Suresh Chawla has formed a new lodging company to run a dozen Delta hotels that he either owns or co-owns.
Whether this signals a split by the Greenwood hotelier from his legally troubled older brother Dinesh, though, is unclear.
In a press release this past week, Suresh Chawla announced that he had formed a new hotel management company, Delta Lodging Group LLC, and had named Shelley Cresswell Walker as its chief executive officer. Chawla will serve as the company’s president.
The Chawla brothers have been partners in Chawla Hotels, with Dinesh serving as CEO and Suresh as president. Repeated requests to Suresh Chawla for clarification as to the future of Chawla Hotels and his partnership with his brother were not answered.
The incorporation papers for Delta Lodging Group were filed on Sept. 18 with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office. Suresh Chawla is listed on the secretary of state’s website as the registered agent. There is no mention of Dinesh Chawla.
The filing came less than a month after Dinesh Chawla’s bizarre arrest for allegedly stealing luggage from the Memphis airport’s baggage claim.
Chawla Hotels began in 1989 when Dr. V.K. Chawla, an Indian immigrant and Ph.D.-level government scientist turned small businessman, opened a Comfort Inn in Greenwood. The two sons, born six years apart, worked in the family businesses while growing up. After completing their higher education, they helped their father, now deceased, expand the company to become the largest hotel operator in Mississippi.
Even before Dinesh Chawla’s arrest, there were signs of at least a partial split between the two brothers in their business operations. In August, Suresh Chawla confirmed to the Commonwealth that he and Dinesh had swapped their ownership interests in eight of the company’s 18 properties but that they remained equal partners in 10 others.
Whether that partnership continues, following the formation of Delta Lodging Group, is uncertain.
The press release says the new company will oversee 12 hotels owned by Suresh Chawla in Greenwood, Greenville, Clarksdale, Indianola, Grenada and Yazoo City. The Greenwood properties include the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express, located adjacent to each other on U.S. 82, but there is no mention of the Rodeway Inn, where the hotel company began three decades ago under a different franchise label.
The brothers’ most ambitious endeavor, The Lyric luxury hotel complex in Cleveland, appears to have been put on hold. The partially finished property was supposed to become the flagship location of a new four-star Scion brand being launched by two of President Donald Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr. That business arrangement — as well as a separate deal for the conversion of three other Chawla properties into a three-star brand being created by the Trumps — fell through earlier this year. Eric Trump blamed the collapse of both brand launches on the political climate.
It has been rough sailing for Dinesh Chawla since.
On Aug. 22, the 56-year-old businessman was arrested at the Memphis airport after returning from a trip to Orlando, Florida. He was charged with stealing a suitcase four days prior from the baggage claim and a second suitcase a month earlier. Both pieces of luggage were allegedly found in Dinesh Chawla’s vehicle, which had been parked at the airport during his trip.
According to the reports filed by the Memphis airport police, Dinesh Chawla gave a statement following his arrest in which he acknowledged stealing the suitcases as well as other bags from the airport’s baggage claim over a long period of time.
“Chawla stated that he is no longer in possession of previously stolen bags, as he discards them in various locations,” the police reports said. “Mr. Chawla stated to officer that he knows stealing luggage is wrong, but he does it for the thrill and excitement.”
He is scheduled for an initial hearing Nov. 1 in Shelby County General Sessions Criminal Court in Memphis. If convicted of the two felonies, he would face a sentence of at least two years in prison and as many as 18 years and fines of up to $8,000.
Dinesh Chawla, who lives in Cleveland and works out of one of his hotels there, did not respond this past week to two requests for comment.
•Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or email@example.com.