In a scene reminiscent of a Hollywood heist movie, Marriott International managers at a Miami Beach hotel were awakened by phone calls in the predawn hours Sunday, alerting them that 75 people were trying to gain access to their offices to take over management.
The episode — literally a hostile takeover attempt — was part of owner Eden Roc’s efforts to wrest management of its 631-room Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach hotel from the Bethesda company. Miami Beach police eventually ordered Eden Roc to cease.
Marriott later thwarted further attempts by obtaining a temporary restraining order against Eden Roc from a New York State Supreme Court judge.
"It's inexplicable why ownership and its advisors would have engaged in this outrageous and reckless act that endangered our employees, the hotel and its economic prospects," Ed Ryan, general counsel for Marriott, said in a statement.
“The attempted takeover failed. It is business as usual at the hotel, and our employees continue to welcome guests with the exceptional service they have come to expect at the hotel,” Ryan said.
Eden Roc had filed a lawsuit six months ago with the state court to terminate its management agreement with Marriott and Marriott’s affiliate, Renaissance Hotel Management, according to court documents. The case is pending.
Edward P. Boyle, an attorney for Marriott and Renaissance, described Sunday’s “outrageous” incident as demonstrating a “flagrant disregard for the judicial process.”
“Eden Roc was likely driven to this early-morning raid because its legal position asserted in the Eden Roc Action is so weak,” Boyle wrote in court documents, adding that the court stayed discovery in light of Renaissance’s pending motion to dismiss Sept. 5.
A takeover would “devastate” Marriott and Renaissance’s brand, Boyle wrote, and mean the loss of “sensitive trade secret information.”
In an affidavit, Mary Jo Ferranzza, director of event management at the hotel, described responding to a call about the incident in progress. She said 15 uniformed security guards from World International Security, whom the Marriott hotel managers had never seen before, were spread throughout the hotel’s main area.
“Once we entered the Executive Management office, we encountered several uniformed security guards, men and women dressed in business suits who were either sitting down in cubicles of Marriott employees, rummaging through stacks of papers left on the various desks or hanging around Marriott’s secured accounting office area,” Ferranzza said.
When Ferranzza snatched some documents, marked “Marriott Confidential and Proprietary Information” from a desk and tried to reach the main lobby, a security guard tried to take the documents from her, she said.
She said the usurpers tried to take several types of confidential hotel files, including the cash in advance report, rooms forecast and contingency report the hotel keeps in case it loses power or data.
Diego Ardid, vice president of Eden Roc, also informed event planner Amy James that he was taking over management of the hotel with the new staff and personnel he brought in that morning, James said in her affidavit. Ardid’s attorneys had previously sent the existing management personnel termination letters.
As James tried to use her cell phone to contact her colleagues to call the police, someone tried to grab the phone, she said.
“The man’s tone and actions directed to me were forceful and intimidating to me,” James said.
The Eden Roc personnel also broke and replaced locks to the housekeeping offices and their internal offices, Angela Benarick, housekeeping manager, said in her affidavit.
The day of the incident, Eden Roc issued a news release announcing it had commenced its role as new management and was rebranding the hotel Eden Roc Beach Resort & Spa.
In its statement, Ardid accused Marriott and Renaissance of mismanaging the hotel.
“Under Marriott's management, Eden Roc lost market share despite its exceptional amenities and legendary reputation. Our exhaustive efforts to encourage Marriott to correct its numerous management defaults, and to preserve our partnership, proved fruitless, leaving us with no option but regain control and to put this property on the path to success,” Ardid said.
Eden Roc has since issued a statement acknowledging the temporary restraining order that allows Renaissance to continue to manage the hotel while the court considers the case. Eden Roc said it disagreed with the court’s order but will abide.
Marriott also reiterated its “strong and deep commitment to the iconic Eden Roc hotel.”
“The legendary property, with its rich history and famed art deco architecture, is a wonderful example of the sophisticated style and exemplary service that Renaissance hotels are known for around the world,” Marriott said in a news release.
A push in Russia
In other Marriott news, the company announced plans this week to grow its existing portfolio in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States by more than 50 percent to more than 30 hotels by 2015. The company already operates 19 hotels across six brands in the region.
The increase is part of Marriott’s plan to double its European portfolio to 80,000 rooms by 2015.
“Russia also represents a tremendous opportunity for the travel sector,” Amy McPherson, president and managing director for Marriott in Europe, said in a statement. “One of the world's fastest growing outbound travel markets, the country is now Marriott's fourth largest source market for travel in Europe fueled by a rising middle class with growing discretionary income. And with the robust growth here, we expect to see strong demand for travel in to Russia as well for both business and leisure travelers alike.”