WYNDHAM WESTSHORE SOLD: Wyndham International Inc. said Friday it has agreed to sell 25 hotels, including Tampa's Wyndham Westshore, for $366-million. The hotels will be sold to a partnership made up of a private investment fund managed by Goldman Sachs and affiliates of Highgate Holdings. The 15 hotels that operate under the Wyndham name will keep the name until new franchise deals are reached. The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2005.
HAMMETT CLOSING SCHOOL-SUPPLY STORES: J.L. Hammett Co., the country's oldest school-supply company _ whose founder invented the blackboard eraser _ is closing its 52 retail stores nationwide, including one in Clearwater, after 141 years. The Braintree, Mass., company will continue to sell merchandise on its Web site, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy reported. Company president Richmond Holden Jr. said the company had hoped moving its stores from enclosed malls into strip malls would boost sales, but the results didn't come quickly enough. The company has a Hammett's Learning World in the Cypress Point Shopping Center on U.S. 19.
ALOHA AIRLINES FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION: The parent company of Aloha Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Thursday, less than a month after saying it would lay off a dozen top managers and freeze 35 open management jobs because of rising fuel costs. David Banmiller, who took over on Nov. 14 as president and chief executive of Aloha Airgroup Inc., said the intent was to help bring costs in line with competitors who have filed for bankruptcy protection. Banmiller said reservations for future travel will be taken, tickets will be honored and flights will operate as scheduled. He declined to predict whether jobs would be cut among Aloha's 3,668 employees.
WAL-MART SUIT NOT DISMISSED: A federal judge has opened the door to a possible expansion of a lawsuit against Wal-Mart filed by illegal immigrant janitors who claim the retail giant violated labor laws. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Greenaway Jr. on Wednesday denied a motion by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to dismiss the suit, instead approving the sending of court-approved notices to potential plaintiffs. The court found merit in the claim that illegal immigrant workers have minimum wage and overtime pay rights under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, said Gilberto Garcia, an Englewood Cliffs, N.J., attorney who is part of a legal team representing more than 200 janitors who worked for contractors serving Wal-Mart.
TOYOTA CLOSES IN ON 2-MILLION MARK: Toyota Motor Corp. is poised to become the first non-U.S. automaker to sell more than 2-million cars and trucks in a year in the United States. Toyota has sold an average of 170,000 vehicles a month through November and needs 127,885 sales in December to top 2-million, according to Autodata Corp.
FLORIDA CATTLE HEADS TO CUBA: The first shipment of Florida-bred cattle to Cuba in more than 40 years left Friday from this port near Fort Lauderdale. Twenty-two beef cattle were on a cargo chip for the three-day trip to Havana, said J.P. Wright & Co. Inc., which has a contract to ship the livestock under an exemption to the long-standing U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. The shipment included six bulls and 16 heifers.