Early Briefing: Bob Johnson's Foray Into Liberia

* Typically, you might expect hotel owner Robert L. Johnson to leave the spiel about bed linens and room decor to his marketing types.

Robert Johnson, who is building a resort in Liberia, says African Americans "have a responsibility" to support the West African nation. (Rlj Cos.)

But here he is, the BET founder-turned-billionaire developer/financier (among other things), perched casually at the foot of a California king, patting the poofy white duvet, noting the colorful mudcloth laid across it, pointing out the antique tribal African masks on the walls.

This is his model showroom in Bethesda, if you will, and on Monday he plans to unveil it to potential investors and guests. RLJ Kendeja Resorts & Villas will be an $8 million, 85-room, four-star resort on the Atlantic coast of northern Africa, near the capital of Liberia. Whatever images the world might have of an impoverished country that is still trying to recover from 13 years of civil war, Johnson wants this project to provide a new one.

* Columnist Steven Pearlstein says there are lessons to learn from Bruce Marks and his Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which helped as many as 20,000 people rework their mortgages this week in a workshop set up at the Capitol Hilton.

Steve writes:

The big lesson here is that the foreclosure crisis is not unsolvable and that the solution need not involve large sums of taxpayer money. With home prices still falling and the economy headed into recession, mortgage lenders and investors have begun to realize that they will likely end up with less money with foreclosure than loan modification. And servicing companies are realizing that they need to rely on technology to quickly approve large number of modifications rather than holding out for the last dollar and requiring that any deal be reviewed by multiple supervisors.

*XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio Thursday agreed to pay nearly $20 million in fines for past technical violations, paving the way for federal approval of a merger between the nation's only satellite radio providers.

Federal Communications Commission officials said the companies' willingness to pay the fines signaled that a deal to combine was near.

The enforcement of fines has been a sticking point for Republican Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, the only one on the five-member commission who has not yet announced her position on the merger. Her vote to approve it, sealing the $13 million deal, is likely to come as soon as today, said sources familiar with the negotiations.

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said XM was fined $17.5 million and Sirius $2.2 million to resolve complaints that some of the companies' radio receivers sold to consumers and signal-boosting radio towers violated FCC technical rules. Both companies said they would bring their equipment into compliance.

By Dan Beyers  |  July 25, 2008; 7:02 AM ET  | Category:  Hospitality
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