The three top managers of the Excelsior Hotel - including General Manager Jim Ferguson - have been "removed from their positions," the hotel's owner said Tuesday.

"We thought it would be in the better interest of the hotel for us to make the changes," said Victor Borcherds. "We are excited about the changes and think they are positive and great."Nina Shirts, personnel director, was fired along with Ferguson. Nord Clark, rooms division director, elected to resign his post. Gordon Eddington, recently hired as marketing director to work with Borcherd's Heritage Mountain water park, also was let go last week.

Borcherds' wife, Suzanne, will fill Ferguson's shoes at the hotel, and employee Dwayne Reed was promoted to front desk manager. The other positions will be absorbed in various departments.

"We promoted people internally to take the positions," Borcherds said. "We have not replaced them."

When Borcherds finalized the purchase of the hotel in November, he said he intended to keep the same hotel management "because there have been a fair number of changes already."

But that changed with the announcement that top management would be replaced.

"I was a little surprised," Ferguson said. "I knew of course that there were areas of expense that needed to be looked at as well as increasing revenues. I talked to him (Borcherds) myself about some solutions, but I guess he decided to do it a different way.

"The change indicates that they want to cut some of the overhead costs. The hotel has a debt service to meet and interest payments. I think they thought it would be better to absorb duties within the company or by themselves."

As far as the future, Ferguson - a former mayor of Provo - said he is not sure what lies ahead. "I haven't found anything, but I wasn't looking until now. I have some avenues I'm pursuing."

Ferguson has been recognized for his work as a hotel manager and was recently elected chairman of the board of the Utah Hotel Motel Association. He said he will have to forfeit the position unless he finds a job with another hotel.

Ferguson also is a member of the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Chamber President Steve Densley said Ferguson still will be considered a member unless he resigns because the board represents citizens, notcompanies. Ferguson said he plans to remain on the board.

"From my perspective he has done a great job," Densley said. "He understood the community and has been a great asset to the community and its businesses. He will be missed."

Borcherds said he felt it would be easier to make the proposed changes at the hotel under new management. He plans to build a private club, renovate the restaurant and upgrade rooms.

The hotel owner said the change has been well-accepted by employees and morale remains high.

"We are looking forward to a new year," he said. "We had a great New Year's Eve celebration. The hotel is now profitable. We are very upbeat."

Borcherds became the owner of the hotel when a federal district judge approved the sale following the settlement of pending litigation filed by bondholders.

Before the hotel could be sold, the judge had to determine whether the sale was fair to all parties filing the lawsuits.

Borcherds, an Alpine businessman who takes companies through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and reorganizes them for recovery, purchased the hotel for $5.5 million.

"I think this is going to be fabulous. The hotel is a great asset to Utah County and the state," he said.