Getting into the hotel game

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Word is that LeBron James is considering investing in a hotel, brand and location yet to be determined. Spokespeople for the Cleveland Cavaliers' superstar forward were seen talking to African-American lodging industry movers and shakers during the 11th annual NABHOOD convention in Atlanta in late July.

Since the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers was launched in 1998, its executives, particularly founder Andrew Ingraham and board chairman/St. Louis hotel developer Michael Roberts, have been trying to forge links between lodging and the cash-heavy world of professional African-American athletes and entertainers.

The first fruit of this—after six years of tortuous negotiations involving the city of Norfolk, VA, Robert L. Johnson's RLJ Development and William Fuller's Fulco Development—is the $125-million Hilton Norfolk Hotel & Conference Center in Fuller's home town of Norfolk. Centerpiece of the complex, set to open at the end of 2009, is a 240-key, full-service Hilton. Fuller is a former defensive end for the Houston Oilers and Philadelphia Eagles.

James's people were networking with hundreds of other African-American hotel magnates and would-be magnates at Mike Roberts's Crowne Plaza in Marietta, GA.

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