ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- The sudden purchase of four major downtown Rochester hotels earlier this year by a private group of investors has created collateral damage and is now fueling legal claims.
Four former leasing agents were among those fired from their jobs at the management company in charge of the retail space in and near the Kahler Grand Hotel after the sale closed.
The four former employees have retained the St. Paul law firm of Sivertson and Barrett, P.A., and are now pressing claims of age discrimination over their terminations.
All are Rochester area residents who had been fired from their jobs at the management company running the Kahler Grand-Rochester Marriott subway and skyway retail space, which houses more than 60 shops of varying sizes and configurations.
On April 15th the Sivertson law firm sent a summons and complaint to Interstate Hotels and Resorts, Inc. which had been doing business as Sunstone Hotel Properties, Inc. and served Interstate notice it was being sued.
Attorney Alf Sivertson told KTTC NewsCenter that Interstate Hotels and Resorts, Inc., with offices in Arlington, Virginia, is currently retaining Minnesota counsel and actually has until May 20th to respond to the summons.
According to Sivertson, the case then will be removed to federal court because of the nature of Interstate's business structure. Interstate is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a joint venture between Thayer Lodging Group and Jin Jiang Hotels, and operates 293 hotels in the U.S., 14 in the United Kingdom, four in China, seven in Russia, ten in India and more in five other countries.
It's possible that the former employees' claims would be settled out of court.
Unless and until the Sivertson law firm's legal papers become "public documents" KTTC NewsCenter is holding off naming the four older employees to protect their privacy. However, all are more than 64 years old. The four were leasing agents and staff fired after a financial group fronted by Janesville, Wisconsin hospital executive Javon Bea bought the four hotels. The $230-million transaction included the Kahler Grand Hotel, the Kahler Inn & Suites, the Rochester Marriott Mayo Clinic, the Residence Inn, and an associated laundry business.
Bea, with a home near Oronoco and significant ties to Rochester, shared with KTTC NewsCenter in an exclusive interview in late April that he is now making changes to dramatically upgrade the hotel facilities and he made a case that a private ownership group can make changes more quickly. Bea's intent is to elevate the standard of excellence within the hotel group and retail space to match Mayo Clinic's vision for "Destination Medical Center."
Though Bea and his ownership group are in charge of the changes, the Sunstone Hotel Properties management structure has been kept in place following the sale, though with new staff. A number of Kahler-Marriott subway retailers say the new team of leasing agents has been telling them that rents will be going up, and new retail players will be coming in to Rochester's subway and skyway corridors.
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