LAX Concessions: Airport Director's Retreat Spells Victory For HMS Host
If you were warming up to the idea of having Susan Feniger and Nancy Silverton serving gourmet food at LAX, well, warm up to something else.
In a reversal, LAX Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey has decided that potential conflict-of-interest issues are sufficiently serious that the contract should be rebid.
That's yet another big win for HMS Host, the concession company that's been running things at Los Angeles International practically since it was Mines Field.
Silverton and Feniger and a team of other celebrity chefs joined with conglomerate SSP America to bid for the LAX contract. The SSP bid came in first, but Host and another losing bidder protested the award.
Host argued that because SSP had worked with an architecture company called SmartDesign, and since Smart Design had also helped LAX design the request for bids, that should eliminate SSP from the running.
At first, Lindsey disagreed, saying she didn't think that was a substantive conflict of interest. But City Attorney Carmen Trutanich concluded that the conflict was serious enough to disqualify SSP from the running.
In a letter on Thursday to the city's Board of Referred Powers, Lindsey said she had second thoughts, and now agrees with Trutanich.
"We lack unambiguous, firm legal ground on which to recommend a contract award," she wrote.
She also recommended that the whole contract be put out to bid again, which could take another year or two at least. And in the meanwhile, Host will get to run concessions at LAX and will get a chance to craft a better bid for the next go-round.
It looks like a strategic retreat on Lindsey's part. She had lost control of the process to the bidders lobbyists, and this might be a way for her to retake control. But who knows if she'll still be running LAX in two years.
In any case, this is yet more proof that in these situations you should never bet against the status quo.
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