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WHITE PLAINS-In a statement released this morning, Starwood’s Steven Heyer has resigned as CEO and director. Heyer, who joined the firm in 2005, lost the confidence of the locally based hotelier’s board of directors.

A Starwood statement says chairman Bruce Duncan, 55, will serve as interim CEO until a replacement is named.

In explaining the surprise move, Stephen Quazzo, chairman of the Governance and Nominating Committee of the Starwood board of directors, states that while it appreciated Heyer’s work to position the hotelier for the future, “issues with regard to his management style have led us to lose confidence in his leadership.”

Heyer, 54, a former CEO with Coca-Cola, joined Starwood officially on Oct. 1, 2004, replacing company founder Barry Sternlicht and has since led the firm on a major growth initiative.

In a prepared statement, Heyer states, “I was asked to lead the company through a complex transition and at the same time create an exciting platform for future growth. I am proud of what we have accomplished in the last two-and-a-half years and believe Bruce Duncan and the team will continue to execute Starwood’s strategy with distinction. Starwood is performing extremely well and I am confident it will enjoy continued success in the future.”

Interim CEO Duncan, who has been chairman of Starwood for two years and a board member for 10 years, says that the firm is on the right path. “We are currently in the middle of a dynamic growth period, including expanding our footprint substantially around the globe,” he says. “Starwood has a strong market position, important owner and developer relationships, an excellent management team, and talented employees. The board is confident in Starwood’s prospects and focused on continuing to build shareholder value.”

Duncan came to Starwood after serving as president and CEO of Equity Residential from 2002 to 2005. From 1995 to 2000, he was chairman, president and CEO of Cadillac Fairview Corp., where he led the post-bankruptcy turnaround of the company.

Previous to his tenure at Starwood, Heyer joined Coca-Cola in March 2001 where he spent some time as president and COO of Coca-Cola Ventures prior to his appointment as president and COO of the parent company in December 2002. He previously served as president and COO of Turner Broadcasting System Inc., and was a member of AOL Time Warner’s operating committee. His background also includes a stint as president and COO of Young & Rubicam Advertising Worldwide as well as a 15-year tour with the worldwide marketing firm Booz Allen & Hamilton. At that firm he rose to become senior vice president and managing partner.

The board of directors has retained Spencer Stuart to assist in its search for a permanent CEO and intends to thoroughly evaluate both internal and external candidates.

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