Rezidor CEO changes imply HNA influence
Rezidor CEO changes imply HNA influence
05 MAY 2017 8:56 AM

Carlson Hotels’ CEO Federico González Tejera will replace Rezidor Hotel Group CEO Wolfgang Neumann, effective immediately. Hotel analysts interpret the move as an exercise of majority owner HNA Tourism Group’s strength as it ponders a second bid for the remaining shares in Rezidor.

GLOBAL REPORT—Rezidor Hotel Group* has a new leader in place and more changes could be on the company’s horizon.

Wolfgang Neumann has resigned as CEO and has been replaced by Carlson Hotels’ CEO Federico González Tejera, the former chief executive at NH Hotels.

The news might derive from pressure exerted by China’s HNA Tourism Group, according to Inmaculada Ranera, managing director for Spain and Portugal at Christie & Co., who said her first impression was that the installment of González Tejera showed HNA exercising more of its muscle.

HNA has financial interests in NH and owns all of Carlson Hotels, which owns 51.3% of Rezidor. Earlier this year, HNA made a bid for the remaining shares in Rezidor, but its initial play was rejected by Rezidor shareholders.

Shareholders at NH Hotels have suggested that HNA’s involvement in Rezidor constitutes a conflict of interest.

González Tejera was announced as CEO of Carlson Hotels in January. Neumann will remain at Rezidor as a non-executive director on its board.

In a message posted on Rezidor’s website, González Tejera underlined the company’s pipeline growth, and added his goal is to continue “growing (our) network in more than 80 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (and to pass) the milestone of 80,000 rooms in operation. … Our pipeline remain(s) strong with more than 25,000 rooms under development.”

M&A and Chinese capital influence
Analysts told Hotel News Now that the news was symptomatic of the times.

Mergers-and-acquisitions activity, they said, would remain at the front of the news, and Chinese influence in the hotel industry will also continue.

González Tejera’s place at the head of Rezidor is an interesting move and indicates an increase of pressure being placed on the industry by Chinese capital, Ranera said.

Ranera also said the move perhaps complicated issues at NH Hotels.

“The situation always has been very complicated, and this adds to that,” Ranera said. “Hesperia wants more control in NH at a time where NH has taken over the operational part of hotels owned by Hesperia. (Hesperia) is going through some troubles … (and) might be unable to pay its debts.

“We’re seeing more evidence of how the industry’s big companies are merging,” Ranera added.

Fehmi Ben Naamane, a financial analyst at Oddo Securities, said that a new bid for the remaining shares in Rezidor from HNA will soon be announced. Ben Naamane added it’s likely Rezidor will go private in the next few months.

“HNA’s first operation is to get the whole company and have a worldwide company,” Ben Naamane said. “It is important to have an international hotel group, certainly as there is a lot of Chinese traveling abroad in the next few years.”

Ben Naamane said it’s unlikely HNA—which also owns 25% stakes in Hilton and Park Hotels & Resorts—will sell its shares in Rezidor to reduce its stake in the company to less than 30%, which is a legal requirement under European Union law (Rezidor Hotel Group is listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange).

He added HNA will continue with its bid for the entire pie.

“To be honest (its first bid) price is too low, which is why I think the board rejected the deal. I am expecting HNA to increase the bid 5% to 10%,” Ben Naamane said.

Having González Tejera in place would add strength to a second bid, he said.

“We’re seeing an increase in the wave of consolidation,” Ben Naamane said, who hinted he believed InterContinental Hotels Group—which saw its own CEO Richard Solomons today announce plans to retire—was a target for AccorHotels.

A spokesperson at Rezidor Hotel Group declined comment beyond the news release announcing the C-suite transition.

*Correction, 5 May 2017: An earlier version of the story referred to Rezidor Hotel Group by an incorrect name.

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