Article: Nanula’s fortunes fade

Real estate exec searching for exit

Former Disney chief financial officer and Michael Eisner protege Richard Nanula is finding life after the Mouse House isn’t as rosy as he had hoped.

According to an upcoming Fortune magazine article by Patricia Sellers, Nanula, who at 31 was the youngest chief financial officer at a Fortune 500 company when he worked at Disney, is facing some tough times at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the real estate conglom he joined in June as CEO.

Poor relations

Sellers’ article examines how the partnership between Nanula and his former best friend, Starwood chairman and CEO Barry Sternlicht, has disintegrated and that Nanula may be looking for an exit.

The May 10 story points out that in the past year, Starwood, the once shining star of the real estate arena, has lost billions of dollars, mainly attributed to the company losing a unique tax loophole by which it, unlike the Starwood’s competitors, was spared from paying huge taxes.

The crashes of the Asian economies and the credit market also sent Starwood reeling, the story says.

Sellers asserts that because of these knocks to the company’s bottom line and their divergent management styles, Nanula and Sternlicht barely speak to one another.

CEO title removed

Sternlicht even demoted Nanula from CEO, a position Sternlicht adopted, to president.

In fact, relations between the two “got so stormy last fall that Sternlicht, to his credit, brought in an organizational consultant named Michael Feiner … (to work) with Sternlicht and Nanula much the way a therapist would with warring couples.”

Sellers adds that though Nanula, who is well-regarded for his prudence and foresight, was supposed to be the voice of reason compared to Sternlicht and his frenetic style, “shortly after he arrived from Disney last June, things began to fall apart.”

And what does Nanula’s former mentor have to say about the onetime boy wonder’s recent upheaval? “Tell him to call me,” Eisner reportedly told Fortune.

Perhaps, you can go home again.