Millennium & Copthorne appoints new CEO

UK hotel chain Millennium & Copthorne has promoted chief financial officer Wong Hong Ren to the CEO position after the retirement of Richard Hartman.

The publicly-traded company, which is majority owned by Singapore’s City Development Limited said would Wong would continue the company’s current strategy given his experience in streamlining costs as Millennium & Copthorne CFO in reaction to the 2008 financial crisis’ impact on revenue, including putting the Studio M Singapore up for sale.

“Basically, it means business as usual. Mr. Wong has been one of the key architects of the strategy of the group over the past few years working as the executive director of finance and working with the CEO,” Peter Krijgsman, spokesperson for Millennium & Copthorne said. “His appointment as CEO reflects something the Mr. Hartman said, that we’d be looking for someone to execute the existing strategy.”

While Hartman said the company remained in expansion mode in statements to the press earlier this year, Millennium & Copthorne has not accompanied it with a major pipeline announcement, instead saying that the right deal to expand had not been found. The company’s reported pipeline includes 24 hotels, with all but one as management projects instead of purchases.

Although the company remains profitable, more cost-cutting could be on the table given the promotion of Wong. The company’s overall RevPAR in constant currency terms was up 4.8% from the previous year in the first quarter of 2011 and total revenue from hotels was up 6.2%, but profit before tax was down 2.5%. The series of earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand forced the closure of three Millennium & Copthorne hotels.

“At tough times, CFOs are often promoted to CEOs to cut costs rather that push ahead,” William Barney, director at the MRH Hospitality International consulting firm in London said. “The Singaporeans at that hotel group have always been very tight and controlled.”

Hartman, 65, had served as CEO at Millennium & Copthorne since 2008 and was previously in senior positions at InterContinental Hotels Group. He will remain on the Millennium & Copthorne board of directors. Wong, 59 has worked for Millennium & Copthorne since 1996, and was promoted to CFO in 2001. He has served as interim CEO for Millennium & Copthorne previously.