Articles Posted in Hotel Management Agreements

Published on:

17 January 2012

Hotel Lawyer on Hotel Management Agreement disputes between Owners and Hotel Operators.

While there are always disputes simmering between hotel owners and hotel operators, the past few years has witnessed a big increase in the number of disputes ripening to litigation and arbitration. In a recent article, we discussed some of the root causes of this trend and role of the economy. That article was entitled, “Litigation and disputes between hotel owners and operators are on the rise. Why?”

I believe that most owner-operator disputes stem from the owner’s belief that the operator is not operating the hotel in a satisfactory manner and is treating the owner unfairly. A bad economy drives the parties to take action. When discussions fail to resolve the issues, litigation or arbitration claims often result.

Operators as fiduciaries: Why is this important and what does it mean?

As I mentioned in the recent article, some of these disputes pivot on the fiduciary responsibility of the operator. This is an important legal concept for hotel owners to understand. Generally, a hotel operator is the “agent” of the owner. Every agent is a fiduciary. A fiduciary has many duties such as a duty of loyalty, full disclosure, and noncompetition. A fiduciary also has a duty to prefer his principal’s interest (the owner’s interests) over his own interests.

I discussed these important concepts in a sidebar recently published in an article by Jason Freed of HotelNewsNow (a division of Smith Travel Research) in his article, Economic woes drive owner-operator disputes. I have reprinted that sidebar below with a few formatting edits to make the reading a bit easier.


Published on:

12 September 2011

Hotel Lawyer with some tips on Hotel Franchise Agreements and the 5 biggest mistakes a hotel owner can make

Hotels need brands, and brands need hotels. For many years, hotel brands have been growing in importance for the success of hotels in the United States and abroad. The trend toward branding is quite a phenomenon. According to numbers we have seen, In the early 1990s, approximately 40% of the hotels in the U.S. were branded and the balance were independent. Now the number is probably closer to 80% or more of the hotels are branded or brand-affiliated.

The branding is often accomplished by a franchise or license agreement from a company owning the brand. Other times it is accomplished by a branded hotel management company entering into a management agreement with the owner of the hotel, providing both the brand and management for the property.

Although we have spent a lot of time on Hotel Law Blog discussing hotel management agreements, today we are going to focus on the franchise or license agreement arrangements. With more than 20 years’ experience working with more than 1,000 hotel management and franchise agreements, we have some perspectives that may be worth considering.

Hotel owners keep falling into the same traps
One of these perspectives of our hotel lawyers is that many sophisticated hotel investors and owners seem to fall into a handful of traps that would be easy to avoid. And this same handful of traps catches the unwary time and again.

So this article focuses on hotel franchise agreements and outlines the 5 biggest mistakes an owner can make when seeking a hotel franchise arrangement. If this sounds all too familiar, you have probably learned these lessons the hard (and expensive) way. If you haven’t stumbled on these yet, you won’t want to miss the warning flags and the traps they portend.


Published on:

8 September 2011

Hotel Lawyer on changing brand standards.

Hotels need brands, and brands need hotels.

Like all relationships, the relationship between branded hotel operators or franchise companies (the brand) and hotel owners needs ground rules. As long as both parties agree to the rules and follow them, who can complain?

Now, what happens if the ground rules change? In most relationships, both parties would agree to change the rules — or they would separate and go their own ways.

And what if one of the ground rules is that only one party can change the rules at any time? And the other party would have to follow them, no matter what? This is what can happen to hotel owners that agree, often for very good reasons, that a brand can change its standards for the hotel.

Sometimes the change in brand standards is not so good for the owner… one day you’re turning a profit and the next day you’re in the hole, paying for expensive changes required by the “new brand standards,” with no return on investment in sight.

The management or franchise agreement sets the ground rules and allocates risk between the hotel operator and the hotel owner. Negotiating the agreement, which will include “brand standards”, is one of the most important things hotel owners will ever do for their hotel investment.

Here is some advice from my partner, Robert Braun, co-author with me of the HMA Handbook.


Published on:

21 August 2011

One of the most read articles in the history of Hotel Law Blog is entitled: “
M Waikiki’s Edition lawsuit against Marriott and Ian Schrager – an owner’s HMA dispute with Marriott.

I have gotten a lot of compliments on the article from people saying that it helped them understand what was going on there. But a recent letter from Ed Ryan, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Marriott International took quite a different tone.

Although I disagree with many of Ed’s points, the letter is thoughtful and well written. Ed encouraged me to publish it so people could see the “other side” of this issue. And in the interest of airing another view, I have done just that.

Read Ed’s letter below. Then read the blog again, and take a look at the complaint. Then you be the judge.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Published on:

16 August 2011

Hotel Lawyer with what it all means: Family Suites Resorts v. Viacom International d/b/a MTV Networks — a suit over branding

I was recently interviewed by Jason Freed of HotelNewsNow (a division of Smith Travel Research) about three high profile lawsuits in the hospitality industry.

In the third and final lawsuit we discussed, Family Suites Resorts v. Viacom International d/b/a MTV Networks, we discussed the Family Suites lawsuit. Family suites operates a Nickelodeon-themed hotel, and claims its licensing rights were breached when Viacom entered into an agreement with Marriott to franchise the Nickelodeon brand.

According to the complaint, Family Suites Resorts spent $168 million on its Nickelodeon-themed property — money it would not have spent if guests could get the Nickelodeon hotel experience elsewhere. So what happened?

