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Loews Hotels’ new CEO advised Virgin Hotels

Preparing for a growth spurt, Loews Corp. named veteran hotel executive Paul Whetsell as CEO of its hotel unit. He takes the helm on Jan. 17.

Whetsell most recently advised Virgin Hotels, Virgin mogul Richard Branson’s new hotel company. There, he provided strategic guidance to Virgin’s team in its operations and property acquisitions activities, Virgin’s website says.

But Whetsell, 61, has a long history of building up successful hotel companies, Bloomberg reports.

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Whetsell founded the original CapStar Hotel Company in 1987, which later became the industry’s third largest real estate investment trust with over 110 hotels and $3 billion in assets. For more about Whetsell, see the Bloomberg article.

Loews hopes to expand

At Loews, Whetsell will take over an established hotel company with 18 properties and a goal of expanding in key cities.

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The company’s current properties in the USA and Canada include the oceanfront Loews Hotel Santa Monica and the Loews Regency Hotel in New York.

Whetsell will join Loews as the hotel industry rebounds, and as the industry’s top tier makes the strongest comeback of all.

Room rates for luxury chains such as Loews, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and Four Seasons increased by about 6% on average this year through November as travelers filled more rooms and few new hotels opened, hotel industry tracker Jan Freitag of Smith Travel Research told Bloomberg. Room rates for the industry as a whole rose less than 4%.

Whetsell told Bloomberg that Loews wants to expand in gateway cities as Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington. In Washington, Loews used to run the Madison Hotel near the White House, but last year the Loews flag came down and the hotel became part of Destination Hotels and Resorts.

Jonathan Tisch is co-chairman of the parent company and chairman of the hotel division. His family has been in the hotel industry since 1946.

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