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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jan. 13, 200412:00 PM EST

Adam's Mark names new GM

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by: Richard Prior

by Richard Prior

Staff Writer

The Adam’s Mark Hotel has a new general manager, the result of a reorganization at the St. Louis-based company.

Ben Soto, most recently vice president for Adam’s Mark Hotels & Resorts, has replaced Don Dickhens, who was general manager of the Jacksonville property for two years.

The Monday announcement came from the hotel’s corporate offices in St. Louis.

Soto has worked in the hospitality industry for 22 years. He joined Adam’s Mark in 1998 as regional vice president in Denver. He has filled that position for the past two and a half years in Jacksonville.

The local hotel “has experienced significant progress” under Dickhens’ and Soto’s leadership, according to the press release.

“Soto said the hotel has succeeded in attracting major convention groups to Jacksonville, building a substantial catering business, particularly weddings, and expanding the hotel’s community involvement and diversity initiatives,” the release continued.

Dickens conceded it was “somewhat of a surprise” to learn he had been fired.

“We were on the right track,” he said. “It’s just a matter that Mr. Kummer is selling the different hotels. He wanted to reorganize everything and did away with the regional vice president position.”

Fred Kummer is chairman, president and chief executive of HBE Corp., which owns Adam’s Mark. In August, he listed 12 of the 22 hotels for sale with Hodges Ward Elliott, an Atlanta-based hotel broker. Kummer had valued his Adam’s Mark properties at more than $1 billion.

American City Business Journals reported Jan. 8 that HBE had sold eight of the hotels for $236 million to a joint venture between Pyramid Advisors and Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund IV-Domestic.

Soto said his major goals include continuing to bring major conventions to Jacksonville, working with the Jacksonville & the Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau and other organizations.

To attract more conventioneers, Soto stressed the importance of building a new convention center “help make Jacksonville more competitive with other cities in attracting large convention groups.”

The former general manager is now looking for another job and suggested he may have to find it outside the city.

“Jacksonville is pretty limited” in the type of job he is looking for, he said.

“Don really rose to the occasion,” said Laura Cagan, who was recently promoted to senior sales manager. “Anybody who gets him is lucky.”

Dickhens was a member of the Super Bowl Host Committee and was on the board of the Gator Bowl. He was heavily involved in the annual Florida-Georgia football game. Because of his efforts, the Jacksonville Jaguars spend the weekend before every home game at the Adam’s Mark.

He was a mentor through the Take Stock in Children program and mentored a child at Matthew Gilbert Elementary School. He also allowed for 11 other managers at the hotel to be mentors.

“He’s such a good guy,” said Cagan. “It was his wealth of experience and his kindness.

“But Ben’s awesome. I’m very, very excited to be working for him.”

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