Hotel chain CEO to retire; Golden has led Host Marriott Corp. for five years; 'Very time-consuming'; He guided growth; Nassetta appointed as his replacement; Lodging


Host Marriott Corp. announced yesterday that Terence C. Golden, its president and chief executive officer for five years, will retire in May to spend time with his family and devote himself to civic endeavors.

The Bethesda-based hotel owner named Christopher J. Nassetta, Host Marriott's executive vice president and chief operating officer, to succeed Golden in the top posts. Nassetta, 37, will take the helm at Host Marriott May 18, the date of the company's annual shareholders meeting.

"I've really had a desire just to slow things down," said Golden, who will continue as chairman of the Federal City Council, a Washington partnership that works with public agencies on redevelopment of the city, and will be involved in other endeavors including boating and hiking.

He said the Host Marriott job "takes a lot of time and a tremendous amount of travel. It's just very time-consuming. But we've had really strong earnings, and the company is doing very well from a performance standpoint. I feel good about where we are."

When Golden took control of the company, Host Marriott was debt-laden, faced three lawsuits from bondholders and controlled a mixed portfolio that included lackluster properties.

Host Marriott, which converted to a real estate investment trust at the end of last year, owns 124 upscale and luxury full-service hotel properties under the Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Swissotel brands.

Nassetta also was elected to Host Marriott's board. Golden, 55, will also remain on the real estate investment trust's board.

Golden said he "fully endorses" Nassetta's selection.

The two have worked together for a decade, first at Oliver Carr Co., a real estate development company, then at Bailey Capital Co., which the two founded in 1991, and at real estate investment trust Host Marriott.

Golden and Nassetta joined the REIT in 1995.

"Chris and I have been lifelong friends and business partners for a long time," Golden said of Nassetta. "He's extraordinarily talented, and he's ready to take over the company."

Industry analysts praised the move. "Chris Nassetta is very good and very competent and knows the company inside and out," said Bryan A. Maher, an analyst at Credit Lyonnais Securities, in New York. "If Terry is leaving, then at least there will be an orderly transition, and investors will know the person coming in.

"Terry Golden is one of the classiest CEOs I have ever met. The world is his oyster. He'll definitely be missed."

Nassetta said he doesn't intend to make many changes in company strategy.

"There will be a lot of continuity in the transition," Nassetta said. "I think we've developed a good, sound strategy."

"Under Terry's leadership, Host Marriott was redefined as a company," said Richard Marriott, the company's chairman. "Through its aggressive acquisition of full-service hotels, the company more than tripled in size, more than doubled its earnings and became one of the largest lodging real estate owners in the world."

Shares of Host Marriott closed at $9.125 yesterday, up 12.5 cents.

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