Loews Hotels & Resorts has named Kirk Kinsell, current president of the Americas at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), as its new chief executive officer. Kinsell will step down from his role at IHG on Feb. 13, 2015, and start his next chapter with Loews on March 2—the same day the company plans to open its new-build, 400-room hotel in downtown Chicago. Paul Whetsell will remain CEO of Loews until that time and 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.
When Whetsell joined Loews Hotels in January 2012, he was tasked with growing the brand through the acquisition of existing hotels and the development of new properties. Under Whetsell’s leadership, Loews bought five hotels—the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, the Back Bay Hotel in Boston, the Graves 601 Hotel in Minneapolis, the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare, and, just last month, the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tuscon, Ariz., which it had managed since the resort opened in 1984.
The company invested $250 million last year on large-scale renovations at about half of its properties, most notably the $100 million revamp of the Loews Regency New York Hotel, which reopened in January 2014. And it opened the new-build, 1,800-room Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando in Florida, joining Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. (When the Loews Sapphire Falls Resorts opens in June 2016, Loews will have five hotels at Universal Studios for a total of 5,200 rooms in its joint venture with Comcast NBC Universal.)
According to Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels, Whetsell was excited to be a part of the team but did not have long-term plans to stay with the company. In the past year, Whetsell asked Tisch to consider changing his role and responsibilities and start the search for a replacement. “Through the interview process, it became apparent early on that Kirk Kinsell was the kind of leader who could take Paul’s contributions and allow the company to continue to grow in a variety of areas, not just the number of hotels,” Tisch told Lodging. “We are anxious to continue to add to our portfolio but also continue to make changes in how we operate the properties and how we sell and market our hotels to the consumer.”
Kinsell joins Loews after 19 years in senior positions with IHG and more than 35 years in the hospitality business. As president of the Americas, Kinsell had more than 3,700 hotels under his management and was responsible for business development and performance of all hotel brands and properties in North and South America. Notable achievements during his tenure include developing and launching three new brands—Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, and Even Hotels.
“If you look at Kirk’s background, his experience in sales and marketing, operations, development, really understanding the consumer, and working with so many properties during his 19 years at IHG, he has really seen the industry evolve and become global,” Tisch said. “He has been part of that for IHG, and now we’re excited at Loews Hotels that he’ll bring lots of experience, even though on a smaller scale than his current employer, to allow us to continue to get better at what we do and expand.”
Over the last three years, Whetsell made a number of constructive changes to Loews senior executive core, Tisch said. The addition of Kinsell doesn’t signal an immediate change in the overall strategy of the company, which currently owns and/or operates 23 hotels and resorts across the United States and Canada. “We will let Kirk get settled, we will let him have an understanding of who we are as an organization, and then we are very open to his ideas about how we can continue to grow the Loews brand,” Tisch said.