Kurt Ritter is to retire as president and chief executive of the Rezidor hotel group and will be replaced by Wolfgang M Neumann, currently executive vice-president and chief operating officer.
Ritter has served in his role since 1989.
The change in leadership will take effect on 1 January 2013.
"We are pleased to announce the planned transition of Wolfgang M Neumann as incoming president and CEO," said Trudy Rautio, chairman of Rezidor's board of directors and president and chief executive of Carlson. "He is an internationally experienced hotelier who will build on Rezidor's strengths as an industry leader and valuable member of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group - with a continued focus on revenue generation and profitable growth.
Rautio added: "Kurt Ritter is one of the hotel industry's great leaders. We are grateful for the role he played in guiding Rezidor for more than two decades to be one of the fastest-growing hotel companies. More recently he was instrumental in the integration of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group to become one of the largest and most dynamic hotel groups in the world."
Ritter will assist Neumann as an adviser during a transition period of three months from 1 January, and will afterwards continue to serve as a key strategic adviser to Rautio.
Aged 65, Ritter is one of the longest-serving chief executives in the hospitality industry. Under his leadership, Rezidor's portfolio grew to more than 430 hotels with 95,000 rooms in operation and under development in 70 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Ritter said: "I was fortunate to live my dream. I always wanted to become a hotelier and, looking back on more than 35 great years, I met inspiring people, negotiated exciting deals, and always enjoyed working in the service industry."
Born in 1947 in his parents' hotel in Switzerland, Ritter is a graduate of the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. His career highlights with Rezidor include a master franchise agreement with Carlson to create Radisson SAS in 1994 and an agreement with Carlson in 2002 to develop Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn and Regent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In 2005 Ritter signed a worldwide licence agreement with Missoni to develop and operate the lifestyle brand Hotel Missoni. In 2006 he was responsible for Rezidor's initial public offering at the Stockholm Stock Exchange. In September 2012 Ritter signed a Strategic Alliance Agreement with Regent Hotels & Resorts (RHR) to re-enter the luxury segment and to operate Regent hotels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (RHR had acquired the brand and business from Carlson and Rezidor in 2010).
Neumann joined Rezidor in May 2011. He said: "I am honoured to succeed Kurt Ritter, and look forward to leading Rezidor in our ambitious Route 2015 strategy. We will continue to focus on meeting the needs of our guests, owners and shareholders while building with our team members on the unique culture of this dynamic company."
Through Route 2015 - a comprehensive programme launched in December last year - Rezidor aims to increase its EBITDA margin by 6% to 8% by the year 2015. The strategy puts a strong focus on revenue generation including: global strategic partnership activities with Carlson, cost-saving initiatives, accelerated asset management programmes and further growth of the fee-based hotel portfolio - with a focus on new and emerging markets such as Russia/CIS and Africa.
By Neil Gerrard
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