How Sébastien Bazin has transformed AccorHotels
 
How Sébastien Bazin has transformed AccorHotels
08 MAY 2018 8:50 AM

This timeline of AccorHotels’ history since Sébastien Bazin became CEO in August 2013 has been updated through April 2018, when the French hotel firm bought Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts for 560 million Swiss francs ($558.5 million).

Editor’s note: The timeline has been updated to include AccorHotels’ deals and acquisitions involving Orient Express, Mantra, Mantis, its introduction of the AccorLocal initiative and selling 55% of its AccorInvest portfolio for €4.4 billion ($5.2 billion). To read the newest additions to the timeline, click here.

GLOBAL REPORT—AccorHotels CEO Sébastien Bazin has led the France-based publicly traded hotel company through a transformative period since he joined in August 2013.

Through mergers-and-acquisitions activity and shifts in strategy, Bazin has helped AccorHotels become one of the most innovative and powerful companies in the hotel industry.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights of Bazin’s tenure thus far.

August 2013—Europe’s largest hotel chain appoints Sébastien Bazin as its CEO and chairman. Bazin is appointed after serving as CEO and managing director, Europe, for its most prominent investor, Colony Capital, following AccorHotels’ previous CEO Denis Hennequin.

November 2013—Bazin quickly reverses course on AccorHotels’ strategy of being asset-light, splitting its operations and ownership divisions while continuing to own and manage both. The operations division, named HotelServices, manages approximately 3,600 hotels with approximately 460,000 keys, and its owner division, HotelInvest, has approximately 1,400 hotels, approximately 300 of which are fully owned.

To explain the move, Bazin says AccorHotels had “lost some of its innovation and its ability to adapt to change. Our current structure requires separate skills sets to take the right directions, and the financial requirements are different for each.” Shares in the firm fall 7% on the news.

January 2014—Bazin hires Vivek Badrinath as deputy CEO from telecommunications company Orange. His role is to put the pieces in place that can have the French hotel firm compete with the online booking behemoths so as to attract further investment and development capital.

May 2014—AccorHotels purchases two portfolios of hotels the chain already manages for just over €1.6 billion ($1.7 billion). The first batch contains 11,286 rooms in Germany (67 hotels) and The Netherlands (19 hotels), the second having 11 hotels and 1,592 rooms in Switzerland.

June 2014—Bazin breaks ground for financing in Europe when AccorHotels becomes one of the first companies to embrace mezzanine financing to raise close to €900 million ($963 million).

October 2014—AccorHotels acquires a 35% stake in lifestyle chain Mama Shelter. At the time, the deal represents new territory for the Paris-based global hotel owner and operator … which has little history of acquiring minority stakes in standalone brands.

Also this month, Bazin tells a gathering of hoteliers, consultants and journalists his company intends to spend “€225 million ($240.6 million in a four-year digital plan that will enable it to take back bookings share via innovations in loyalty and customer experience and being outstanding players at every stage of the customer journey.”

April 2015—AccorHotels buys Fastbooking, a digital services firm providing hotel website development, distribution-channel management, digital marketing, revenue-management optimization and competitive analysis to almost 4,000 properties around the world.

June 2015—AccorHotels opens its distribution platform to hand-picked independents.

Badrinath said AccorHotels’ platform of approximately 3,800 hotels would increase to approximately 10,000 but that pulling in global independents does not constitute a soft brand.

December 2015—Bazin orchestrates the biggest deal of his tenure, with a $2.9-billion acquisition of FRHI Holdings Limited and its Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands from the Qatar Investment Authority, Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia and Oxford Properties, an Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System company.

The transaction provides a €768-million ($821 million) cash payment and the issuance of 46.7 million AccorHotels shares in consideration for the contributed FRHI shares. The deal also includes stakes in AccorHotels of 10.4% to the QIA and 5.8% to KHC as well as seats on AccorHotels’ Board of Directors.

Amid the flagship properties obtained in the FRHI Holdings deal was the Savoy London, managed by Fairmont. (Photo: Terence Baker)

At the time of the signing, FRHI’s three brands include 115 hotels and approximately 43,000 rooms across 34 countries, with 40 hotels in the pipeline. The deal helps propel AccorHotels back into the North American market, which the company left when it sold control of the Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands in May 2012 for $1.9 billion to an affiliate of Blackstone Group.

February 2016—AccorHotels further dives into the lifestyle distribution game by acquiring a 30% stake in Oasis Collections, which distributes private rental accommodation that is combined with hotel services and amenities, and a 49% stake in Squarebreak, which distributes private upscale lodgings in resort destinations, primarily in France, Morocco and Spain. No price is disclosed for either acquisition.

March 2016—By the end of the first quarter 2016, Bazin oversees a hotel firm with 3,900 hotels and more than 500,000 guestrooms in its portfolio of 15 brands, operating 31% under franchise agreements and 69% under management contracts.

