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HOUSTON-Long-time hospitality consultant John Keeling will soon shift companies, and careers, by leaving his job of senior vice president with PKF Consulting to take the post of executive vice president with locally based Valencia Group. In his new role, May 1, Keeling will help the company expand its Valencia and Sorella brands, and assist with the launch of another flag later in 2009 or early 2010.

Keeling tells GlobeSt.com his May 1 departure has nothing to do with PKF and everything to do with trying something new. He acknowledges he was set to retire from corporate life in 2009, when Valencia’s Doyle Graham called him up, took him to lunch, and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“I wasn’t looking for a position,” Keeling says. “But this looked like an awful lot of fun.” In the meantime, PKF vice president Randy McCaslin will step into Keeling’s shoes.

Keeling spent 20 years with PKF and before that, was regional managing partner of Laventhol & Horwath, the Philadelphia-based CPA and business consulting firm. He also spent part of his hospitality career with Marriott International at the Marriott Twin Bridges Hotel in Arlington, VA. He earned his MBA in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management, as well as his bachelor’s degree in history from Michigan State University.

In 2008, he was named an honorary alumnus of the University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hotel & Lodging Association of Greater Houston. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Counselors of Real Estate, Appraisal Institute and the Urban Land Institute.

Keeling says he’s looking forward to the challenges of the new position. “Valencia has it right. They understand where the next generation of hotels needs to go,” he comments. “My job, as executive vice president is to get them there.”

Part of that assistance will involve expanding the current Sorello and Valencia brands, which are ideal for high-density urban developments, and launching a new one, which will be geared more toward suburban areas. He says the company will likely grow one-to-two Valencias a year, and three-to-five Sorellos. Because of the lack of financing in today’s market, Keeling says the plan is to go into existing hotels, use Valencia Group’s capital on hand to upgrade, then strike a management agreement.

Also in the plan is third-party management of independent, boutique hotels. “The target for this will be companies that build or acquire hotels, but may not have their own management companies,” Keeling says. “There are a lot of those out there, and those are the folks I’ll be talking to.”

One skill he brings to the job, he continues, is that he knows everyone in the industry. He’s also very familiar with markets and project evaluation. Though, as he puts it he “has more initials behind my name than Campbell Soup,” Keeling says there will be a learning curve for him as well. For example, while he has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the hospitality industry and hotel development, he’s never actually been specifically involved with hotel development.

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