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A changing of the guard is looming at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, as founder Isadore (Issy) Sharp prepares to hand over the reins at the iconic chain as early as next week.


Mr. Sharp is expected to step down as chief executive officer, to be succeeded by current president and chief operating officer Kathleen (Katie) Taylor, according to financial sources close to the company.


The move comes three years after Four Seasons was taken private for $3.4-billion (U.S.) by two of the world’s wealthiest individuals, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a deal that left Mr. Sharp and his family holding a 10-per-cent stake.


The change in command reflects the fact that Mr. Sharp will be 79 this year, and the private equity backers are pushing for a CEO who can “take the company to the next level,” said an investment banker with ties to Four Seasons’ owners. Mr. Gates’ personal holding company, Cascade Investment LLC, is said to be the strongest advocate for the transition. The Prince has been a long-time investor in Four Seasons, with a relationship with Mr. Sharp that dates back 18 years.


A Four Seasons executive had no comment on talk of succession.


Ms. Taylor has been president and COO for three years, and the former lawyer has been with the company for 21 years. She has built a reputation as a formidable operator and is not expected to make radical changes to the ethos of the company, or its executive team.


Mr. Sharp, an architect by training, is revered for building a first-class customer service culture at Four Seasons. He started the chain in 1961 by teaming up with his father, a contractor, to build a small hotel in a seedy neighbourhood of Toronto. Four Seasons is now a global brand, with 82 hotels in 35 countries, and more than 50 properties under development.


Four Seasons, along with its upscale rivals, is struggling to keep rooms full of high-end clients during the recession, which brought on a sharp downturn in business travel. Mr. Sharp has traditionally avoided cutting room rates to woo guests. He has also traditionally spent whatever he felt was needed to burnish the chain’s luxury image. Fresh flowers are a constant in Four Seasons’ lobbies, for example, no matter what the season or the state of the economy.


In most cases, Four Seasons does not own the land or buildings it occupies; instead, it serves as an operator for real estate investors. The chain fought a high-profile court battle last year in San Diego with a property owner over the way that hotel should be run.


The sale of Four Seasons in 2007, at the height of the buyout boom, attracted controversy in part because Mr. Sharp refused to entertain any other offers, which could have resulted in a bidding war for the chain. At the time, Mr. Sharp said the sale was “intended to ensure the legacy of Four Seasons.”


Under the sale, Mr. Sharp personally received $288-million, as part of an incentive plan struck with the chain in 1989.


(Courtesy of The Globe and Mail)

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Un Four Season à Montréal (dans l'ancien building de la Royal Bank ?) fonctionnerait bien à mon avis. Je suis sûr que la bannière reviendra.


Now that be something... It would give the St James a run for its money :highfive:

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C'est seulement le rez-de chaussée qui se libère de l'mmeuble de la royal bank. Les 20 autres étages sont des étages à bureau qui sont occupés par d'autres entreprises et organisations... Mais j'avoue que ce serait bien sur St-Jacques. Peut-être dans l'ancienne banque qui est à vendre (celle à moitié construite qui avaient les énormes statues..

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