Marriott, Schrager reaffirm commitment to Edition

On Thursday Marriott International Inc., Bethesda, Maryland reaffirmed its commitment to its lifestyle Edition brand created with Ian Schrager with the announcement of five hotels.

The locations include the Clock Tower building located at 5 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, which Marriott bought for US$165 million from prior owner Africa Israel USA last year. Renovation and conversion of the Clock Tower will begin later this year.

“We are delighted to have secured the Clock Tower as a singular, iconic structure that will become a flagship for the Edition brand,” said Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s president and chief operating officer.

Other locations announced today include buildings under construction in Bangkok and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and a hotel in Los Angeles and Gurgaon, India, although Sorenson told The Wall Street Journal that the latter two “commitments are not as firm.” The Bangkok Edition will be part of a mixed-use development, while the Abu Dhabi Edition will be part of the Al Bateen Harbor complex within the Abu Dhabi Marina, a mixed-use development including luxury residential and retail.

The announcement bolsters Marriott’s stated commitment of US$800 million to develop the Edition brand, an atypical move for the company that is primarily focused on managing hotels. The Edition brand has had a rocky start with only two Edition-branded hotels opened so far in Istanbul and Honolulu, and the Honolulu hotel has since rebranded amid legal acrimony between the hotel’s owner and Marriott.

Marriott has previously announced two other Edition locations — The London Edition, set to open next year in the historic building formerly known as the Berners Hotel, located in the city’s Fitzrovia neighborhood, and the Miami Beach Edition, under construction in the former Seville Hotel, is expected to open in late 2013.

Schrager remains bullish about the brand’s prospects.

“I’m working with what I consider to be the best operators in the business. As far as I’m concerned, all the other hotel companies are run by financial guys and marketing guys and Marriott is the only true operator and they execute superbly,” Schrager said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday.

Sorenson also expressed optimism about the brand’s future in light of the announcement and the improving hotel market in the U.S.

“The U.S. is actually still feeling quite good. What we see in the United States is business travelers and leisure travelers both, at least in our hotels, back in reasonably strong numbers,” Sorenson told CNBC. “2011 ended well. I think as we head into 2012, we see more optimism in the newspapers, which can’t help but help the demand side of the equation so we feel really quite good about 2012.”

The 700 ft (213 m) historic Clock Tower building was once the tallest in the world. Photo by Cogito Ergo Imago/CC
The 700 ft (213 m) historic Clock Tower building was once the tallest in the world. Photo by Cogito Ergo Imago/CC