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Hyatt Complains of Hotel Coup in Curacao

CONROE, Texas (CN) - A competitor seized a Hyatt-managed hotel in Curacao with an "overnight stealth takeover," Hyatt claims in court.

Hyatt Corp. and Hyatt Curacao sued Benchmark Hospitality in Montgomery County Court.

Benchmark Hospitality is based in The Woodlands, a Houston suburb.

Santa Barbara Hospitality N.V. owns the Curacao resort until Dec. 15 was known as the Hyatt Regency Curacao Golf Resort Spa and Marina, Hyatt says.

"The resort is situated on the Santa Barbara Plantation in Curacao - on 27 acres between the Caribbean Sea and an inland bay," the complaint states.

"It is a luxury property with 350 guest rooms, three restaurants, three pools, four tennis courts, a spa, a fitness center, and an 18-hole golf course (the only one on Curacao) among other amenities.

"When it opened in 2010, it immediately became a premier property bearing the Hyatt name." (Parentheses in complaint.)

Hyatt claims it signed a contract in March 2005 giving it the exclusive right to manage the resort until 2035.

However, Hyatt says: "In a willful and intentional interference with the management agreement, Benchmark conspired with owner to initiate the overnight stealth takeover of the resort on December 15, 2012.

"Shortly after 12:00 a.m. that night Benchmark - carrying out a clearly premeditated plan - entered the resort with a busload of employees, locked out Hyatt's management personnel and barred them from entering the premises, purporting to establish themselves as new management."

Hyatt claims the "highly coordinated" takeover appears to have been planned for months.

"Owner and Benchmark knew that the resort is only minimally staffed at that hour," the complaint states.

"Moreover, the takeover was timed to occur on a weekend that the resort's general manager was not on the island; it was well known that he would be in Canada that weekend, and owner and Benchmark timed the takeover to take advantage of his absence.

"Moreover, the Benchmark team included a new management committee - including, at least, a new general manager, director of rooms, director of revenue, and executive chef.

"The group that took over the resort on December 15 included approximately 25 to 30 of Benchmark's employees and/or contractors."

Hyatt claims that Benchmark's staff immediately began writing letters to the resort's guests, notifying them about the management change and slipped these letters under their doors early that morning.

Benchmark also glommed onto Hyatt's proprietary hotel management software, Hyatt says.

"This information is an extremely valuable asset - Hyatt's knowledge of how to manage hotels efficiently and profitably, with appropriate controls at the individual hotels and appropriate oversight by regional and corporate-level officials," the complaint states.

"Benchmark, a competitor of Hyatt, now has the blueprints for how to run a Hyatt hotel."

Hyatt seeks punitive damages for tortious interference, misappropriation of trade secrets and conspiracy.

It also wants an injunction to stop Benchmark from using its proprietary computer system.

Hyatt is represented by Derrick Carson with Locke Lord in Houston.

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