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Profile: White Lodging Services.

Bruce White's team likes a challenge. In the competitive field of hotel management, his White Lodging Services has turned heads by taking failing hotels and turning them into bonanzas that grab market share from competitors.

"We only commit to a project if we believe we can make it the clear leader in that segment in whatever market we operate in, whether it be South Bend, Indianapolis, Merrillville or Key West, Fla.," says White, the president of White Lodging Services.

The Merrillville-based company manages 16 hotels, among them some of Indiana's largest. Its showcase is the 347-room Radisson Hotel & Star Plaza Theatre, at U.S. 30 and Interstate 65 in Merrillville. The hotel-and-entertainment complex has become one of the most popular concert spots in the Chicago area, attracting everything from heavy metal bands, country singers and even the Johnny Mathis Christmas Show.

White Lodging Services also manages the Courtyard by Marriott and a TGI Friday's restaurant in downtown Indianapolis.

Eleven of the properties the company manages are in Indiana. Four others are in Michigan. The 16th is one of the firm's newest hotels, a Fairfield Inn in Key West. There White and his company took over what he says "was widely recognized as the worst property on the island." Soon after the conversion to the Fairfield Inn banner and the infusion of White Lodging's management style the hotel increased sales 48 percent.

Closer to home, in 1991 White Lodging Services took over South Bend's 80-suite East Race Inn. The annual occupancy rate at the time hovered at a dismal 57 percent.

The property was converted to a Marriott Residence Inn, the first of that type that White Lodging would manage. It now has become a place to spot NBC-TV sports personalities. The hotel has a contract ensuring that network crews stay there when they're in town to broadcast Notre Dame football games. "One year after the conversion we've made more in operating profit than the property grossed in sales the year before we acquired it," White says proudly.

White Lodging Services also has benefited from its close association with Marriott. Although the company works with other franchisers--among them Ramada Inn in Evansville and Carlton Lodges in several cities including Valparaiso and Fort Wayne--its greatest success has come with Marriott.

White Lodging Services was the first company awarded a Fairfield Inn by Marriott franchise, and it is the only company to operate three different Marriott lines: Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn and Courtyard.

White has been involved in hotel operations since he was a teenager growing up in Northwest Indiana. His father, Dean White, founded Whiteco Industries Inc., a diverse group of companies involved in outdoor billboards, construction, family entertainment centers and real estate.

After graduating from Purdue University in 1975, White came back to Lake County and joined Whiteco. He soon became president of Wachim Corp., the hospitality division of Whiteco.

White Lodging Services was formed as a separate company in 1985 to manage some hospitality-related assets for Whiteco and pursue growth on its own. That relationship still exists. White Lodging Services will manage the 146-room Courtyard by Marriott that Whiteco recently announced it will build in Merrillville.

At a time when many hotel chains are experiencing the strains of a tight economy, White Lodging Services has begun plans to expand to other parts of the country.

White believes many of his competitors got into trouble by losing sight of what hotel operators do.

"The hotel business is not a real-estate business, it's an operating business. The value in a hotel is fundamentally created by its cash flow," says White. "And its cash flow is predicated on how well you satisfy your guests."


Radisson Hotel and Star Plaza Theatre--Merrillville

Ramada Inn Airport--Evansville

Carlton Lodge--Fort Wayne; Goshen; Merrillville; Valparaiso; Adrian, Mich.; Benton Harbor, Mich.

Comfort Inn--Warsaw

Courtyard by Marriott--Downtown Indianapolis (with TGI Friday's); Ann Arbor, Mich.

Residence Inn by Marriott--South Bend

Fairfield Inn by Marriott--Merrillville; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Key West, Fla.

Auburn Inn--Auburn
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Title Annotation:Hotels and Resorts; White Lodging Services Corp.
Author:Skertic, Mark
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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