April 2016—AccorHotels’ announces plans to buy luxury serviced-homes provider Onefinestay for €148 million ($158.3 million).

Bazin tells HNN that his company “will dominate this space” and commit a further €64 million ($68.4 million) through 2018. At the time of the deal, Onefinestay provides distribution and services to 2,600 properties in five cities, with Bazin adding he wants to increase that city count to 40.

May 2016—Bazin sets up the Global Innovation Lab so that AccorHotels can study all points in the hospitality industry and across all aspects of guests’ booking journeys and changing, evolving travel habits.

July 2016—AccorHotels shareholders confirm the FRHI Holdings deal, but a slight hump forms on the smooth road that is AccorHotels with the departure of Badrinath, who was the spearhead behind Bazin’s digital rollout. Badrinath accepts an invitation to hold a position on AccorHotels’ board.

September 2016—AccorHotels announces a new brand called Jo&Joe, with the intention of capturing millennial demand for social hostel-hotel experiences. The chain’s 20th brand, Jo&Joe’s assets will have both unbranded and branded areas, and AccorHotels sets a goal to open 50 properties by 2020.

Greg Marsh, Onefinestay’s co-founder, chairman and CEO, exits the company. No reason was given for the departure, and Evan Frank is appointed as Marsh’s replacement.

October 2016—Third-quarter 2016 numbers show AccorHotels’ overall business is tempered somewhat by poor numbers in its home market of France, which are the result of terrorism incidents, and to additional extent in spots such as Belgium and Brazil, the latter due to general economic malaise.

November 2016—AccorHotels completes the acquisition of upscale concierge firm John Paul for $150 million. Under the agreement, John Paul founder David Amsellem retains his CEO status and a 20% stake in his company, which employs more than 1,000 people.

The deal is yet another acquisition that sees AccorHotels moving into non-traditional hospitality areas.

AccorHotels quickly follows this with another deal, this time buying a 30% stake of German brand 25hours Hotels.

December 2016—The French firm’s HotelInvest division unloads 85 European economy and midscale properties, either from the sale of the properties outright or the sale of the business interests held in them. The portfolio has a value of €504 million ($539 million).

The activity continues with the purchase of a 5% stake (which could be increased to 10%) in Singaporean brand Banyan Tree in another push to dominate the lifestyle sector. Part of the deal is that any new Banyan Tree properties that derive from the collaboration are to be managed by AccorHotels, which at the time of the deal had 22 assets.

January 2017—AccorHotels’ executives decide to bundle three of its newly created and partially acquired hotel brands into a new lifestyle division led by Cédric Gobilliard, former SVP of operations, Mercure and Novotel, France. Beginning his role on 1 February, Gobilliard manages Jo&Joe, Mama Shelter and 25hours Hotels.

February 2017—AccorHotels agrees to buy 100% of Travel Keys, a broker representing more than 5,000 luxury villas in more than 100 global destinations. The company announces that the “combination of Travel Keys with Onefinestay and Squarebreak will provide AccorHotels with a unique offering of about 8,500 addresses … with highly curated properties in both the vacation and urban segments.”

At its full-year 2016 earnings announcement and analyst call, Bazin announces AccorHotels is to change tack once again and become asset-light, albeit with some remaining control over a new entity named AccorInvest, nominally headquartered in Luxembourg.

March 2017—The acquisitions streak continues with a 50% buy of Turkish resort firm Rixos Hotels.

Bazin says the deal is another example of AccorHotels putting experience and distribution muscle behind a proven brand and idea but without stifling existing management. Rixos has 23 all-inclusive resorts, nine of which are in Turkey, four in Kazakhstan.

When much of the rest of the world is turning away from Turkey, AccorHotels’ acquired 50% of the operations of Rixos Hotels, an all-inclusive product that includes Rixos The Palm Dubai. (Photo: Rixos Hotels)

Soon after, the company announces a complete overhaul of budget brand HotelF1. AccorHotels announced in 8 March the sale of 62 HotelF1 assets to Société Nationale Immobilière comprising of seven fully owned hotels and 55 leased ones.

In one more March acquisition, Bazin adds Availpro to AccorHotels’ arsenal, boosting the company’s distribution prowess.

April 2017—The French hotel firm acquires for an undisclosed sum VeryChic, a digital platform for the private sale of luxury hotel rooms, apartments and vacation breaks and packages, according to a news release. Founded in 2011, VeryChic boasts 5 million members and partnerships with 3,000 luxury and upscale hotel properties in 40 countries.

June 2017—AccorHotels makes one of the first significant signings following its acquisition of FRHI Holdings—and its Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands—in December 2015, with the announcement it would open the Raffles London in 2020. The hotel will have 125 rooms, as well as residences and occupy the 1906 Old War Office that, among other notable organizations, housed the U.K.’s Secret Service. The developers are Hinduja Group and Obrascon Huarte Lain Desarrollos.

