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RLJ Lodging Trust Names African-American Woman Its Next CEO

RLJ Lodging Trust CEO Leslie Hale

RLJ Lodging Trust, a Bethesda, Maryland-based hotel REIT, will soon be under new leadership.

The company named Leslie Hale as president and CEO. She will take over in August from CEO Ross Bierkan, who will retire. 

Hale previously served as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for RLJ, where she has worked since 2005. Before joining RLJ, Hale worked at General Electric and Goldman Sachs. She also serves on the board of directors for Macy's and is a trustee of Howard University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in finance in 1994. 

"Leslie has done an incredible job as both COO and CFO," RLJ founder and Chairman Robert L. Johnson said in a release. "She knows our strategy well, and with her deep involvement in both the operational and financial sides of the business, she is uniquely prepared to succeed Ross and lead the Company forward."

Johnson founded RLJ after selling Black Entertainment Television, which he founded along with his now-ex-wife, Sheila. Hale is the first African-American woman CEO of a REIT, placing her in rarefied air in commercial real estate among women and people of color.

RLJ's portfolio consists of 155 hotels with 30,200 rooms across 26 states and the District. The REIT recently merged with FelCor in a $7B deal. It currently has a $3.4B market cap.