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The new Four Seasons

Allen Smith is going to be the most watched hotel executive in the world as he takes over Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Welcome to the fishbowl, Allen! The pundits already have started the theories about his background, his agenda and his future.

I think it is very clear that Cascade dominated the search process. All indications pointed to Four Seasons hiring a “real estate” person. At present, Four Seasons is really just an operating and branding company. That is going to have to change if Cascade has a prayer of recovering its equity investment in the business.

The Four Seasons culture is also highly defined and very incestuous. Outsiders don’t usually come in at this level. Allen’s greatest weakness (no real hotel experience) may be his greatest strength. He will have to make some gut-wrenching changes out of the gate if Four Seasons is to become a real hotel chain.

Cascade will also have to make significant investments in real estate (probably the last thing the company really wants to do) if it wants to use the markets to rebound.

Smith will have to think about segmentation as well, which FS has staunchly resisted in the past. Could there be a Four Seasons light, extended stay and/or lifestyle play in its future?

One thing is clear: Smith will not be able to dig himself and the company out of its valuations hole by adding a few more management contracts. I wish Allen and his team all the best with their new journey. It will be an interesting one.

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