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Red Lion investors are restless, based on withheld vote count for directors

Red Lion Hotels, the Spokane hospitality company working its way through some investor discontent, held its recent annual meeting at its downtown headquarters. The May 23 meeting included the re-election of board directors.

We went back one year to Red Lion's 2011 annual meeting, at a time when there was less investor revolt. We checked to see what changed in the election numbers.

In 2012 these same three Red Lion directors were all approved, but with significantly more “withheld” votes than in 2011. 

Richard Barbieri in 2011 got 8.4 million “for” votes, 5.2 million votes withheld.

In 2012 Barbieri got 9.4 million “for” votes, and 5.7 million votes withheld.

Jon Eliassen in 2011 got 13.2 million “for” votes and 403,804 withheld votes.

In 2012 Eliassen got 9.5 million “for” votes and 5.6 milliion votes withheld.

Melvin Keating in 2011 got 13.1 million “for” votes and 537,700 withheld.

This year Keating got 9.5 million “for” votes and  5.6 million withheld votes.

You can go back and see that in the past several months two large groups, including the largest single shareholder (Columbia Pacific) have indicated they want major changes in company operations and strategy. Red Lion execs have agreed and hired Bank of America consultants to provide advice and options.

The huge increase in withheld votes, even without an organized campaign mounted against the officers, suggests that Red Lion shareholders are still sending a message. When shareholders withhold votes, that's not the same as simply choosing to not send back a card or voting instruction. In a withheld vote, the card or instruction email is sent to the company without a vote “for” the nominee.

The votes for Director Richard Barbieri are the odd result. Barbieri managed to get more “for” votes this year and he received more withheld votes, as well.

The RLH stock chart here shows some buoying of share price, since the company announced plans to look at options, including selling off part or all of the company. 

Red Lion sees a loss in first quarter earnings but room revenue grows

Spokane-based Red Lion Hotels on Tuesday announced it lost $6.6 million in the first quarter of 2012, a net loss of 34 cents per share, compared to a net loss from continuing operations of $4.5 million or 24 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2011. 

In the first quarter of 2012, comparable EBITDA from continuing operations (before special items) improved to $1.2 million, compared to a loss of $.5 million in the first quarter of 2011.

Since hotels are a unique industry, earnings include an occupancy and REVPAR (revenue per available room) formula to track numbers.

For this past quarter, the occupancy for its owned and leased hotels was 52 percent; average daily rate was $72.29 and REVPAR for the quarter was $40.21.

That's up, except for ADR, from the first quarter of 2011, when the three key numbers were 48.4 percent, $77.47 and $37.47.

RevPAR growth outpaced the midscale hotel segment and resulted in an increase in total revenue and EBITDA, said President and Chief Executive Officer Jon E. Eliassen.

“We successfully implemented targeted sales and marketing programs that allowed us to improve occupancy in what is typically our slowest period, without sacrificing rate,” he said.

Would a Red Lion Hotels sale cost the area a lot of jobs?

Today's SR business section carried a story about the Red Lion Hotels board thinking about …. a number of options, including possibly selling the operation.

The key question we had: how many people work for Red Lion in Spokane. Answer: 350. 

If there was a sale to another hotel company, what happens then? The best scenario: some job losses but not likely a lot.  

The upside would be that many of the 350 jobs would remain because the bulk of those are  inside the company's two big hotels in this city. 

Another group of Red Lion staff manage the Tickets West / Broadway series operation. That business is one small part of the Red Lion company, and produces roughly 7 percent  of total company revenue, which in 2011 was $156 million.