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The Vinoy picks new manager

Russell C. Bond has been named general manager of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, Marriott International officials announced this week.

He replaces John Williams, who headed up the Vinoy since July 1998. Williams resigned in early January, citing family priorities and a desire to evaluate other career options.

Bond is an 18-year veteran with the company that began as Stouffer Hotels, which was acquired by Renaissance Hotel Group, which, in turn, was bought by Marriott International Inc. in 1997.

In a telephone interview, Bond, 40, said he plans to arrive within the next two weeks. He and his wife, Nancy, who have been married for 16 years, will stay at the Vinoy for now.

"I would like to look for a place close to the hotel," he said. "I really like the Old Northeast neighborhood."

The couple have no children. She works in food service management, said Bond, and will look for a job in the area, "probably with a hospital or college."

Bond is now general manager of the Renaissance Westchester in White Plains, N.Y., an estate hotel that is wrapped around a historic mansion. He has had stints at two other venerable hotels, the Mayflower in Washington, D.C., and the Stanford Court in San Francisco.

Bond will be the fourth general manager since the hotel reopened in 1992 after a $93-million restoration.

Jerry Phelps was its first general manager. He left after about a year for a job at another Stouffer resort. He was followed by Mike Stange, who stayed for about five years, leading the successful referendum campaign that paved the way for construction of the new Palm Court Ballroom. He and three other top managers were dismissed by Marriott International in June 1998 after disclosing plans to start a business that was potentially competitive. Williams was named general manager in July 1998. Like Russell Bond, Williams was formerly general manager of the Renaissance Westchester.

"That is purely coincidental," said Bond.

The 360-room Vinoy is considered one of the premier luxury resorts in Florida. It is the only hotel in Pinellas County to earn a four-star rating from Mobil and four diamonds from AAA, both top scores. Bond said that it is only 10 guest rooms larger than the Westchester, "but in terms of catering, space, golf, tennis and health facilities, there's a big difference in size."

His priority will be "to build on the success that currently exists," citing a healthy 71 percent annual occupancy rate.

In commenting on the number of general managers the Vinoy has had in its short history since reopening, Bond said that the average turnover is three to four years.

"But you can find cases where they come and go faster or stay a lot longer," he said. "I was honored to be asked to come here. My wife and I are warm-weather people. We heard Vinoy, St. Petersburg, and I said, "I'm ready.' My intention is to stay a very long time."