Gaylord to convert to REIT, sell brand and assets to Marriott
* To merge with Ryman Hospitality Properties
* New company to be traded on NYSE under symbol "RHP"
* Company to be taxed as REIT from Jan 1
* Gaylord COO to step down
Sept 25 (Reuters) - Hotel operator Gaylord Entertainment Co's shareholders have voted to sell the Gaylord Hotels brand and the rights to manage its hotels to Marriott International Inc, and reorganize the company as a real estate investment trust (REIT).
Gaylord Entertainment will be merged into Ryman Hospitality Properties and traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "RHP" on Oct. 1, the company said in a statement.
Gabelli Funds LLC, which has a 15 percent stake in the operator of convention-focused hotels, said earlier this month it would vote all of its shares against the plan.
Gaylord, which in May said its conversion to a REIT would reduce the company's tax burden and give its investors higher returns, will be taxed as a REIT from Jan. 1, 2013, the company said.
The REIT will be headed by current Chief Executive Colin Reed, but several members of the management team will leave the company, including two board members and Chief Operating Officer David Kloeppel.
The new company will stop developing large scale resorts and hotels, including two projects currently underway.
As part of the agreement, Gaylord's hotels, Nashville area attractions and Radisson hotel will be managed by Marriott International.
Shares of the Nashville, Tennessee-based company closed at $38.68 on the New York Stock Exchange.
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