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WHITE PLAINS-Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. has signed definitive agreements to purchase the brand, management and franchise businesses for more than 130 Le Meridien hotels and resorts. Four months ago, the locally based hotelier revealed its intent to purchase the brand.

No sale price for the transaction was released. Starwood stated that the deal could close near the end of the third quarter of this year. In addition, as first announced in April, Lehman Brothers and Starwood Capital Group of Greenwich, CT., are forming a joint venture to acquire the owned and leased hotel portfolio of Le Meridien, which according to previous reports includes 36 properties.

Robert Riley, chief executive officer of London-based Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts, confirmed that definitive agreements had been reached with Starwood on the more than 130 hotels. Lehman Brothers acquired the senior debt of the troubled international hotelier, estimated at approximately $1.3 billion, in December 2003.

“The signing of the definitive agreements is another step towards completing the consensual recapitalization of Le Meridien,” Riley says in a statement. Le Meridien noted that it will continue to operate as an independent company under the current management until the completion of the various transactions. Earlier this month, Le Meridien announced that it has a total of 22 new properties in Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa currently in the pipeline. The properties are scheduled to open this year and in 2006 and 2007.

Le Meridien, which was founded in 1972 by Air France to provide a home for its air passengers, opened 10 new hotels last year. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide employs 120,000 workers and has 750 hotel/resorts properties in more than 80 countries.

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