Car rental companies playing it cool

The grapevine is buzzing with rumors of early merger talks between Vanguard Car Rental USA, which operates National and Alamo, and the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group. In the car rental world, that would be the biggest hookup since Brangelina.

But when asked to comment on the rumors, spurred by an item in the New York Times, representatives from both companies played coy. "The only comment I can provide you is that it is our policy to not comment on market rumors or speculation," said a Dollar Thrifty representative. Vanguard cut to the chase: "We have no comment."

Things are coming full circle for Hotwire and Sabre, TC hears.

Hotwire, a distressed-inventory site now owned by Expedia, used Sabre for GDS services at launch in 2000 when Hotwire was a standalone company. But then Hotwire changed horses, switching to Worldspan in 2003. TC hears that Hotwire is almost ready for another switcheroo, and it won't be long before Hotwire ditches Worldspan and begins using Sabre again for GDS services.

It's a logical move, given the fact that sister company Expedia.com has been moving much of its booking-engine load off Worldspan in favor of new best-buddy Sabre. Of course, Hotwire could always go for the dual-GDS solution as Expedia.com has done.

In a further twist, and not that this amounts to a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon kind of thing, but the first Hotwire CEO, Karl Peterson, was in on the 2000 decision to use Sabre. Peterson left Hotwire after Expedia acquired it and returned to his roots at Texas Pacific Group, which is one of the two private equity groups on tap to buy Sabre in the next few months.

TC hears that Florida's Palm Beach County could take over management of the Palm Beach County Convention Center from the local convention and visitors bureau. County commissioners ordered an audit of the CVB after an employee was found to be subsidizing a gambling habit with bureau funds, a scandal that led to the resignation of some top CVB officials last year.

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