SPOKANE, Washington—Having crossed off a new brand structure and multi-pronged growth strategy from its turnaround to-do list, the board at Red Lion Hotels Corporation on Monday made one of its final checkmarks, naming Greg Mount its new president and CEO.
Mount—whose 25-year hotel career has seen him rise from the ranks at Marriott International to senior leadership positions at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and most recently Richfield Hospitality—will replace interim president and CEO James P. Evans. Evans will remain a member of the board.
has a great heritage. It’s a great company with a strong brand name, particularly out West, and a good solid portfolio both owned and operated throughout the western U.S.,” he told Hotel News Now when asked what attracted him to the position.
“For me I have a combination of backgrounds both on the operations side at a fairly high level and on the real estate side. When you combine those along with my brand experience handling the franchise development in North America for Starwood, for example, and being involved with the growth of many of those brands, it gives me some great optics to really help what Jim and the team have been doing thus far with their focus on being the expert on travel experience and creating a more holistic experience for guests and developing a strong pipeline,” he said.
Mount’s first order of business is to get his arms around Red Lion—both its 55-hotel portfolio and its people.
“There are a lot of people who have been working really hard to do a lot of things. For me it’s going to be getting out there and meeting these folks and figuring out where I can best help that piece to grow our shareholder value,” he said.
Maintaining multiple prongs
Mount said it’s too early to tell whether he’ll enact new strategies or changes in day-to-day operations.
“The company’s done a really good job executing this multi-pronged strategy,” he said, referring to Red Lion’s recently announced plan
to expand through franchising, licensing, sliver-equity investments and, eventually, third-party management.
That plan, as well as Mount’s hiring, is the culmination of a gradual restructuring that began in March 2012, when shareholders pushed management to pursue “strategic alternatives” to unlock value. The board of directors suspended the process in September 2012 after receiving a limited number of non-binding indications of interest from various financial partners.
Since then, Red Lion has refreshed its brands, introduced the Leo Hotels Collection, sold off non-core assets, refinanced its debt, injected millions into refurbishing its existing portfolio, developed its new growth strategy and, on Monday, named its new president and CEO.
“For me initially it’s going to be continuing to leverage those initiatives and leveraging some of my experiences,” said Mount, who served as president of Richfield Hospitality.
Red Lion signed 11 franchises during 2013. The goal is to add 20 more in 2014, he said.
“Where I can add value to that is just utilizing my relationships throughout the industry to help strengthen and potentially add some other opportunities for the folks that are there working on this,” he said.
The management arm will come later, Mount said.
“It’s a natural extension for the right owner in the right opportunity. We want to have that option available, but I don’t know it’s necessarily a strategy we’re going to push hard on at this point. We have some really great focus on our franchising and our operations and so on,” he said.
Building the brand portfolio
Red Lion’s brand portfolio comprises full-service, midscale Red Lion Hotels; select-service, midscale Red Lion Inns & Suites; and the boutique Leo Hotel Collection, which was announced in January 2013 and now counts two hotels with 3,256 rooms.
The two Red Lion brands have 53 hotels and 9,195 rooms between them.
Combined, the entire portfolio has more than 700,000 square feet of meeting space.
“To any hotel organization, group business is the lifeblood of the organization and one that really allows hotels to leverage their revenue strategies. … Red Lion has done a good job at refocusing itself on that business and getting out there and letting people know about the space and services being offered.
“We’ll continue to grow that,” Mount said.
The market will dictate which brand emerges as the primary growth driver, he said.
“There’s still a fair amount of activity occurring on the sale side and the acquisitions side. That churn is going to continue to offer opportunities in all three segments. Our goal is to be a great alternative to owners as they look for new brands,” Mount said.
The goal is to continue expanding the company’s presence in the western U.S.