Marriott might face legal action

By Gretchyn Lenger

NIU might sue the Marriott Corporation for breach of contract if the corporation makes good on its threat to cease Roy Rogers operations at the start of this year’s spring break, March 6.

In a brief letter dated Jan. 26, 1987 to NIU Business and Operations Acting Vice President James Harder, the Houston-based corporation stated its intentions to vacate the cafeteria despite its five-year contract with NIU.

The contract, approved last year by the Board of Regents, went into effect July 1,1986 and guaranteed a minimum annual payment to NIU of $88,000 or 11 percent of gross sales. In the letter, Marriott said its Roy Rogers operation at NIU has resulted in “significant financial losses” for the corporation.

NIU administrators sent a written reply to Marriott stating if the university is forced into legal action, “we will seek punitive damages due to this egregious breach and the bad faith exhibited by the Marriott Corporation.”

egents Chairman Carol Burns said she is baffled by Marriott’s “precipitous” behavior in what she called a “no-win situation” for the corporation.

“I can’t imagine that a corporation would deliberately break a contract …. Unfortunately, this means we’ll have to take legal action,” Burns said.

Although Burns said she does not know what monetary figures are involved, she said “the implication is that they (Marriott) are losing so much (money) that they need to pull out.” However, Burns said, “In terms of how large their corporation is, I wouldn’t think it would be that urgent” for Marriott to cease operations.

“I also have to question the initial numbers. It is Marriott’s job to estimate the numbers and what kind of traffic and profit they will get,” Burns added.

Jim Giles, executive secretary of University Council, is one member of a university committee formed to assess student preferences regarding the Pow Wow/Roy Rogers operation. He said he does not believe Marriott could be losing that much on the cafeteria operation.

According to Giles, the committee was asked to submit its report on student preferences before the March Regents’ meeting. “Two or three of us (committee members) kept asking, ‘Why does it have to be in the March board report?’ and I think then somebody was saying that Marriott was threatening to pull out,” Giles said.

e added, “One thing I could never get straight at the first (committee) meeting was why we were in such a hurry to let them (Marriott) out.”

According to NIU’s letter of response, Marriott’s decision will “place the university in an extremely difficult position by terminating food service in the middle of a semester.”

Burns said, “The university will have to see how fast it can move in terms of responding to this.” She said the situation could be negotiated if Marriott “could stay until the end of the semester to at least give the university time to find a replacement.”

Jon Dalton, vice president for Student Affairs, previously said, “Before we can make a decision on what should go into the space, we need to know what the criterions are.”

arder said NIU administrators are “considering what alternatives might be available, but we do not have any hard and fast plan at this time.”

It might be possible for NIU to reinstate University Food Service, which ran the original Pow Wow cafeteria operation before Marriott was contracted, Giles said. However, he said the committee should not be forced into making a hasty decision.

“I assume you could go back to the old arrangement of University Food Service, unless there’s a legal reason why you couldn’t. What bothers me about that is it’s almost like the committee is being pressured into deciding this in an unreasonably short amount of time. A lot of people feel that’s what happened last year when we took on Marriott. If that’s the case, it seems like we’re doing the same thing again.”

Committee student representative Carol Jungman said Marriott’s announcement “really puts us on the spot.” She said, “It’s unfortunate because it’s going to hurt their (Marriott’s) reputation with other universities.”

Jungman said the committee’s work should not have to be affected by Marriott’s decision. “We don’t need to submit to their whims. We don’t need to do bad research because of this contract and their wanting to pull out.”

Marriott’s decision to abandon Roy Rogers came after the corporation made an oral request in December to discuss the terms of their contract and to receive a written recommendation from NIU regarding the contract’s future.

NIU’s Bond Revenue Services Director William Herrmann previously said the reason for the March 1 deadline on gathering student input and forming a proposal was so possible negotiations with Marriott might be continued.

arder said he did not want to peculate at this time on any further negotiations or litigation with Marriott.

The committee will meet at 8 a.m. today in the Holmes Student Center.