Morning Brief: The Dynamics of Hiltons' Move

Following Hilton Hotels' announcement that it plans to move to the Washington area, staff writer Michael Rosenwald now asks: can two major competitors coexist in the same region?

For more than 50 years, Marriott International has been the Washington area's premiere lodging company. Other firms have popped up around it, made their marks, built hotels across the world, but one name has reigned supreme.

Hilton Hotels' announcement sparked all sorts of chatter in the local business community, including speculation that the companies' intense rivalry will only sharpen now.

"They compete and they keep a close eye on each other," Jim Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade told Rosenwald. "Now they will be in each other's backyard. It will be fascinating to watch."

Both companies played down the competitive angle of the news. Christopher Nassetta, Hilton's chief executive, was previously head of Host Hotels and Resorts, a Bethesda company spun off by Marriott. Nassetta grew up in Arlington County and said he is close with Marriott family members and senior company officials, including chief financial officer Arne Sorenson.

"They are both the premiere lodging companies," said Thomas Baltimore, president of Bethesda lodging firm RLJ Hotels and a former executive at Hilton and Marriott. "It's clearly a respectful rivalry." Nassetta, for his part, said he was "confident there would be room for both us there going forward" and that "the more relevant fact is that we are both great companies."


For Roger Lathbury, a George Mason University professor, owning his own publishing house -- which he operates out of his actual house in Old Town Alexandria -- has yielded two major highs: He once published a book of satirical poems about the Barbie doll, called "Kinky," which sold a more than respectable 7,000 copies.

And, in a burst of international news in the late 1990s, Lathbury mysteriously acquired and then mysteriously lost the rights to be the first to publish, in hardback, J.D. Salinger's last piece of fiction, "Hapworth 16, 1924."

Even as the publishing industry's titans in Manhattan reel from layoffs and discouraging retail sales, Lathbury's 25-year-old firm, Orchises Press, based in his home's atticlike fourth floor, keeps ambling along, producing about three books a year, always on Jan. 27 in honor of his beloved aunt's birthday.

This week, Orchises -- which Lathbury named after an orchid in a Robert Frost poem -- will publish two poetry books, including one about terrorism and torture by George Witte, the editor in chief of St. Martin's Press.

And in early morning corporate news, Sprint Nextel Corp. is eliminating about 8,000 positions in the first quarter as it seeks to cut annual costs by $1.2 billion.

The nation's third-largest wireless provider said Monday it will complete the layoffs largely by March 31. About 850 of the reductions are voluntary and the company said it expected a charge of more than $300 million for severance and other costs.

By Alejandro Lazo  |  January 26, 2009; 8:44 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch , Marriott International Corp. , Morning Brief
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