• Accor’s new team but old approach

Accor's new boss Gilles Pelisson, who was formally elected by shareholders last week, has outlined his new team to run Europe's largest hotelier.

While his move into office draws a line under the succession battle that engulfed the company following the ousting of Jean-Marc Espalioux last autumn, it does not look like a long-term fix for the tensions within the company.

The new corporate governance structure at Accor sees the abolition of the supervisory and management boards. Instead, a 17-strong board of directors has been created that features 10 independent directors and five non-French nationals.

Colony Capital, the US private equity firm that agreed to invest Eu1bn into Accor last March, has two representatives on the board. Other financiers have a further five seats.

The previous five-strong management board has been replaced with a 12-strong executive committee. Out have gone former CEO Espalioux; Benjamin Cohen; John Du Monceau; and Andre Martinez. Only Jacques Stern has made it through to the new team.

There has been the introduction of a couple of non-Accor veterans to the executive committee line-up. Notable is Phillippe Adam, who is director of strategy and hotel development and has moved across from contract catering giant Compass.

Another key figure is Yann Caillere, the former head of Louvre Hotels, who is taking up the newly created post of chief operating officer for Southern Europe, including France. He is also in charge of Sofitel.

Other posts on the committee are being filled according to Accor's existing geographic hierarchy. This includes David Baffsky as chief operating officer of Accor Asia Pacific and London-based Michael Flaxman as COO of Hotels Northern Europe.

The new faces on the executive committee do not look as inspired as the hirings at some of Accor's rivals. Hilton International brought in its new boss from Black & Decker, InterContinental went to Cadbury Schweppes and Starwood to Coca-Cola.

By contrast, bringing in Yann Caillere from your main domestic rival is hardly a decisive step towards a new hotel industry. And Pelisson seems determined to do things the French way. He pointedly made reference to avoiding the massive property sales that are being carried out by Anglo-American rivals such as InterContinental or Starwood.

To an extent, he has more wriggle room than his rivals. Accor has made a good fist of its divestment strategy so far, shifting its budget hotels into variable leases and even taking advantage of France's new Real Estate Investment Trust legislation SIIC.

But Pelisson will surely not be able to keep private his three-year strategic plan as he currently intends. There remains too much bad blood within the group relating to his own arrival, a process that started last September.

Pelisson's appointment had been opposed by a number of Accor's financial backers including BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and Caisse des Depots & Consignations. The main issue was one of nepotism: Pelisson was the nephew of co-founder Gerard Pelisson and, despite stints at EuroDisney and Bouyes Telecom, it was felt a more experienced candidate should be found.

The row was settled by the agreement to split the role of chairman and chief executive but not until after a nasty public relations battle between the two camps that saw the details of the shortlist of rival candidates leaked to the press. This led to Pierre Danon, one of the candidates, losing his job at Capgemini.

The new chairman, Serge Weinberg, the former chief executive of retailer PPR, admitted that the succession had not been handled well. He said the board were determined never to see a repeat of such a performance.

This might not be possible. Going by what strategy pronouncements have been made so far, Pelisson is hardly trying to make a radical break from the past. He says he wants to focus on individual Accor brands, reversing the previous umbrella branding policy. It makes sense, but this not going to have investors diving into their pockets to hand over more money.

More troubling is his belief that he can extract 'synergies' from the 30% stake in Club Med. There are clearly some opportunities to reduce costs – such as by using Accor's buying power to supply Club Med villages – but this does not compensate for the original decision to buy the stake.

The move was widely condemned by investors who would have preferred Accor to begin streamlining its already complex businesses rather than adding to the confusion.

Perhaps Pelisson will be able to shelter under Accor?s new structure for a few years but investors in the company deserve a more dynamic approach. After all, that is why Espalioux was ousted in the first place.

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