Hire for a buyer?

At Accor’s capital markets day at the end of June, chairman & CEO Sébastien Bazin told the assembled that the group hired one new employee every four minutes. Part of this week’s influx was Gilda Perez-Alvarado, currently global CEO, JLL Hotels & Hospitality, joining as group chief strategy officer of Accor. 

Perez-Alvarado will not officially be influxing until October, but the onboarding team’s loss is everyone else’s gain, because it affords us a sport of beachside speculation about the whys and the hows and the what-does-this-mean-for-electric-car.

Perez-Alvarado said: “I am extremely pleased to be joining Accor which I have long admired as a global innovator in the hospitality industry. I look forward to applying my global hospitality, real estate and capital markets experience and insight to drive forward the group strategy and deliver against the management’s inspiring vision for the company.”

These two ‘global’s added to one from Bazin, making it pretty clear that the strategy for this global group was to be global. We’re going to stop right now and get the ‘well just get bought by Marriott/buy Hyatt then’ done, so that’s ticked off before we move on.

Back to that capital markets day, where Bazin outlined the strategy and commented that “it’s no longer a question of strategy, it is now all about execution”. Skating over what might instead fill Perez-Alvarado’s days for the moment, the plan is to crank up growth in luxury and lifestyle segments, open more than 1,200 hotels in the next five years across the estate and keep on buying stuff. 

Since that comment, new CFO Martine Gerow presented the group’s latest results, which reported NUG of 3.5% when measured over the past year (medium term target is 3% to 5%) and raised full-year guidance for EBITDA from €930m to €970m.

What was lacking in both the results and the capital markets day was the when on earth are you going to split the company up, which takes us back to Perez-Alvarado. Or, as we like to put it, tell us again why you hired the head of a global brokerage? The expansion strategy has been laid out  – and neatly too – so why the new hire? 

Accor has been very careful to move away from owning assets (which is not to say it doesn’t like buying stuff, just not the hotels JLL would be happy to sell you), making much of its enthusiasm for growth through franchise. But when selling off half a company, it helps if you have people in the right places who know the deep pockets, as Bazin was quick to point out when discussing the joys of having former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy on the board. 

Perez-Alvarado also has a reputation as a safe pair of hands. Accor has cut back on the excitement in the past few years, but it’s fair to say that certain analysts have been freaked out by the group and its electric car plan, which thrilled us observers, but made them all nervous and quaky. You’re a hotel company, just do hotels, yes? 

Well, no. The sector needs to expand and be everything to everybody in hospitality land. But being the only company to embrace this has cost Accor. Its share price now is lower than it was five years ago, but has started coming back up this year. Gerow told analysts that she hoped the group’s strong results would help its credit rating. All in all business is frolicking along and it’s looking like it might be a good time to flog something off. 

In this environment a sober driver is just what’s needed to describe the many values of the group to global investors. We’re looking forward to what this means for Giant Deal Fun. But don’t touch the electric cars. 

*bonus contest time*

With Keith Barr no longer at IHG, it falls on us to wonder what has happened to the Dorian Grey portrait of him which must surely be in an attic somewhere in the groups’ portfolio, keeping him forever young. Has it been moved? Is there an agreement with IHG on lifetime storage? Have any IHG employees required sudden leave to deal with a sudden shock, maybe after being in a loft space? All information treated in the strictest confidence, reward on receipt of quality information. 

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