Shareholders voted Friday to split Marriott International Inc. into a hotel company and a management-services concern, which will merge with a French firm.
The company, based in Bethesda, Md., plans to spin off its lodging, senior living and distribution businesses and merge its management services business with Sodexho Alliance S.A.The new company, Sodexho Marriott Services Inc., will become the nation's largest contract services firm with annual sales of $4 billion and more than 4,800 accounts.
The shareholder vote also means a plan to create a new class of stock for the hotel company with 10 times the voting power of current stock will go ahead. But the dual stock plan must be ratified at the company's annual meeting in May.
Marriott spokesman Tom Marder said 89.2 million shares - more than 85 percent of the approximately 104 million shares voting - were in favor of the transactions.
Marriott set a March 27 closing date for the spinoff and merger transactions.
"The transactions approved today will create two strong, well-focused and growth-oriented companies," said J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman and chief executive of Marriott International.
The split isn't the first for Marriott.
In 1992, Marriott split into Marriott International Inc. and Host Marriott Corp., the company's real estate division, prompting a suit by investors who claimed the company split into profitable and unprofitable halves. In 1995, a federal judge dismissed the investors' claims.
Marriott delayed this week's vote, which originally was scheduled for Tuesday, so it could unlink the spinoff and merger proposals from the dual stock plan. Shareholders initially were offered the package on an all-or-nothing basis and analysts charged Marriott with trying to push through disagreeable measures on the coattails of the merger plan.
The Hotel Employees & Restaurant Workers International Union rallied to draw attention to Marriott's original "bundled" plan.
The union, which represents 6,000 Marriott employees, protested that the new stock would potentially increase the amount of control held by the Marriott family, which owns about 20 percent of the company stock.