UPDATE 1-Eyeing IPO, Japan's Seibu rehires Cerberus hotel executive

Thu Feb 6, 2014 3:34am EST

* Seibu reinstates hotel industry veteran Stan Brown

* Expanded role for Randy Evans in property and railway posts

* Moves highlight thaw in relations ahead of possible Seibu IPO

TOKYO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Japan's Seibu Holdings said on Thursday it would rehire a senior executive recommended by Cerberus Capital Management LP and expand the role of another in a sign the railway and hotel group is seeking to improve relations with its top shareholder ahead of a planned IPO.

Prince Hotels and Resorts, a core Seibu division and one of Japan's largest hotel chains, said in a statement that Stan Brown, 54, would become its director and executive vice president starting on Friday.

Seibu also said that Randy Evans would become a director and vice president of Seibu Properties Inc, which oversees a vast portfolio of commercial and residential real estate, effective Friday. Evans, 66, will remain a director of the railway division, a post assumed with Cerberus' recommendation in 2012.

Brown had been effectively ousted last year when Seibu did not put him up for reelection as director of the hotel division. The former Marriott International Inc executive was also on the Cerberus slate of directors rejected by Seibu Holdings shareholders in June.

The rehiring of Brown and the expansion of Evans's role are the latest signals that Seibu is looking to work more closely with Cerberus in a bid to improve its operational performance ahead of a possible relisting of its shares later this year.

The two sides had been locked in a bitter public feud during most of 2013 over when to list its stock and at what price.

While Seibu has been eager to go public quickly to fulfil a pledge to give all its shareholders a liquid marketplace to sell their stock, Cerberus has pushed for governance and strategic changes to maximize the IPO price.

Seibu applied to list its shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in January, sources have told Reuters. The offering could be worth more than $1 billion, making it one of Japan's biggest in 2014.

While Seibu does not technically need Cerberus's blessing to press on with an IPO, a lack of cooperation would likely make the offering difficult since the U.S. fund holds by far the largest block of stock with a stake of 35.48 percent.

The thawing in relations is the result of talks between Seibu President Takashi Goto and Cerberus founder Stephen Feinberg over the last month or so, people familiar with their discussions have said.

Seibu was delisted in 2004 in the wake of a disclosure scandal and Cerberus led its bailout with a $1 billion-plus investment.