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Name and title: Christopher L. Bennett, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary. Age: 36 A fast-growing company: Interstate Hotels & Resorts Inc., based in Arlington, Va., bills itself as the nation’s largest independent hotel management company. It operates 282 properties with nearly 64,000 rooms in 41 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Russia. “Interstate traces its roots back more than 30 years, but the company today is the product of rapid growth and multiple mergers in the hotel industry over the past few years,” Bennett said. Following one such merger in 1998, the combined firm organized as two publicly held companies-a real estate investment trust (REIT) and a third-party management company under a “paper clip” arrangement involving a single executive team. In 2002, the management company merged with another management company under the Interstate Hotels & Resorts banner. Shortly thereafter, the arrangement with the REIT ended. The company operates on behalf of about 50 hotel owners under 32 brands. Its BridgeStreet operation represents one of the world’s largest corporate housing providers. “Our strategy is to diversify our core earnings stream from third-party management contracts to include more ownership, both wholly owned and in joint ventures. We now own two and have an equity investment in about 20 hotels, which we find beneficial for our relationships with the owners,” Bennett said. “In third-party management, when a hotel we manage is sold, it’s not unusual for a new owner to bring in his own management company. But if we also have an equity investment in a hotel we manage, we have more stability. The hotel industry is doing fantastic now, and there’s a high level of hotel turnover, and that leads to new opportunities for us.” Daily duties: Bennett works hard to keep on top of New York Stock Exchange regulations. “We also operate hotels in Moscow and are gaining management opportunities in western Europe, so tackling international legal and tax issues has become a new challenge for us,” he said. The company has 32,000 employees, “so understanding employment status and rights both domestically and overseas is a substantial part of our daily activities.” Bennett began taking on oversight duties in the human resources department in early 2005, in addition to his legal duties. He answers to Chief Executive Officer Thomas F. Hewitt. “With the two departments it’s a bit of a balancing act. It starts with an open-door arrangement I have with the senior executives . . . as well as being accessible to everyone at corporate headquarters and in the field. I also try to take time each day to work with associates in our groups to make sure I understand what they’re working on and where they’re headed. In human resources I have an opportunity to learn to manage a substantial group of talented people outside the practice of law.” He added: “I like being involved in so many aspects of the company and helping it accomplish its goals and limit its risks. That’s what excites me about working in this environment where you have a genuine opportunity to make a difference.” Legal team and outside counsel: Two attorneys back up Bennett with the company. One handles transactional work, hotel operation legal issues and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) work; the other handles employment and labor law and oversees the employee relations group. Regarding outside counsel, “My general philosophy is that every firm has great attorneys, and my job is to find those attorneys who can help make our company better.” For SEC, corporate governance and mergers and acquisitions work, he turns to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York. For real estate transactions, he calls Decampo, Diamond & Ash in New York and Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott in Pittsburgh. Employment matters go to Washington-based Hogan & Hartson’s office in McLean, Va. Route to present position: Bennett holds 1991 bachelor’s degrees in accounting and finance from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a 1995 J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. At Virginia Tech, “I was close to graduating with an electrical engineering degree when I woke up one day and decided it was not the direction I wanted to go. Instead I earned accounting and finance degrees and went to work at Deloitte & Touche and earned my CPA.” Law school followed, then an associate position at Thacher Proffitt & Wood in New York. In 1997, Bennett moved to Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine, also in New York, where he acted as general counsel to a number of small but growing public and private companies. He went in-house in 1998 as vice president-legal and secretary for Interstate and MeriStar Hospitality Corp., the Interstate-affiliated REIT. He was named senior vice president, general counsel and secretary in 2001 and picked up the executive vice president title-in recognition of his human resources responsibilities-earlier this month. The best part of the job: “When I was outside counsel, I would have the opportunity to work on a transaction and then do another one for another company, and I never got the opportunity to take the company to the next step,” Bennett said. “The benefit of being in-house is that when the transaction is done, we can learn from it and take the company to the next level, and work with operations and sales and marketing to achieve our goals.” He enjoys his daily involvement in the company’s operations. “I also work on initiatives like diversity, with the personal benefit of really helping develop the human side of our business. Hotels are successful primarily because of their people, which for our company is our most valuable and important asset.” With so many employees, “there are a lot of legal issues and risks, but by focusing on employees as individuals and embracing our diversity, we have been able to limit the number of employment issues that arise. It’s part of doing business in this company.” Personal: Bennett and his wife, Angelique, have four children-Devin, 8; Marguerite, 7; Tiffany, 2; and Jeremy, 1-”so I spend a lot of time at soccer and baseball games and playgrounds.” He grew up in Northern Virginia. Last book and movie: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garc�a M�rquez. “I love that book,” Bennett said. “The last movie I saw in a movie theater was Madagascar-I have four kids; it comes with the territory.”

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