Italian firm finishes buying Md. company

Purchase will create top restaurant network aimed at travelers

August 28, 1999|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Italy's top fast-food restaurant company completed its $929 million acquisition of Host Marriott Services Corp. of Bethesda, which runs food concessions at airports, highway rest stops and shopping malls across the country, the companies said yesterday.

Autogrill SpA, which is based in Milan, paid Host Marriott Services shareholders $15.75 per share in cash for 90.7 percent of the outstanding shares and assumed $400 million in debt. The companies announced the deal last month.

Autogrill will acquire the remaining shares of Host Marriott Services common stock for $15.75 per share.

The acquisition creates the world's largest network of restaurants aimed at travelers, with more than 834 locations and combined sales of more than $2.7 billion.

Host Marriott Services will retain its name and its 26,000 employees worldwide, but will become an Autogrill subsidiary. Its headquarters will remain in Bethesda, said Wendy Watkins, a Host Marriott Services spokeswoman.

Also, the company's management team, including Bill McCarten as president and chief executive officer, will remain intact, Watkins said, adding: "One of the things that attracted Autogrill is the quality of Host Marriott Services' management team.

"Right now Autogrill does not have a presence in the United States, where Host Marriott Services has the majority of its presence," she said. "Autogrill is looking for us to maintain our expertise here, and use the combined company to expand globally."

Host Marriott Services, formerly a subsidiary of Host Marriott Corp., was spun off into an independent entity in 1995. Last year it reported $1.4 billion in revenue.

The company operates in 18 of the 20 largest U.S. airports. At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Host Marriott Services runs two mini-food courts as well as a Dunkin' Donuts, Burger King, Celebrate MD and the Museum Company, among other retail stores. It also runs food operations at 90 highway rest stops, such as on the N.J. Turnpike and the Maryland House and Chesapeake House on Interstate 95.

Autogrill primarily runs highway rest stops in Italy and other parts of Europe. It is listed on the Milan stock exchange and is majority-owned by the family that owns the Benetton retail clothing chain.

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