Speculation that Starwood Capital will swoop for Whitbread has increased after it emerged that the US company has poached the UK leisure giant's former property director.
A report in today's Financial Times revealed Desmond Taljaard has joined Starwood as vice-president and head of asset management.
Analysts believe that any move by Starwood, possibly together with UK-based private equity firm Apax Partners, for all or part of Whitbread may trigger a bidding war, flushing out other suitors.
Premier Travel Inn (PTI) owner Whitbread has been undertaking a restructuring of its own under boss Alan Parker.
Last month Whitbread said it would return £350m to shareholders after strong performances from PTI and Costa.
By Chris Druce