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Top 100: Keith Barr, InterContinental Hotels Group

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Keith Barr, InterContinental Hotels Group

Overall ranking: 97 (new entry)

Hotelier ranking: 18 (new entry)


Keith Barr is chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which franchises and manages more than 5,300 hotels in almost 100 countries across 14 brands, including InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. He oversees a global workforce of more than 375,000. Barr stepped into Richard Solomons' shoes following the latter's retirement in July 2017, having most recently worked for the company as chief commercial officer. He has held senior leadership positions in IHG's Americas, Asia, Middle East and Africa (AMEA) and Greater China regions.

What we think

Barr worked his way through Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration by cheffing at nights and weekends. Before joining IHG, Barr had held several senior positions at Bristol Hotels and Resorts, which in 2000 was acquired by Bass (which subsequently sold off its brewing interests and rebranded as Six Continents, and again, in 2003, as IHG). He subsequently held positions with the group as vice president of operations for midscale brands in North America, vice president of operations for the Holiday Inn brand in North America, and chief operating officer for Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific. Two years after joining IHG's executive committee in 2011, he was appointed chief commercial officer.

As chief executive he is responsible for implementing IHG's strategy for growth across what is now primarily an asset-light portfolio. The company he inherited had until recently failed to respond to the acquisitive steps taken by its main rivals: Marriott bought Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016, and AccorHotels snapped up the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands in the same year. But last September, Barr announced the launch of the Avid brand, offering a room rate around £7.50-£11 lower than Holiday Inn Express. More than 150 owners were said to have expressed interest in the brand, which will operate under franchise agreements; the first Avid hotel will open in 2019.

This year, Barr has acquired a 51% stake in luxury brand Regent Hotels and Resorts for £28m from Formosa International Hotels Corporation, with the right to acquire the remaining 49% interest in a phased manner from 2026. Regent will go to the top of IHG's brand portfolio, a notch or two above InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, and the plan is to expand the collection of six managed hotels to more than 40 cities and resorts worldwide.

He is also using profits to further grow the business. It is not something shareholders are used to, having received some hefty payouts in recent years. Meanwhile, the performance of IHG hotels in the UK showed year-on-year revpar growth of 4.5% in the 12 months to 31 December 2017, with the provinces leading the way (up 4.6%) and London up 4.3%.

It looks as though Barr is going to be his own man and in time may emulate the number three position held by Solomons on the Top 100 list in 2012.

Further information

IHG to expand with new and acquired luxury brands >>

IHG CEO Richard Solomons to retire >>

IHG reports "solid revenue growth" in half-year results >>

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