HOLIDAY INN VET MOVES INTO NEW DIGS AT MICROTEL

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Not only can Mike Leven build a hotel chain, as he has demonstrated with Hospitality Franchise Systems and Holiday Inn Worldwide, but he can also rebuild a well-known ad team.

When Mr. Leven purchased the franchise and development rights for Microtel Inn & Suites on Sept. 8, the first people he sought out to help launch a marketing campaign were Joel Babbit and Joey Reiman, formerly partners in Atlanta agency Babbit & Reiman.

Each of the admen now has his own agency-Mr. Babbit owns 360 and Mr. Reiman, Bright House. But they agreed to work on Microtel's account as a joint venture without giving up their respective agencies.

Mr. Leven looks to add Microtel to his 34-year string of successes in the hotel industry. That career includes his being named to Advertising Age's Marketing 100 this year (AA, June 26).

During his stint at Holiday Inn, where he rose to president-CEO, Mr. Leven's primary duties involved growing Holiday Inn Express from zero to 350 hotels. Next year, Mr. Leven said he believes, Express will probably pass the chain with the most hotels in the midprice range, Promus Hotels Co.'s Hampton Inn, which just opened it's 500th unit.

Mr. Leven's new company will be called U.S. Franchise Systems and he will hold the title of president-CEO. He plans to build it into a multibrand operation.

"In the future, we will become an international franchise conglomerate whose portfolio of brands will include hotels and motels, restaurants, automotive services and other products," he said.

The limited-service hotels, located mostly in the East and South, command a daily rate of about $38 for inn rooms and $48 for suites.

For his $4 million purchase price, Mr. Leven, and his partner, Neal Aronson, former principal of Odyssey Partners and Mr. Leven's nephew, received 22 hotels that are open and another 10 in development.

Although Mr. Leven, 57, may have put together a marketing team, he isn't ready to unleash a multimedia, national campaign yet. He first plans to spend $500,000 on the introductory effort, to break at the beginning of '96.

Mr. Leven will build Microtel the same way he built other brands. An aggressive sales force will sell prospective franchisees on its unique features-undersize rooms with built-in furniture, a residential look and the added safety an interior corridor gives the budget property.

"The only way I would have left Holiday was for an enormous opportunity like this," Mr. Leven said. "Becoming a CEO somewhere else wasn't attractive to me."

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