An industry built on intellectual property.

As Jason quotes me as saying in the article: “This is an industry that relies on intellectual property–that’s what brands are.” See, The 5 questions every owner should ask before selecting a hotel brand.


Published on:

07 August 2011

Hotel Lawyer with what it all means: The M Waikiki’s lawsuit seeking to terminate Marriott as its hotel operator for the Edition Waikiki, in Honolulu.

I was recently interviewed by Jason Freed of HotelNewsNow (a division of Smith Travel Research) about three high profile lawsuits in the hospitality industry.

The first case we discussed was the recent lawsuit filed by the owner of the 353-room Edition Waikiki against Marriott and Ian Schrager. As the hotel’s owner, M Waikiki LLC asked the New York Supreme Court to terminate its 50-year, no-cut hotel management agreement (HMA) with Marriott on its $250 million Honolulu hotel and to award damages for misrepresentation and breach of contract.

This lawsuit raises issues we have covered extensively in the HMA Handbook and in many articles under the Topic of Hotel Management Agreements on, See, for example, “Hotel management agreement terminations — Is there a better way?.”

This is an interesting lawsuit, so first let’s look at the background facts and then let’s see what the claims and the implications are.

For a response from Marriott, please see “Hotel Lawyer with more on M Waikiki Edition lawsuit against Marriott – What Marriott’s General Counsel says.”

Click here to download a copy of the complaint.


Published on:

10 March 2011

Hotel Lawyer: JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® announces publication of The HMA Handbook, a practical guide for negotiating Hotel Management Agreements for Hotel Owners, Developers, Investors and Lenders

LOS ANGELES–The Global Hospitality Group® of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) today announced the release of The HMA Handbook, Hotel Management Agreements for Owners, Developers, Investors & Lenders. This e-book is a practical guide for decision makers who want pragmatic advice from veterans with business and legal perspectives on getting great hotel operators, negotiating a fair hotel management agreement (HMA), and terminating a bad one when the operator deserves it..

Co-authored by JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® Chairman, Jim Butler, and Partner and Senior Member of the Group, Robert E. Braun, The HMA Handbook draws on articles from JMBM’s Hotel Law Blog and is the second book in JMBM’s “We Wrote the Book” series. In the book’s Foreword, James J. Eyster, professor emeritus of hotel finance and real estate at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration refers to the authors as lawyers who “work at the highest levels and cutting edge of the industry”.


Published on:

23 February 2011

Important message about liability to hotel investors acquiring hotel assets and hotel owners renegotiating agreements with their operators:

Your hotel operator has most likely included indemnification provisions in the Hotel Management Agreement (HMA) designed to limit their liability for operating your hotel. On your operator’s draft of the HMA, it’s a good bet that a provision limiting YOUR liability does not exist in the agreement.

Don’t you think the liability limitations should be mutual? Here’s how to do it: the “”exculpation clause.”


Published on:

5 February 2011

Hotel Lawyer with more advice on Hotel Management Agreements, focusing on critical budget provisions.

For more than 20 years, the hotel lawyers of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® have negotiated, renegotiated, litigated, arbitrated and advised hotel owners on more than 1,000 hotel management agreements. Negotiating the hotel management agreement (or HMA) is one of the most important things hotel owners will ever do for their hotel investment. A good HMA can add significant value to a hotel property – and a bad one can detract significant value, as well.

The HMA Handbook is coming soon! We think that the HMA is so important, that our next book in the “We Wrote the Book” series will focus entirely on the hotel management agreement and will include the many critical components needed to achieving an HMA that is good for the owner as well as the operator. We have included numerous articles on hotel management agreements in the Hotel Law Blog over the years (Click here to access all of them), but this is the first article we have presented on HMA budget provisions. You won’t want to miss it.


Published on:

06 October 2010


Contracts between hotel owners and managers (or operators) controlling the management of a hotel go by various names. They are called hotel management agreements, HMAs, hotel management contracts or hotel operating agreements. For convenient reference, this article will generally use the term “Hotel Management Agreement” or “HMA.” However all these terms can be used interchangeably and mean the same thing, just as with hotel operator or hotel manager.

Whatever they are called, Hotel Management Agreements allocate risk between the hotel manager and the hotel owner. They are critical in determining the profitability and value of a hotel.

Hotel Lawyer with a big tip on how to get a great hotel operator and a fair hotel management agreement — Why Hotel Owners Need HMA PRO™
For more than 20 years, hotel lawyers at JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® have helped hotel owners find the best hotel operators for their properties and get fair hotel management agreements. Our clients get better results because of our experience gained in negotiating, re-negotiating, litigating, arbitrating and advising on more than 1,000 hotel management agreements and more than $87 billion of hotel transactions.

Our experience has has taught us that the traditional Request for Proposal or RFP process used to get hotel operators is too passive and ineffective. By its very nature, a “mere” RFP suggests that the owner should just wait for whatever an operator might propose, and that is simply not in the best interest of either the owner or the prospective operator.
HMA PRO™ is JMBM’s ultimate refinement of the old standby RFP. We started with the typical hotel industry RFP process still used by knowledgeable hotel consultants today, but we made some critical changes that have produced stunning results for our clients, greatly enhancing the value of the owner’s hotel.
Here’s how it works . . .


Contact Information