Too late to the dance?

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Just entering the boutique field: J.W. âœBillâ Marriott, the conservative, canny hotel magnate seeking to build a Marriott âœlifestyleâ brand with boutique hotel pioneer Ian Schrager.

At a June 14 news conference in Schrader's home base of New York, the two announced plans to develop 100 new properties that would compete with W, Starwood's unexpectedly successful branding of the boutique concept, and Kimpton, the San Francisco flag with a strikingly idiosyncratic, yet comfortable, portfolio.

If these unlikely partners succeed in building on Marriott's freshening of its Renaissance hotels, this new venture might well work. Certainly, Marriott Corp. is a savvy operator of hotels. It's not an innovator but a consolidator and a refiner. And it's very good at branding and managing.

Schrager, meanwhile, is known for his individualistic style, apprehension of modern taste and attention to detail. Anybody who's ever visited the Delano, his flagship in Miami's South Beach area, appreciates the unique ambience he can create.

It will be interesting to see how these personalities interact. Whether they can craft a set of properties that strikes a distinctive chord and at the same time transmits and adheres to hallowed corporate values remains a question.

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