Yesterday's news of a switch at the top of IHG Americas' executive ranks qualifies as a surprise but not a shock. In case you missed the news, CEO Jim Abrahamson resigned his post to become president & COO of Interstate Hotels & Resorts and by years-end to replace Tom Hewitt as CEO of the industry's largest management company. Concurrent with the announcement was word that Kirk Kinsell is returning to Atlanta to assume the Americas CEO post after three-plus years as head of IHG's Europe, Middle East and Asia region.
It's not a negative, but both Abrahamson and Kinsell have a habit of only staying in place a couple of years before moving on to another challenge, usually one that's greater than the one they left. Abrahamson's resume includes stops with Hilton, Marcus and Hyatt, while Kinsell had executive positions with Holiday Inn Worldwide, ITT Sheraton, Avado Brands (a restaurant company) and Micell Technologies before joining IHG in 2002.
Frankly, I was surprised Kinsell didn't get the Americas job back in late 2008 following the death of former CEO Steve Porter. He represented continuity during a difficult period for the division and he is well known and highly regarded in the lodging development community. The hiring of Abrahamson was accompanied by Kinsell's promotion from head of development for the Americas to chief of the EMEA unit. The decision for IHG to hire Abrahamson was a sound one (as it is for Interstate today), but I always thought some day Kinsell would lead the division. That day has come.
Finally, I have no specific reason to doubt IHG's pronouncements that Abrahamson's departure has nothing to do with the changing of the guard at the top of the company's corporate ladder. Former CFO Richard Solomons becomes chief executive of the London-based firm on July 1, following the retirement of Andy Cosslett.