Overall ranking: 34
Hoteliers ranking: 12
Carl Leaver became chief executive of the De Vere Group in September 2003. As such, he controls a business that by the close of 2004 encompassed 21 four- and five-star De Vere hotels, 137 five-star timeshare lodges, 14 mid-market Village Hotels and Leisure Clubs, 15 standalone Greens Health and Fitness gyms.
Born in 1968, Leaver worked as a senior national accounts manager for Forte and in equity derivatives sales for investment bank Nomura before joining Whitbread in 1995 as director of sales for its hotels division.
After a stint as general manager of the Slough/Windsor Marriott at Heathrow, Leaver became operations director for Marriott Hotel and Country Clubs, where he boosted both conference business and customer satisfaction.
In March 2000 he landed the plum role of replacing Grant Hearn as managing director of Whitbread's rapidly-growing budget hotel chain, Travel Inn (now called Premier Travel Inn).
What we think
Carl Leaver's appointment as chief executive of the De Vere Group at the tender age of 35 is a shining example of how rapidly those with the talent and drive can scale the hospitality ladder.
And it is not the first time he has headed up a major UK hotel chain. Just three years earlier, Leaver was put in charge of Whitbread's budget Travel Inn chain where he boosted operating profit by 33% and like-for-like sales by 5% a year.
Under his leadership, Travel Inn added 5,000 bedrooms to become the UK's largest hotel brand with just below 18,000 bedrooms.
Leaver also became the first UK hotelier to introduce a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee which waives payment if guests don't get the facilities they are promised.
Leaver's experience at Whitbread made him a natural successor to Paul Dermody when he retired after 40 years' service with De Vere. Leaver set to work quickly, visiting every group site, installing systems to improve operating performance, and identifying potential savings of £3m a year by pooling systems across brands. Leaver aims to achieve a 10% return on capital by September 2007.
De Vere's pre-tax profits soared by 14% in Leaver's first year, despite the distractions of fending off an unwelcome partial offer from Guinness Peat Marwick and of bidding for Travel Inn before the price soared too high.
Leaver also looks set to take the De Vere brand to Europe after earmarking management contracts as a key route to expansion. Plans are also afoot to add 260 more bedrooms to existing Village hotels and 170 to the De Vere chain, along with three new golf courses and three new spas.
In the peer-reviewed Britain's Most Admired Companies 2004 rankings, De Vere was listed third in the hotel top 10 and 63rd in the pan-industry top 220.