Main | Wednesday, August 09, 2006

CNL CEO Tom Hutchinson: Homophobe

As I noted three weeks ago, Florida's Orange County has made it illegal to deny housing based on sexual orientation. Today comes the news that this move has cost Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty the support of his largest re-election backer, Orlando-based CNL Hotels & Resorts CEO Tom Hutchinson, who emailed Crotty to say he was pulling his support because of Crotty's "favoring the absolutely ridiculous vote on legal protection for equal housing for gays." Hutchinson goes on to say, "I am not interested in supporting candidates with seemingly zero Christian biblical principals on the issues regarding the alternative gay lifestyle."

It is unbelievable that the head of a prominent hotel chain, one that features many very high-end properties (the Arizona Biltmore, the Claremont), would risk alienating a substantial portion of his customer base in this manner. I've put a call in to Lauren Harris, CNL's VP of Marketing & Communications, to see how she reconciles being one of the largest hoteliers in Orlando (a town which this year enjoyed the business of 140,000 GayDays attendees) with the outrageous statements of her boss. I look forward to her call. I have a feeling Ms. Harris is having an interesting week.

I've also discovered that the Courtyard Marriott at Lake Buena Vista, a CNL property, is listed as a HOST HOTEL on one of the Orlando GayDay sites. Is that how it goes, Tom? You'll take our dirty homo money, but otherwise we can go fuck ourselves? If anybody is planning on visiting Orlando soon, here's a list of the CNL properties to avoid:

Courtyard Marriott Village at Lake Buena Vista
JW Marriott Grande Lakes Orlando
Embassy Suites Orlando Airport
Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando
SpringHill Suites/Marriott Village at Lake Buena Vista
Fairfield Inn/Marriott Village at Lake Buena Vista

If you already have bookings at any of these hotels, you know what to do.

I'll be calling the various GayDay groups to see if they intend on giving CNL any more of their business. Here's where the other CNL properties around the country are located. In NYC, there's the Hampton Inn Chelsea, where many gay tourists stay. Personally, I'm no longer considering the CNL-owned San Francisco Marriott on Second Street for my Folsom visit in September, which is where I stayed in 2003. Too bad, it's in a fantastic location for the fair. But this year, I'll be happy to walk my homosexual wallet a few extra blocks right past that joint. And my number of stays at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Arizona Biltmore will stop at the current five.

UPDATE: CNL's Marketing VP Lauren Harris promptly returned my call to say that she wanted to email me CNL's official position. Her email follows.

Joe -- Really appreciate the call, and wanted to forward a company statement on behalf of CNL Hotels & Resorts. {On a related note, you may have also seen the personal statement that came directly from Mr. Hutchison, which was printed in Tuesday's Orlando Sentinel. This was personally provided to the Sentinel, and not issued by the company.} Many thanks.

CNL Hotels & Resorts Statement: The personal views of Tom Hutchison do not reflect the views of CNL Hotels & Resorts or our affiliate companies, and are not necessarily those of our associates. It is the policy of CNL Hotels & Resorts, Inc. to grant equal employment opportunities to all qualified persons without regard to race, color, creed, sex, religion, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, physical or mental disability that does not prohibit performance of essential job functions, veteran’s status, or any other conditions or identifications against which discrimination is prohibited.

Lauren Harris

Vice President, Marketing & Communications
CNL Hotels & Resorts

JMG: Thanks Lauren, but this isn't about employment discrimination. Concerning gays, THAT is still legal in Orange County and many other places CNL does business. This is about housing discrimination. Your company is in the housing business. By the way, how do you suppose your thousands of gay employees feel about working for Tom Hutchinson now? Good luck with productivity, hiring and retention.

UPDATE II: It's worth noting that Mayor Rich Crotty is no shining knight for gay causes. According to the Orlando Sentinel, he was pressured into supporting the housing discrimination legislation as a compromise for not supporting a more comprehensive gay rights law, one that presumably would have included employment discrimination.

UPDATE III: Three days ago, an Orlando judge approved a $35 million dollar settlement that CNL must pay in a class-action suit naming Hutchison (among others), which was filed by investors who claim that the hotel giant "obscured its financial condition around the time the company was preparing a merger agreement and stock offering." Stockholders are worried that further bad publicity will diminish the CNL stock value even more.

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