July 2017—AccorHotels joins three of its recent acquisitions into one group, with Onefinestay, Travel Keys and Squarebreak now under the leadership of Javier Cedillo-Espin, the CEO of Onefinestay.

At the end of the month, AccorHotels announces the completion of its acquisition of upscale villa digital platform Squarebreak. The new group contains more than 10,000 upscale, private villa and home rentals, along with hospitality and concierge services. The French hotel firm bought the first 49% of Squarebreak in February 2016.

AccorHotels also creates a joint-venture partnership with Bouygues Group to speed up the rollout of workspace initiative Nextdoor, first in France and then elsewhere in Europe. The partnership aims to create 80 workspaces by 2022, at a development rate of 10 to 15 launches per year.

October 2017—On 4 October, AccorHotels acquires a 50% stake of the share capital of Orient Express. French national train carrier SNCF previously owned 100% of Orient Express. No price was disclosed, but the deal allows AccorHotels to develop branded hotels under the Orient Express name.

On 12 October, AccorHotels buys Australia’s Mantra Group Limited for 3.96 Australian dollars ($2.98) per share in cash. Mantra is one of Australia’s largest hotel and resort marketers and operators with 127 properties and more than 20,000 rooms in hotels, resorts and serviced apartments across Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Hawaii.

Properties in Mantra’s portfolio range from luxury accommodations and coastal resorts to serviced apartments in city and key leisure destinations, under three key brands: Peppers (28 properties), Mantra (75 properties) and BreakFree (24 properties). AccorHotels said the acquisition will be accretive to earnings per share in the first year of ownership pre-synergies. AccorHotels will pay AU$1.3 billion ($1 billion).

In this busy month, AccorHotels also buys Gekko, a business-travel hotel reservation system that is connected to more than half a million hotels worldwide. A news release stated “the transaction, which valued Gekko at €100 million ($119.3 million), will have an accretive effect on AccorHotels’ financial performance from 2018.”

November 2017—AccorHotels decides to end its project of opening its distribution platform to independent hotels, a plan began in June 2015 when then-deputy CEO Vivek Badrinath said the company would include 10,000 independent hotels in 320 markets on the French hotel firm’s own distribution platform. At the time of the announcement, only 2,000 properties signed up for the initiative, according to sources.

In mid-November, AccorHotels launches AccorLocal, which gives local shopkeepers and artisans the opportunity to offer their products within the company’s hotels, while properties can “promote their hospitality services to a non-resident clientele,” according to a news release.

At the time of launch, AccorLocal already has approximately “3,000 active users and now offers hundreds of services in more than 250 hotels in France. AccorLocal will be rolled out in 2018 and 2019 in major cities and capitals around the world.”

February 2018—During a 2017 full-year earnings presentation—in which AccorHotels showed a like-for-like operating profit of €492 million ($586.7 million)—Bazin responds to criticism that AccorHotels was not moving fast enough concerning its part sale of the AccorInvest hotel portfolio and it spent too much on FRHI Holdings.

“I heard it all; 90% of people had doubts or were extraordinary aggressive,” he said. “‘Your synergy is total rubbish.’ All of those of you who said that to me, come back and see me; we’ll have a glass of wine together; it’s on me. But take a look at what we’ve achieved.”

A week later, AccorHotels completes a 55% sale of its owned portfolio via AccorInvest, also known as the Booster project, for €4.4 billion ($5.2 billion). Bazin confirms AccorHotels will keep the largest single percentage of assets, which would be capped at 30%, and thus voting rights.

With the transaction expected to close by the second quarter of 2018, AccorHotels pledges to implement a two-year timeline of returning €1.35 billion ($1.6 billion) to shareholders via share buybacks, which represents 10% of its share capital based on current market capitalization. As part of the deal, AccorHotels retains management contracts on the assets.

March 2018—The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission approves AccorHotels’ deal to acquire Mantra Group on 8 March.

April 2018—AccorHotels purchases 50% of South Africa’s Mantis Group for an undisclosed sum and its collection of 28 privately owned, managed and branded hotels—including the Draycott Hotel in London and Founders Lodge in Sidbury, Eastern Cape, South Africa—eco lodges, game reserves and luxury houseboats under the Zambezi Queen Collection. The agreement is still subject to regulatory approvals.

AccorHotels acquires Scottish firm ResDiary, a table reservation system formed in 2004, which will give AccorHotels access to that firm’s presence in 60 countries and 8,600 venues, in which it seats approximately 166 million diners per year.

AccorHotels closes April with the purchase of Swiss brand Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts for 560 million Swiss francs ($558.5 million) from Mövenpick Holding and Saudi Arabian firm Kingdom Holdings, which formerly owned 66.6% and 33.3%, respectively. Mövenpick has in operation 84 hotels, with a further 42 in its pipeline.

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