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The Caterer

Kurt Ritter

12 May 2005
Kurt Ritter

Overall ranking: 52

Hoteliers ranking: 14

Snapshot

Kurt Ritter is the president and chief executive officer of Rezidor SAS Hospitality, a subsidiary of Scandinavian airline group SAS. It owns, manages, leases or franchises 190 hotels in 43 countries (or 245 counting pipeline developments) and employs in excess of 13,000 staff. In the UK, it has eight Radisson hotels and one Park Inn.

It holds a master franchise agreement with Carlson Hotels Worldwide of the USA to develop the Radisson, Regent, Park Inn and Country Inn brands in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). It has also developed the Cerruti boutique brand with the international fashion house.

Career guide

Ritter was born in Switzerland in 1947 to a family of hoteliers. After graduating from the Ecole Hotelière in Lausanne in 1970, Ritter took his first role as assistant manager at the Bellevue Palace hotel in Bern before working at Ramada hotels in Brussels, France, Germany and Sweden.

He joined SAS International Hotels (SIH) in 1976 as general manager of the SAS Lulea hotel in northern Sweden. In 1979 he became general manager of the first SAS hotel in Kuwait and soon became vice-president for the Middle East.

Ritter moved to Singapore in 1984 as vice-president for the Middle and Far East. He became vice-president and chief operating officer of the company in 1988 and assumed his current role in 1989.

What we think

Ritter has overseen a massive expansion through developing the group's franchise agreement with Carlson Hotels Worldwide. SIH, which dates back to 1960, originally held a 40% stake in InterContinental hotels from 1989, which it held for three years. It had 29 properties in 1994 when Ritter signed a 30-year franchise agreement for Carlson's Radisson brand and renamed the group Radisson SAS Hotels and Resorts.

Also in 2002, Ritter sold the 50% stake he had acquired in UK boutique chain Malmaison in 2000. He has since developed Rezidor's own lifestyle brand, Cerruti.

This March, Carlson agreed to buy a 25% stake in Rezidor and extended the use of its brands by twenty years to 2052.

The cost of developing four new brands hit Rezidor's bottom line in 2003, when it reported a €27.7m loss. But it returned to the black in 2004 with a €4.2m pre-tax profit on turnover 10% ahead at €1.25b. During 2004, it opened 28 new hotels and had 55 more in the pipeline.

Ritter's expansionary success won him an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration in Hospitality Management from Johnson & Wales University, the 2002 Corporate Hotelier of the World award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2004 International Hotel Investment Forum.

He is also a member of honour of the Clefs d'Or International (the union of hotel concierges) and an associate member of the Cornell Hotel Society. He is one of the 13 council members of the International Hotels Environment Initiative.

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