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Willis, Millennium Hilton settle lawsuit over WTC property program

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NEW YORK—Millennium & Copthorne Hotels P.L.C. last week said it has reached a $17.5 million settlement with a unit of Willis Group Holdings Ltd. over the handling of its 2001 property program and losses from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The hotel chain's Millennium Hilton property—a 565-room high rise located across the street from the World Trade Center site—was damaged in the attacks and remained closed until May 2003. It was fully restored in September 2003.

In October 2005, London-based Millennium and its CDL Hotels USA Inc. subsidiary sued Willis of New York Inc. for $45 million, alleging that Willis failed to secure three years of business interruption coverage that it promised to secure for the hotel as part of its 2001 property program; that it knowingly hid from the hotel that it actually had limited coverage; and that Willis' actions led to a dispute with one of the companies' property insurers.

Under the settlement this week, CDL will receive $17.5 million in cash on or before Dec. 13, according to a statement from Millennium.

Willis, Millennium and CDL have agreed to "a full and final settlement of any and all claims the parties may have had against each other arising out of or related to M&C group's 2001 U.S. property insurance coverage," the statement said.

The $17.5 million is in addition to more than $85 million collectively paid to the owners of the Millennium Hilton for Sept. 11-related damages by CDL's primary and excess carriers, Lexington Insurance Co., and Essex Insurance Co., Greenwich Insurance Co. and Travelers Property Casualty Corp., respectively (BI, March 21, 2005).

A Willis spokesman would only confirm that "the parties have settled the lawsuit," but declined to comment further.