Overall ranking: 3 (ranked 15 in 2011)
Hotelier ranking: 1 (ranked 5 in 2011)
After his first year as chief executive of Intercontinental Hotels Group, Richard Solomons has overseen the launch of two new brands, EVEN and Hualuxe, as well as continuing the expansion of the group's other brands into existing and new markets.
Since taking over from Andrew Cosslett last year, Solomons has continued the group's expansion pipeline and continual innovation of the product.
IHG has more guest rooms than any other hotel company in the world - with 666,873 rooms (4,542 hotels) in 100 countries globally between nine brands - InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites and now Hualuxe and EVEN. There are a further 1,060 hotels in the pipeline representing nearly 167,485 additional rooms - over 40% of which have begun construction.
Richard Solomons - Career guide
Solomons has a BA (Econ) Hons from Manchester University and qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG Peat Marwick in 1985. Prior to joining IHG, he worked in investment banking for seven years with Hill Samuel Bank Limited, based in New York and London.
Since arriving at IHG in June 1992, Solomons has held a number of senior roles including chief operating officer of the Americas hotels division and latterly as chief financial officer and head of commercial development - a role he had held since 2003.
During this time, he led the global finance organisation for the group and was responsible for corporate and regional finance, group financial control, strategy, investor relations, tax, treasury, commercial development and procurement. This oversaw the £1b overhaul of the Holiday Inn brand and the group's major drive into the Chinese hotel market. He is also a member of the IHG board and executive committee. Married with three children, he took over from Cosslett as chief executive on 1 July last year.
Since then he has launched two new brands into the IHG stable: EVEN - a health and wellbeing focussed lifestyle brand which will see the first 230-bedroom site open in New York in late 2014 with plans for a further 100 within five years; and Hualuxe - a luxury brand dedicated to the Chinese market in China. He also launched a hospitality training academy in partnership with Newham College in London which aims to help fill some of the 3,000 jobs expected to be created by the group's UK expansion programme.
Richard Solomons - What we think
After a year in IHG's top job, the group appears to be in safe hands. At the time of his appointment IHG's now former chairman, David Webster, called Solomons "an able and worthy successor" who will continue to drive the company's growth strategy and as Solomons himself stated upon his appointment, "it marks a new chapter, not a new book" in the IHG story.
And the changeover does appear to have gone remarkably smoothly, with no major change in strategy and a continued focus on revamping the product and expanding brands. February saw the first Hotel Indigo in mainland Europe, while by June this year it had entered six other countries. EVEN was launched as a brand targeting wellness, while Hualuxe is being billed as China's first luxury hotel brand. Elsewhere, 77 Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites received an injection of $165m, new websites in Russian and Turkish were launched and the group announced expansion plans which include Indonesia, Algeria, Asia Pacific, Argentina and Mexico.
Having worked closely with his predecessor Andrew Cosslett, heading the financial side of the business' restructuring to an asset light business model, which Cosslett spearheaded over his tenure, it's perhaps no surprise that the group's financial results are also sound. Plans to sell the five-star, 507-bedrom InterContinental London Park Lane are expected to go ahead next year.
While IHG hasn't been immune to the effects of the global recession, the group's interim results to June 2012 show total gross revenue of $10.3bn (£6.5bn), up 7.3% with first half global RevPAR growth of 6.5% (up 3.5%) and second quarter up 6.1% (up 3.8%). In the Americas RevPAR increased 7.1%, but overall revenue decreased 4% to $400m (£250m) although operating profit increased 4% to $233m (£146m). RevPAR in Europe increased by 1.9%, while overall revenue increased 11% to $206m (£129m), with operating profit increasing by 2% to $52m (£33m). In AMEA RevPAR increased 7.9%, while overall revenue increased 8% to $108m (£68m) and operating profit increased 11% to $40m (£25m). In China RevPAR increased 9.7%, with an overall revenue increase of 14% to $108m (68m) and operating profit increased 20% to $36m (£23m).
The return of $1b to shareholders is also evidence of a continued strategy of returning funds to shareholders and a strong bank balance, which seems set to continue.