The consolidation wave, building in the hotel industry for some time, hit the full-service sector with two mega-deals this winter. In late January, Hilton Hotels Corporation made a $6.5 billion hostile bid for ITT Sheraton, which quickly rejected the offer and began preparing to sell off its "non-core" assets, such as the New York Knicks.

Aiming to raise cash and demonstrate a clear focus on its hotel and casino business, ITT Sheraton hoped to keep shareholders happy enough with the company's direction and prospects to rebuff further offers by Hilton. At press time, the next move was Hilton's. The combined companies would be a lodging and gambling empire of 655 hotels and 30 casinos worldwide.

Meanwhile, a proposed buyout of Renaissance Hotels & Resorts by Doubletree fell through when Marriott International charged in with a higher bid of nearly $1 billion. (Wyndham Hotels, Starwood Lodging, and Holiday Inn owner Bass plc also looked at buying the chain.) Combined, Marriott and Renaissance operate or franchise more than 1,300 hotels in 50 countries. The deal is expected to be completed by the second quarter of this year; until then, neither company is commenting on the ramifications for the meeting industry