Aqua to Manage, Rename Waikiki Edition

Aqua replaces Marriott in the midst of a legal battle By: Janeen Christoff
The lobby at the Waikiki Edition, now The Modern Honolulu. // © 2011 Marriott International
The lobby at the Waikiki Edition, now The Modern Honolulu. // © 2011 Marriott International

M Waikiki LLC, a hotel investment group, and owner of the Waikiki Edition, recently announced that it had replaced the management company of the property — Marriott International, Inc. The transfer was made during the early-morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 28, at which time the signs and locks on the property were changed.

M Waikiki selected Modern Management Services, LLC, an affiliate of Aqua Hotels & Resorts, as the new management company for the former Waikiki Edition Hotel, and the 353-room property, has been renamed The Modern Honolulu.

“We are extremely excited about this new opportunity,” said Damian McKinney, principal of M Waikiki. “We believe that Aqua will realize the vision on which this hotel was developed — becoming the leading lifestyle hotel in Hawaii.”

The announcement of new management and the termination of Marriott comes amid allegations by M Waikiki that the hotel suffered from mismanagement by Marriott. These allegations were compounded by Marriott’s failure to develop the Edition brand with which the property was previously affiliated.

The recent management change is the latest escalation in a legal battle that began in the spring between M Waikiki and Marriott. In a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court in May, M Waikiki claimed that Marriott failed to make the flashy new Edition hotel brand a success, resulting in the Waikiki location underperforming relative to its market. Marriott has filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Marriott chief operating officer, Arne Sorenson, commented on the termination of management in an email statement.

“This is a deeply unfortunate, regrettable and illegal event,” Sorenson wrote. “The owner and its partners raided the hotel literally under the cover of night, forcibly taking over the property and threatening our employees with dismissal unless they immediately agreed to a change of management. We will aggressively and vigorously pursue all remedies against the owner and its partners in this illegal act, which was completely and blatantly in violation of Marriott’s contractual agreements.”

Currently, Modern Management Services plans to offer employment to hotel staff members and maintain their current rate of pay, original start date and accrued vacation.

“Our primary focus is to ensure a smooth transition for employees and guests,” said Benjamin Rafter, president and CEO of Aqua. “Based on our experience in the local hospitality community, we believe The Modern Honolulu will become the lifestyle hotel in the Islands.”

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