IRVING, TX-FelCor Lodging Trust Inc. has roped Lend Lease Real Estate Investment’s chief hotel honcho as its first CIO. The move is part of an ongoing push to alter the portfolio of the Irving-based REIT.

Michael A. DeNicola, also named a FelCor executive vice president, was principal and head of the Atlanta-based Lend Lease’s Lodging and Leisure Group. The group is headquartered in Chicago.

DeNicola tells that his first priority is to develop an investment strategy. “It’s important to look at investing strategically and opportunistically,” he says. The strategy should be in place in first quarter 2002–in time to “take advantage” of the up-and-coming market opportunities as so often has been stated by FelCor officials in recent months.

DeNicola says the CIO post actually evolved from the axed merger with MeriStar Hotels & Resorts of Washington, DC. FelCor saw the need arise during the takeover talks, and the 42-year-old DeNicola saw the chance to be part of a company that’s solely focused on the lodging industry.

DeNicola’s investment strategy will include a re-evaluation of non-strategic hotels that weren’t sold under the 2001 disposition schedule. To date, 11 hotels were stripped from the portfolio and 14 more are on the “to go” roster. And no one’s saying just which cities will lose what hotel brands with the imminent sales. The 183-hotel FelCor network spans 35 states, with more than 50% of the nearly 50,000 rooms and suites being situated in California, Florida and Texas. The well-known brand lineup includes Embassy Suites, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Doubletree, Sheraton Suites, Sheraton and Westin.

DeNicola says the investment strategy isn’t intended to set off a buying or selling spree, not in the present economy. It will be more a “conservation of cost mode,” at least in the short term, says the 25-year industry veteran.

Thomas J. Corcoran Jr., FelCor’s president and CEO, says the new exec’s “significant experience in strategic planning, investment management and capital transactions brings substantial value” to the REIT.

The hire comes with an exit by William P. Stadler, senior vice president and director of corporate acquisitions. Stadler helped take the portfolio from 12 hotels just six years ago to its present 183. He exits his posts at year’s end “to pursue other interests.

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