2014 in Review: Major Career Moves

Throughout the year, we stay on top of a steady stream of new hires, promotions, successions, and retirements in the lodging industry. But there are always a few surprises along the way, especially when top hotel execs move on to new positions or resign from long-held posts. Here are the comings and goings that made 2014 interesting:

Greg Mount: Greg Mount started his new job as president and CEO of Red Lion Hotels Corporation in January, and already the company has significantly increased the velocity of its growth. In addition to a wave of new franchise agreements, Red Lion has launched a new lifestyle brand (Hotel RL), a redesigned website, and a new guest recognition program. Mount succeeded Jim Evans, who had served as interim president and CEO since August 2013 and had led the company through its sale of non-strategic assets. Mount brings more than 25 years of experience to Red Lion and prior to joining the company served as president of Richfield Hospitality, Sceptre Hospitality, and Richfield Hospitality China.

Sterling Stoudenmire: When Sterling Stoudenmire came on board as president and CEO of America’s Best Franchising (ABF) in February, he was tasked with dramatically redefining, repositioning, and relaunching the company’s brands. Knowing that ABF intended to move quickly, Vantage Hospitality President and CEO Roger Bloss seized the chance to start a dialogue with Stoudenmire about a potential partnership. Vantage entered into an agreement to acquire ABF’s six core brands in July, adding 200-plus hotels to its portfolio. (See also: Vantage to Transform America’s Best Franchising Brands.)

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Eric Danziger: In March, Wyndham Hotel Group President and CEO Eric Danziger passed the torch to Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of the hospitality company’s timeshare exchange and vacation rental division. Spending 200 days a year traversing the globe had taken its toll on Danziger, so the 40-year industry veteran decided it was time for a change in lifestyle. Danziger stepped down from Wyndham to embark on his final project as the new president and CEO of New York-based Hampshire Hotels Management, which includes the Dream, Night, and Time brands. 

Bruce Haase: Following a 12-year tenure at Choice Hotels, Bruce Haase moved into the CEO position at Value Place in April. While with Choice, Haase was responsible for overseeing the company’s global operating functions, including brand management, marketing, franchise development, franchisee relations, international operations, loyalty, e-commerce, and procurement. In his new role, Haase has been on a mission to accelerate Value Place’s growth. “We’re trying to take it from an entrepreneurial company to a serious brand,” Haase told Lodging. (As part of the transition to this next phase of growth, the company had also hired Ron Burgett, formerly of Red Lion Hotels Corporation, as its EVP of franchise development a couple of months prior to bringing Haase on board.)

Fred Schwartz: After leading the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) for 18 years, President Fred Schwartz resigned in July. Former Georgia State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has stepped in as interim president, and the association will launch a national search for its next president in January. Under Schwartz’s leadership, AAHOA increased its membership from 3,000 in 1996 to more than 13,000, according to the association. The 30-year hospitality veteran has held senior management positions with Hyatt Hotels, Warwick International, and Crowne Plaza.

Mark Williams: Last year, Mark Williams made our list after he left Best Western and assumed the role of director of business development at G6 Hospitality. He had only held the position for about a year when Vantage Hospitality tapped him to serve as its new group president and lead its midscale to upscale brands. Vantage has been building up its bench strength ever since the ABF acquisition. (See alsoVantage Celebrates Coming of Age at Brand Conference)

Mike Leven: Industry icon Mike Leven, 77, retired this month as president and COO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. He will continue to serve as a member of LVS and Sands China Ltd. Board of Directors. During a half a century in the hotel business, Leven has held such roles as president at Americana Hotels, Days Inn, Holiday Inn, and U.S. Franchise Systems (which he also founded). He also co-founded AAHOA. Along the way, he has amassed nearly every award and recognition to be had in the hotel industry, including the lifetime achievement award at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in January. But the thing he’s most proud of is co-founding AAHOA. “It’s truly an American, freedom experience,” he told Lodging. “That’s the legacy I want.”

Kirk Kinsell: After 19 years in senior positions with InterContinental Hotels Group, Kirk Kinsell will step down from his role as president of the Americas on Feb. 13, 2015 to start his next chapter as CEO of Loews Hotels & Resorts. He’ll officially report for duty on March 2, the same day Loews is scheduled to open its new-build, 400-room hotel in downtown Chicago. Current CEO Paul Whetsell will then move into the vice chairman position. Over at IHG, Elie Maalouf, senior adviser at McKinsey & Company and former president and CEO of HMSHost Corporation, will succeed Kinsell.