Morning Brief: Hilton Coming To Washington

Hilton Hotels, one of the world's largest lodging firms, is coming to Washington. The company said Wednesday that it is moving its corporate headquarters -- and several hundred jobs -- to the D.C. region this year, parking itself squarely in the back yard of a major competitor, Marriott International.

The announcement comes less than two years after the Blackstone Group bought the Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel chain for $26 billion and later named Christopher Nassetta chief executive. Nassetta, who grew up in Arlington County, had been chief executive of Host Hotels & Resorts, based in Bethesda.

According to the article by staff writer Michael Rosenwald, industry executives said Hilton's plans make Washington the center of the world's hospitality business after growing up around Marriott chief executive John W. "Bill" Marriott Jr. in the past few decades. Besides Marriott International, which is also based in Bethesda, there are several notable area companies either spun off by Marriott or run by former Marriott executives.

"Washington is becoming the hotel capital of the world," said Frederick V. Malek, chairman of the Annapolis-based Thayer Lodging Group and former president of Marriott Hotels.

In Virginia business news, Sallie Mae on Wednesday reported a $216 million loss in the fourth quarter as the nation's largest student lender continued to weather the fallout of the ongoing credit crunch and economic downturn.

Sallie Mae, formally known as SLM Corp., makes both private student loans and those backed by the federal government. The Reston company then takes the loans and pools them into securities, which it sells to investors.

That model has been thrown into turmoil as the disarray in the credit markets has meant fewer investors are willing to buy such securities, even for the federal loans, which are guaranteed by the government. The federal government has taken several steps to shore up lenders such as Sallie Mae.

The company's fourth-quarter loss of $216 million (52 cents per share) compared with a loss of $1.64 billion ($3.98) in the fourth quarter of 2007. For the year, Sallie Mae lost $213 million (69 cents), compared with a loss of $896 million ($2.26) in 2007.

By Alejandro Lazo  |  January 22, 2009; 10:40 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch , Morning Brief
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