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DALLAS-After months of silence, Le Meridien is speaking out about the loss of two premier operating contracts in Dallas and New Orleans.

The shop talk comes on the day that the Westin flag is raised on the 407-room hotel component in Trizec Properties Inc.’s 1.3-million-sf Plaza of the Americas at 650 Pearl St. in the Dallas CBD. The object of speaking out is not to “get into a wrestling war” with Bethesda, MD-based LaSalle Hotel Properties, Glyn Aeppel, executive vice president of business development for Le Meridien Americas, emphasizes to GlobeSt.com. For previous story, click here.

Aeppel, like LaSalle’s COO Michael Barnello, says the guard has changed in both cities, but the dispute is far from over. In New Orleans, Le Meridien has filed a judgment to collect an arbitration award that it says totals about $8 million. As would be expected, LaSalle has appealed, seeking adjustment of what it says is a $5.4-million award with a $2.3-million deposit. Regardless of the amount, the upshot is that the battle lines are drawn once again for a Canal Street hotel that was sold several months ago.

Aeppel admits the Dallas case is more complicated, but London-based Le Meridien will pursue compensation for that lost contract as well. “At they end of the day, they’re going to be paying us,” she says.

LaSalle and Le Meridien have been fighting since January 2002. LaSalle’s Barnello says Le Meridien snubbed a settlement offer for the two-city contract, which was good through 2008. Aeppel, on the other hand, says “LaSalle never came to us with reasonable terms and conditions. We wanted to settle this from Day 1, but we aren’t going to settle at a ridiculous price. We have a lot of leases throughout the world and we’ve never had a lawsuit like this one.”

With the ousters complete, the battle will now be whether the financially beleaguered Le Meridien can collect any cash for the canceled contract or whether LaSalle can whittle it down to practically nothing or even turn the tide in its favor by suing for attorney fees and holdover rent in both states. With the Dallas court declaring a contract default against Le Meridien, LaSalle says it has kept the $1-million deposit.

As the two prepare for more face-offs, Le Meridien is heavy into negotiations for a buyout. “The restructuring is occurring now,” Aeppel says. “It will be resolved fairly soon with the several deals that we have under negotiation. There is no doubt that we will consummate these deals and we will continue to grow in the Americas…with whoever owns the company.” Just four days ago, published accounts said Saudi billionaire businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal set aside $1 billion to cover the hotel chain’s debt in exchange for a stake of more than 50% in the company.

Aeppel, confident that Le Meridien will survive, says the Americas division is locked in talks that will bring two more hotel announcements by summer’s end. But, make no mistake, they aren’t LaSalle assets. “I don’t think we’ll be doing another deal with LaSalle in the foreseeable future,” she stresses.

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