that hotel owners should be mindful of these concerns when considering their branding opportunities, and when negotiating with brands. Our practice focuses on leveling the playing field between brands and owners, and creating a lasting, functional relationship between them. While this merger may lead to a new set of rules for the road, we are ready to help our clients understand the new realities navigate the new landscape.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

03 November 2015

FCC takes two enforcement actions on Wi-Fi

On November 2, 2015, the FCC issued two separate news releases on Wi-Fi blocking. In one action, the FCC announced a $718,000 fine against M.C. Dean, one of the nation’s largest electrical contracting companies, for blocking personal mobile “hotspots” of convention visitors and exhibitors who tried to use their own data plans at the Baltimore Convention Center to connect to the Internet rather than paying M.C. Dean substantial fees to use the company’s Wi-Fi service.

FCC fines Wi-Fi hotspot provider M.C. Dean

According to the FCC, as the exclusive provider of Wi-Fi access at the Baltimore Convention Center, M.C. Dean charges exhibitors and visitors as much as $1,095 per event for Wi-Fi access. Last year, the Commission received a complaint from a company that provides equipment that enables users to establish hotspots at conventions and trade shows. The complainant alleged that M.C. Dean blocked hotspots its customers had tried to establish at the Baltimore Convention Center. After receiving the complaint, FCC Enforcement Bureau field agents visited the venue on multiple occasions and confirmed that Wi-Fi blocking activity was taking place.

The Enforcement Bureau’s investigation found that M.C. Dean engaged in Wi-Fi blocking at the Baltimore Convention Center on dozens of occasions in the last year. During the investigation, M.C. Dean revealed that it used the “Auto Block Mode” on its Wi-Fi system to block consumer-created Wi-Fi hotspots at the venue. The Wi-Fi system’s manual describes this mode as “shoot first, and ask questions later.” M.C. Dean’s Wi-Fi blocking activity also appears to have blocked Wi-Fi hotspots located outside of the venue, including passing vehicles. The Commission charged M.C. Dean with violating Section 333 of the Communications Act by maliciously interfering with or causing interference to lawful Wi-Fi hotspots.

FCC fines and warns Hilton

In a separate announcement, unrelated except as to the subject matter, the FCC proposed a $25,000 fine against Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. for “apparent obstruction of an investigation into whether Hilton engaged in the blocking of consumers’ Wi-Fi devices”. A consumer complaint alleged that Hilton was blocking visitor’s Wi-Fi in Anaheim, California in order to force them to pay a $500 fee to access Hilton’s Wi-Fi. Other complaints alleged similar Wi-Fi blocking at other Hilton-brand properties. CONTINUE READING →