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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Michael Wale, Starwood Hotel Group

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Michael Wale, Starwood Hotel Group

Overall ranking: 60 (NEW ENTRY)Hotelier ranking: 12 (NEW ENTRY)

Michael Wale - Snapshot

In June 2012, Michael Wale was promoted to senior vice-president, regional director operations for Western Europe, taking over responsibility for Starwood Hotel Group's operations in Spain and Portugal in addition to his previous remit in North West Europe.

Wale now oversees hotels in 13 countries where eight of Starwood's nine hotel brands are represented, namely Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, St Regis, W Hotels, Le Méridien and Aloft. The brands contribute to Starwood having the largest luxury footprint in the world.

He is based in the UK, at the Park Lane Hotel.

Michael Wale - Career guide
Wale has been with Starwood for almost 35 years. He started his career as a graduate in 1978 at what was then ITT Sheraton. He has risen through the ranks, from being the company's first management trainee in the UK at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel at Heathrow, to holding the remit for 54 hotels in Western Europe.

By 1989, he had risen to the role of general manager at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh, becoming the youngest general manager in Europe at the age of 32. Under his management, the Grand won Sheraton Hotel of the Year in 1990 and 1991.

After success in general and area manager roles, in 1996 he became managing director of the Park Lane Hotel plc and was appointed vice-president, Sheraton Europe.

Additionally, in January 1998, he was appointed Area Director for Starwood Hotels & Resorts in the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia and Turkey and General Manager of Europe's first complexed hotels in London.

In August 2002, he became senior vice-president, regional director Operations North-West Europe, assuming additional responsibility for Starwood's four properties in France.

Following Starwood's acquisition of the Le Méridien brand in November 2005, Michael became senior vice-president Le Méridien Operations. Based in London, he and the global Starwood integration team have worked on the transition period for Starwood's eighth hotel brand.

The past couple of years have seen him launching and raising the profile of the Aloft and W brands across Europe and the UK and restoring luxury hotels in key locations in France and Spain.

Michael Wale - What we think

The past 18 months have been key for Wale in expanding Starwood's major brands. In 2011 he launched the W brand in the UK with the opening of W London-Leicester Square, followed by the opening of Aloft London Excel in October 2011.

This work has been matched by new projects abroad. He launched the W brand in France with the opening of W Paris-Opera in Feb 2012 and has been active in Spain where he re-launched two Luxury Collection hotels: Seville's Hotel Alfonso XIII, and San Sebastian's Hotel Maria Cristina, after multi-million pound renovations in May and July 2012 respectively.

In Spring 2013, Wale will re-open the Prince de Galles in Paris. The Luxury Collection hotel closed in 2011 for a multi-million pound renovation, led by designer Pierre-Yves Rochon which covers guestrooms, a new fitness centre and a 9th floor presidential suite with private lift access.

Wale has an innate understanding of what he calls the "seismic growth of luxury travel", which has driven Starwood to double its luxury room count in the past five years. He told Caterer and Hotelkeeper: "A new Generation LuXurY has emerged - Gen Y or Gen X consumers who were born after 1961 and whose approach to luxury is decidedly less formal than their wealthy brethren of old. It is less about age and more about mind set; our new luxury consumers have little interest in protocol, they are digitally connected, multi-national and cultured; they seek out travel as life-enriching experiences, which shatter the margin between business and leisure."

Wale has always acknowledged the benefits he derived from graduate training and since 1990 has spearheaded skills development within the group. He helped found the Vita Futura Graduate Management programme in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and is committed to the view that graduates should be given the opportunity to design their own future.

Developing this idea further for the more seasoned manager, Wale was also the driving force behind the Starwood Mentoring Programme which was introduced for those who wanted to have a learning partner and guide assigned to them who would then influence their personal and professional development.
Wale is also a high-profile supporter of charities and was seen twice cycling the London 2012 Olympic marathon course this summer (a total of 52 miles) with associates from Starwood Hotels in Central London and helped raise more than £14,000 for Unicef.

First Aloft for UK opens next week >>

Starwood inches nearer to Le Meridien deal >>**

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