- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Choice Hotels International has bought a controlling interest in its Australian franchising partner to create a stronger global brand.
The Silver Spring-based hotel franchiser has acquired a 55 percent interest in Melbourne-based Flag Choice Hotels and has the option to purchase the remaining 45 percent over the next five years. Choice will have spent $3.5 million if that option is exercised.
"By acquiring the controlling interest in Flag Choice Hotels, we will be able to implement a comprehensive business plan designed to improve franchise services, enhance marketing programs and build a strong base for Choice brands in the Pacific," said Charles A. Ledsinger Jr., president and chief executive of Choice Hotels.
This purchase will give Choice Hotels control over the properties and will "get the brands represented properly in that market," Mr. Ledsinger said.
Flag Choice currently franchises about 300 properties in Australia and another 100 properties in New Zealand. In Australia, the company operates under the Flag, Comfort, Quality and Clarion brand names. However, there is not a consistent brand structure among those hotels, as there is in the United States.
Choice Hotels' control over Flag will eliminate much of the "brand confusion" that exists there now, said Bruce Haase, a senior vice president at Choice.
"It's all about being competitive in the marketplace," he said.
Over the next month, about 190 hotels will fully convert to one of the three Choice brands that already exist there, Mr. Haase said.
Choice Hotels has more than 5,000 hotel franchises either open or under development worldwide under the brands Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Clarion, Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn and MainStay Suites.
Choice does not have all of its brands worldwide because many of the international markets are not nearly as segmented as they are in the United States.


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