• Kinsell moves to Loews

Kirk Kinsell, the president of IHG’s Americas business, is leaving the group to take up a new role as president and CEO at US hotel group Loews.

The move signals the aspirations for Loews to grow its business from a US chain, into an international hotel group. Current head Paul Whetsell, credited with helping drive Loews’ recent growth from 18 hotels in 2012 to the current 22, will stay on as vice chairman.

Kinsell’s replacement at IHG is Elie Maalouf, who joins from management consultant McKinsey where he has been a senior advisor for the last two years. Prior to that, he spent many years with roadside and airport food service company HMS Host, rising to president and CEO of the company. As IHG notes in its appointment announcement, much of HMS Host’s business across 14 countries is based on a franchise model. His early career was in real estate.

Said Maalouf: “I am excited to be joining IHG as CEO of its Americas region. I have enormous respect for IHG and its strong portfolio of brands and have always admired the business. I am passionate about the hospitality sector and I look forward to being able to shape the continued growth of IHG, building on Kirk’s legacy.”

At Loews, company executives have made clear their wish to “focus on building the brand and broadening the customer base through the addition of new properties in gateway cities and resort locations”.

“We’re a fairly small player that wants to get bigger … Kirk has vast International experience. We will be open to his ideas on how we might expand,” Loews chairman Jonathan Tisch told Bloomberg. He added that Kinsell’s “broad experience in development, sales and brand operations makes him an ideal choice to lead Loews Hotels forward in our next phase of growth and operational excellence.”

“Key markets internationally for our clientele are London and Paris,” added Tisch, who also wants to add further representation in key US cities such as San Francisco.

And Kinsell commented: “I am impressed with Loews Hotels and the strategic steps taken over the last few years to enhance the operational effectiveness of the network and strengthen the brand. The company has exceptional assets and a solid foundation in place. I have spent the majority of my career at larger chains, and am gratified by the prospect of being able to shape the continued growth of one of the most storied luxury brands in the industry. On a personal note, I very much look forward to working with Jon and Paul, and with the Loews Hotels executive team.”

The Loews brand dates from 1946 when it was started by the Tisch family in New Jersey. Having started in hotels, today Loews is a US listed conglomerate, which has interests in insurance and energy. Today, the group numbers 22 hotels of which one is in Canada, six in Florida and five are in the north east of the US. Among the recent additions is a former InterContinental property close to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Having opened in 2008, the 556 room hotel suffered as its owners headed into bankruptcy a year later. In November, the group bought the 398 room Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, which it has been operating since 1984. The pipeline includes another Chicago hotel plus a further Orlando property scheduled to open in 2016.

Kinsell has spent 19 years at IHG over two periods. Most recently president of the group’s Americas business, he has previously worked in roles across Mexico, Canada and AMEA. He was also responsible for leading the launch of the Holiday Inn Express and Hotel Indigo brands.

In the years 1995 to 2002, Kinsell left IHG and worked in roles including president of restaurant company Avado Brands, and as president of the franchise division of ITT Sheraton and its Four Points hotels.

“Kirk has made an enormous contribution to the success of IHG,” said IHG chief executive Richard Solomons. “Amongst many other achievements, he developed and launched three successful new brands – Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo and EVEN Hotels, built great relationships with our owners and created a strong leadership team in the Americas. I personally have hugely valued his support and friendship over the years.”

Solomons said of Maalouf: “He has a successful track record of building and developing a global business, working in a franchised environment and of delivering strong financial performance. He will be an excellent addition to IHG’s Executive Committee and I look forward to working with him.”

 

HA Perspective [by Chris Bown]: Kinsell’s long international experience in the hotel game should ensure he can deliver for the Loews directors. They want the brand strengthened, and new destinations added to the portfolio.

Loews other interests are facing challenges. Its Diamond offshore drilling division is facing difficult market conditions, for example, and there was a promise at the most recent results announcement to improve the separate reporting of the hotel business from this quarter forward: clearly an indication that this part of the business is coming more to the fore.

Loews likes to own its hotel properties, and carries mortgage debt on just three. It has a strong balance sheet that means it can finance acquisitions as well as new construction, should opportunities present themselves. Tisch is quoted as acknowledging that there is a lot of capital chasing deals, and it may be that the company will need to position its cash to move fast, in order to secure properties in its desired hot list locations of London and Paris. Kinsell should be well placed to advise on sites and deals that are likely to work best for the Loews brand internationally.

Hiring a management consultant might smack of a lack of inspiration on behalf of IHG but the company is probably looking to Maalouf’s previous experience for value. At HMS Host, Maalouf gained a reputation for delivering strong growth, cutting deals and driving revenues up. He led a company with 34,000 employees and annual sales of USD2.5bn from hundreds of sites.

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