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Got My Hojo Workin'


In Business This Week: HEADLINER: ERIC PFEFFER

GOT MY HOJO WORKIN'

When boomers recall overnight stays and fried-clam dinners at Howard Johnsons, they get warm and fuzzy--then go elsewhere. HoJo President Eric Pfeffer's answer: spiff up the 42-year-old outfit, starting on Feb. 16 with a new mostly-blue logo. Orange roofs? They're on the way out. Says Pfeffer: "As we change with the times, we've got to show the newness."

Sure, the orange roof is "an American icon--as American as apple pie and Chevrolet," the Venezuelan-born Pfeffer says. But HoJo, owned since 1990 by franchiser HFS, no longer requires orange on new properties and does not object if existing roofs are replaced. Indeed, it only hints at them in the new logo, which Pfeffer says "reduces the emphasis on orange by 300%."

Pfeffer, who in 19 years has risen from the front desk at HoJo's Miami hotel to the executive office, is striving to upgrade the chain. He kicked out 37 hotels in 1995 for quality shortfalls, and he's taking the company global. Not everything is changing: Fried clams are still on the menu.BY JOSEPH WEBERReturn to top

LEBOW: 2, NABISCO: 0

CHALK UP ROUND ONE FOR Bennett LeBow. By tiny majorities, the chairman of Miami-based Brooke Group says it persuaded RJR Nabisco shareholders to back two proposals: a nonbinding plan to spin off the food company and a provision making it easier for shareholders to call special meetings. RJR says the true results won't be known until it can independently count Brooke's ballots. LeBow, meanwhile, is vowing to wage a proxy battle for RJR. He has proposed a management slate that includes Ronald Fulford, who resigned on Feb. 21 as executive chairman of Hanson PLC's Imperial Tobacco, as CEO, and Dale Hanson, former head of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, as a director. While LeBow faces skepticism from some RJR shareholders, he only needs a majority of votes cast in a proxy contest to win.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

CAN MK REENGINEER ITS DEBT?

IT'S PASS-THE-HAT TIME AGAIN at Morrison Knudsen. The struggling engineering and construction company hopes to persuade debt holders to swap their interests for new equity. MK executives are confident they can meet a $25 million payment on Mar. 31, but $100 million due in September and $114 million more due in December will be tougher. And unlike earlier restructurings, when they worked with banks, MK execs will be negotiating chiefly with the vulture investors now holding the debt, valued at 60 cents on the dollar.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top

MICROSOFT: THE INFO ROAD AHEAD

MICROSOFT WANTS TO BE perfectly clear: It's not ignoring the Internet. On Feb. 20, the software giant, often criticized for being late to recognize the Net's potential, created an Internet Platform & Tools Div. to be run by Brad Silverberg, the Microsoft exec who honchoed Windows 95. "I've always been excited about being where the action is," he says. "This is it." Microsoft also created an Interactive Media Div. to be headed by Patty Stonesifer, former head of the Consumer Div.EDITED BY KELLEY HOLLANDReturn to top


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