Le Meridien, the upmarket hotel group, has passed through the hands of many owners since it began life as part of Air France in 1972. Since 2001 it has been an independent group owned mainly by Terra Firma. Le Meridien has 130 luxury hotels in 56 countries. Sales, including fees from managed hotels, fell by £190m to £401m in 2004, but the business has returned to operating profitability after four tough years. In January 2004, Lehman Brothers acquired the senior debt and is now reported to be in partnership talks with Starwood Capital, the property fund, to invest new equity in the chain.
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