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In brief: Two Red Lion hotels sold to franchisees

Spokane-based Red Lion Hotels Corp. has sold its hotels in Kennewick and Twin Falls, converting both to franchise operations.

Terms of both deals will not be disclosed until the publicly traded company’s next earnings report.

The company has made franchising one of its chief corporate priorities, primarily to lower costs.

Both new owners agreed to run the properties under the Red Lion brand. Both also agreed to make major improvements over the next 18 months to upgrade features and amenities.

The Kennewick hotel has 162 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space. The Twin Falls property has 112 guest rooms and nearly 5,000 square feet of meeting space. 

The Idaho hotel is within a short distance of the Snake River Canyon and a half mile from Perrine Bridge, known internationally as one of the best B.A.S.E. jumping sites in the U.S.

Red Lion has 53 hotels in 10 western U.S. states and one Canadian province.

South Regal Square opening

Ahmad and Fery Haghighi, owners of Fery’s Catering on the lower South Hill, have completed construction of South Regal Square, a one-story commercial building at 5608 S. Regal St.

The couple will celebrate the occasion Saturday with an open house from noon to 2 p.m. The public is invited to tour the 7,200-square-foot structure while enjoying light refreshments from Fery’s Catering.

Architect Steve Clark designed the building, Dave Shockley was project architect and Kop Construction was the general contractor. The budget was $1.5 million. Cornerstone Property Advisors is in charge of leasing.

GM lawsuits sent to N.Y. court

DETROIT – Lawsuits alleging that General Motors cars lost value because of ignition switch recalls will be heard in a New York City federal court.

A panel of judges sitting in Chicago made the decision Monday.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman will hear the cases. A panel on multidistrict litigation says it knows of 74 lawsuits in 31 federal courts.

The lawsuits allege that the older small cars dropped in value after the ignition switch recalls were announced starting in February. GM has admitted knowing about the problem for at least a decade before the recalls.

The panel says in an order that New York is the best place to hear the cases because GM’s 2009 bankruptcy case was there. Furman handled appeals and is familiar with the GM case.

Merck buys drug developer

TRENTON, N.J. – Merck & Co. will spend about $3.85 billion for Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc., a small company developing hepatitis C medicines that, together with Merck’s experimental drugs, could produce lucrative combo therapies that quickly cure most patients with the bloodborne virus afflicting tens of millions.

The price for the deal announced Monday – a per-share bid more than triple Friday’s closing price for Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Idenix – seems high. However, the latest hepatitis C medicines command very high prices, the number of patients keeps rising and Merck was bidding against rivals.

Hepatitis C has become one of the hottest categories in drug research as companies race to develop a combination therapy without injections and debilitating side effects. Some have had their promising candidates fail after extensive testing, due to dangerous side effects, but Gilead Sciences Inc. is already raking in billions of dollars from its groundbreaking new drug, Sovaldi.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, said it will spend $24.50 in cash for each Idenix share. Idenix closed at $7.23 on Friday, then more than tripled at Monday’s opening bell.