|By Tina Alvey, The Register-Herald,
Beckley, W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
August 1, 2009 - The Greenbrier and Marriott failed to reach a marketing agreement by the midnight Friday deadline, but resort owner Jim Justice termed it "the best possible outcome."
He said, "We just couldn't get together. There were two areas we struggled with -- the economy and the branding."
After breaking off negotiations Friday, Justice wired Marriott an agreed-upon $7.5 million "break-up" fee.
Marriott had been negotiating with the CSX to purchase The Greenbrier out of bankruptcy when Justice made the stunning announcement he had acquired the resort's stock for just over $20 million. After first protesting the sale, Marriott dropped its argument when Justice agreed to either strike a marketing deal with the hotel chain or pay a $7.5 million fee instead.
"(Marriott was) willing to work with us on marketing The Greenbrier, but it would still be done by a Marriott sales force and our sales force, too," Justice explained. "For customers who know The Greenbrier as an icon, it's going to become confusing. Is it a Marriott or a Ritz-Carlton?"
He added, "It just made more sense to me to keep The Greenbrier as The Greenbrier, and the treasure as the treasure. To preserve The Greenbrier only and solely as The Greenbrier, I think it's the right decision."
Justice said paying a fee to Marriott for each booking would, in the long run, cost more than he paid the company Friday.
"You pay $7.5 million today, or you pay fees to Marriott for a long, long time to come. At the end of the day, you write a great big check and you move on," Justice said.
"I really believe we're on a mission; we're going to make The Greenbrier the best resort in the world," he said.
Justice also revealed he had hired a new vice president of marketing for the resort, the former head of marketing for Sawgrass Golf Resort & Spa in Florida, home of The Players Championship golf tournament.
As for reports surfacing this week that The Greenbrier is on the verge of landing a PGA Tour event next year, Justice said, "It's not official, but we're working on it."
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