Here’s the official statement from Four Seasons as Isadore Sharp steps down and Kathleen Taylor takes on the CEO role:
Four Seasons Hotels Ltd. (Four Seasons) today announced that Isadore Sharp has decided to transition from his role as CEO, and Kathleen Taylor will be appointed President and Chief Executive Officer, effective August 1, 2010. Ms. Taylor joined Four Seasons in 1989 and has served as President and Chief Operating Officer since 2007. Mr. Sharp, the Company’s founder, will remain as Chairman and continue to be involved in the Company, retaining oversight and direction of the design and aesthetics of new and existing hotels in the manner that he has always done. As Chairman, Mr. Sharp will also continue to represent the Company as its goodwill ambassador, building and advancing relationships with partners, employees and customers around the world.
“I’m greatly honoured to become the next CEO of Four Seasons and have the opportunity to continue building on the legacy of leadership and vision established by Issy. Over the course of my career I have experienced firsthand the Company’s commitment to building future leaders through careful development,” said Ms. Taylor. “By working in close partnership with our hotel owners, and focusing on developing our talented employees, we continue to create memorable experiences for our guests every day, ensuring the long term success of Four Seasons.”
Four Seasons started with a modest motor inn that Isadore Sharp opened in Toronto, Canada in 1961. From that humble beginning, Mr. Sharp built the Company to its present portfolio of 82 hotels and, along the way, created one of the most powerful and respected hospitality companies in the industry. The Company’s four pillars: quality, service, culture and brand, have been core to Mr. Sharp’s vision for the Company’s success and will continue to form the foundation for its future growth.
“The long term success of Four Seasons has always been my top priority, and I have long been committed to identifying and developing the next generation of leadership for Four Seasons,” said Mr. Sharp. “Over a decade ago, I recognized that Katie had the potential to become Four Seasons’ next CEO. Since then, we have worked closely together on many strategic, operational, and challenging situations and she has repeatedly proven herself the right choice to lead the Company forward. Our shared values, and our shared and relentless focus on our guests and the employees who serve them, give me complete confidence that the transition will be seamless and that Katie will continue to lead the Company to even greater success.”
“Four Seasons is well positioned to take advantage of the recovery in luxury travel, and we are energized by all the positive developments at the Company,” Ms. Taylor continued. “These include our significant expansion plans for China, which we view as a key strategic market and a robust pipeline of more than 50 projects in development globally. I am firmly committed to the strategies, culture and focus on exceptional guest experiences that have made our Company the leader it is today.”
Laurence Geller, President and CEO of Strategic Hotels & Resorts said, “Issy Sharp is an icon in our industry who has created and led the company to being a global brand synonymous with luxury. As a Four Seasons owner, I have enjoyed a close and collaborative working relationship with both him and Katie over the years and fully expect this transition to be seamless. Katie’s years of experience with Four Seasons, her passion for high-end lodging and her boundless energy will equip her well for the challenges and opportunities ahead. I look forward to continuing our successful partnership with Katie and her team.”
“Katie has a deep understanding and knowledge of the business,” said His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, Chairman of Kingdom Hotels International. “As an investor in Four Seasons since 1994, I have had the opportunity to work closely with Katie for more than fifteen years and know that she will steer the company to ongoing success. She is not only an extremely talented professional, but an inspirational leader, and we are confident that she will continue to build upon Issy’s vision and the achievements of this great Company that he founded 50 years ago.” Kingdom Hotels International, together with Cascade Investment L.L.C. (Cascade), an entity owned by William H. Gates III, and Triples Holdings Limited, a company owned by Isadore Sharp, took Four Seasons private in 2007.
Ms. Taylor, 52, is a 21-year Four Seasons veteran. She joined Four Seasons in 1989 as Corporate Counsel and was appointed Vice President, General Counsel in 1992. She was promoted to Executive Vice President, Corporate Planning and Development in 1997 and was named President, Worldwide Business Operations in 1999. Ms. Taylor has held her current position of President and Chief Operating Officer since January 2007. The Company’s senior leadership team has reported directly to Ms. Taylor since the end of 2006, and she works directly with the key business partners that own the Four Seasons portfolio of hotels.
At Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts: joined in 1989 as Corporate Counsel; appointed Vice President, General Counsel in 1992; promoted to Executive Vice President, Corporate Planning and Development in 1997; appointed President, Worldwide Business Operations in 1999; has held current position since January 2007
Previously: Corporate Securities and Competition Law at Goodmans LLP, including a secondment to the Ontario Securities Commission
Education: (combined) law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, Master of Business Administration from Schulich School of Business, 1984; Bachelor’s Degree in political science from University of Toronto, 1980
Professional moments to remember: the acquisition of Regent Hotels & Resorts in 1992, jump-starting the entry of Four Seasons into the Asian market; and her promotion to Chief Operating Officer in 2007
Personal characteristic that makes sense if you know her: “I consider myself an enabler more than a manager, but I’m also a bit of a control freak”
Alternate career: “one reason I took my law degree and MBA together is because it takes so long; if I could’ve stayed in school forever, I might have”
Most memorable travel experiences: cycling with her husband and friends through Morocco and Vietnam (up next: Thailand); ski vacations with her husband and three children
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.