Tenures of hotel CEOs, politicians similarly exhausting
Tenures of hotel CEOs, politicians similarly exhausting
03 JULY 2017 7:02 AM

A hotel company CEO’s life must be equal parts fun but exhausting. It’s not surprising that the top executives all look for further challenges after five to 10 years.

This summer sees two high-profile hoteliers ride off into the resort sunset after successful tenures at the very top of their companies.

On Friday, InterContinental Hotels Group’s Richard Solomons probably tidied his paper stack and pens on his desk in Denham, England, with a satisfied smile. At the end of next month, Frank Fiskers, CEO at Scandic Hotels Group, will do the same in Stockholm.

Richard Solomons sat in the big chair for almost exactly six years from July 2011 to June 2017. Frank Fiskers started as Scandic’s CEO in April 2007, left the company in August 2010 and returned as CEO in October 2013. He will retire on the last day of July.

It occurred to me—after the United Kingdom’s June of utter political chaos—that CEOs are rather like political dynasties. After 10 years, or after two to two-and-a-half government terms, the voters get bored of the incumbents and seemingly collectively agree that enough is enough, and perhaps either boards or the CEOs themselves of major companies feel the same way.

I should add that when a CEO “resigns,” that could well mean s/he is “pushed,” but I will assume that is not the case.

I have no doubt that Solomons and Fiskers made their decisions on their own terms, and good luck to them. I have had the privilege of interviewing them both.

Both retire in their mid-50s, with—I sincerely hope—many years in which to enjoy their retirement, so my theory on tenure is not merely a case of company men and women moving slowly to the top and thus only having five to 10 years at the very top before retirement.

The global aspect of hotels means the CEOs of these international and regional companies spend much of their time traveling, and that does not mean sitting poolside with a cocktail, but flying, waiting by carousels and renewing their passports far more times than ordinary individuals.

That, I am sure, can be extremely exhausting.

Here are some examples, and they were the first three that came to mind:

  • Andy Harrison was CEO of Whitbread, parent of the Premier Inn brand, from September 2010 to February 2016, for a total of five-and-a-half years.
  • Frits van Paasschen led Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide from September 2007 to February 2015, or approximately seven-and-a-half years.
  • Grant Hearn, CEO of Travelodge (U.K.), ran the company from March 2003 to November 2013, but he left the company for two years before the Travelodge board invited him back into the role. So Hearn worked for about eight years as CEO.

Several political parallels exist. In the U.K., there is the approximately 12-year term of the Labour government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown between 1997 and 2010. Then came the current wobbles experienced by the incumbent Conservative Party since 2010 under David Cameron and Theresa May. In the U.S., the Democrats and Republicans seem to divide government in neat eight-year parcels, with a recent common theme being that the president who wins his first term often wins re-election, after which constitutionally he is not able to stand again.

Anyway, I am veering off point a little, but eight to 10 years is a long time in any life, especially one as busy as a hotel company CEO. The secret, I imagine, is to leave with a sense of unrivaled satisfaction and achievement and to hand over a healthy firm to sound hands.

Solomons’ successor, Keith Barr, was IHG’s chief commercial officer. Over at Scandic, Even Frydenberg has been announced as Fiskers’ replacement. Frydenberg spent many years at Starwood, and after Marriott International’s acquisition of the company, his most recent position was COO of Western Europe.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  • Jim July 9, 2017 7:04 PM Reply

    The CEOs that last the longest are the ones that have figured out how to delegate and that feel not threatened by the delegation. then they wouldn't get burnt out after 5-6 years. I think it's interesting that Hilton and Marriott, which are clearly the top two hotel companies in todays market, have had only 3-4 CEO's each in their very, very long histories. For most of the other hotel companies, it has indeed been a revolving door of sorts which I believe creates and unstable environment where employees are afraid to be bold, aggressive and successful.. My two cents.

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