NBA legend Earvin Johnson to test ‘magic’ on trendy Houston hotel

Basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson has added another hotel to his growing hotel portfolio: Houston’s trendy, chic Hotel Icon, the Houston Chronicle reports.

On Tuesday, the paper says, a joint venture between his Los Angeles-based Canyon Johnson Urban Funds and Newport Beach, Calif.-based Centurion Partners bought debt-laden Hotel Icon at a foreclosure auction for $27 million.

The new owners plan to install flat-screen TVs in guest rooms, repaint and replace carpeting, but the biggest change of all involves chain affiliation. They plan to stop running it as an independent property, and instead make it part of a chain with a broad, loyal customer base, the story says.

Johnson’s outfit also owns the high-profile Washington Hilton Hotel, but Hilton doesn’t have a brand that would fit the hotel’s image. Marriott, on the other hand, has been courting upscale, independent hotels that need a marketing boost but don’t want to change their image too much through its Autograph Collection.

Richard Bosworth, managing director of Canyon Johnson Urban Funds, told the Chronicle that they’re in talks with several national and international chains.

We should learn which chain Icon’s owners select within about six months, the Chronicle says.

Part of the hotel’s problems, Bosworth said, has been that it relied heavily on bookings through discount-rate Internet sites as opposed to a major chain’s customer loyalty program that could bring in higher paying business travelers.

I checked the hotel’s website for Wednesday, Jan. 19 – the first day available for bookings this month – and found a room rate of $149, which includes a 15% discount under Icon’s 14-day advance purchase promo. For the same night, I found a $169 rate on Expedia.

The four-diamond-rated hotel – housed in a century old bank building – is currently managed by Destination Hotels and Resorts, part of Los Angeles-based Lowe Enterprises. It won a spot on the coveted Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List in 2007.

Hotel Icon opened in what had been a vacant building just before Houston hosted the Super Bowl in January 2004.

By: Barbara De Lollis (USA TODAY)

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