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Omni Hotels to take over running Toronto’s iconic King Edward Hotel

Le Meridien King Edward Hotel in Toronto

The King Edward Hotel is getting a new face and, as of August 1, a new name.

The storied luxury hotel will be known as The Omni King Edward Hotel when Omni Hotels and Resorts takes over management and operations, the company announced Monday.

Currently, there are four owners of the King Street hotel through King Edward Realty Inc.: Skyline Hotels and Resorts, Alex Shnaider, Serruya Realty Group and Dundee KE Limited Partnership.

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Kevin Toth, President of Skyline Hotels and Resorts, explained that King Edward Realty was looking for a well-known brand partner for The King Edward's extensive renovation plans.

"Omni happened to be the perfect brand to put equity into the property, which most brands rarely do," said Mr. Toth in an interview.

Funding is already earmarked for substantial renovations that include approximately $40 million of work that is currently underway on at least 50 of the hotel's 300 rooms. Peter Strebel, Senior Vice President Omni Hotels and Resorts says "it's what we call a full renovation." Everything from the bathrooms, to the furniture, electrical, heating and air conditioning will be retrofitted in the historic hotel.

The owner of Omni Hotels and Resorts, Robert Rowling, has been "eyeing the hotel for years," Mr. Strebel said. "He's excited about the vibrancy of Toronto and the dynamics of the city."

Omni has hotels and resorts in New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington and Montréal. The company took control of Montréal's Mount Royal Hotel in 1998, and completed $22 million in renovations earlier this year.

One of the central pieces for the renovation will be returning the Crystal Ballroom to its former glory. Until its closure in the late 1970s, the Crystal Ballroom was the most sought-after venue in the city. Once renovations are complete on the 300 guestrooms, Mr. Strebel says plans will commence for the lobby, meeting room and Crystal Ballroom. He says Omni plans to finalize its vision for the ballroom by the end of 2014.

That's not all that's changing either – along with Omni's management takeover will come new policies and procedures including a Loyalty Program that keeps track of every repeat customer's personal preferences.

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Omni Hotels and Resorts has consistently won accolades for customer service, and according to Mr. Strebel, has been number one in JD Power and Associate's "upper upscale" segment for customer service for five years.

King Edward Realty hopes that once the renovations are complete, with the Omni brand the hotel will be positioned in the top end of four-star properties in downtown Toronto. Mr. Toth says there is no plan to have the King Edward compete with five-star options such as Trump International Hotel and Tower, the Four Seasons or the Shangri-La Hotel.

The transition will not disrupt any services for the 125 people living in the three floors that were converted to condominiums. Omni plans to keep the current managerial and employee structure at the hotel.

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