France’s Accor Its Replaces CEO


PARIS—The board of French hotels company Accor SA said Wednesday it is replacing Chief Executive Gilles Pelisson with Denis Hennequin, CEO of McDonald’s Corp. in Europe, following disagreements between the board and Mr. Pelisson.

Mr. Pelisson, who oversaw the company’s split from its vouchers business, spent five years at the helm of Accor, the company behind the Motel6 budget chain in the U.S., Sofitel luxury hotels and the Novotel brand. During his stint as CEO, Mr. Pelisson restructured the company, selling off noncore assets and hotels properties, replacing them with long-term leases, and separating the highly cash-generative vouchers business into a separately listed company, Edenred.


But at a board meeting Tuesday, the board and Mr. Pelisson “recognized the strategic divergences between them, leading them to organize the departure of Gilles Pelisson,” the company said in a statement. Mr. Pelisson wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Accor’s 11-member board includes four representatives of its key shareholders, the U.S. private equity firm Colony Capital and European investment company Eurazeo.

Colony and Eurazeo’s role has been controversial at Accor. Early last year, five Accor board members and board chairman Serge Weinberg resigned in disagreement with the two funds.

Mr. Hennequin, 52, has been at McDonald’s since 1984. Under his direction, Accor will move into “a new phase in its development, during which the definition of priorities and their execution will be key factors in its success,” the board said in its statement.

Mr. Hennequin, who has served on Accor’s board since last year, will take up the new position on Jan 11. In the interim, Mr. Pelisson will continue to act as chairman of the board.

Accor earlier this month increased its profit target for the year after third-quarter sales showed improved business in its more expensive hotels in Europe.

Along with other hotel groups that were hit hard by the crisis, the company is starting to see an uptick in business. Visibility remains low for the industry, however, as clients wait until the last minute to make reservations, and Accor’s optimism for the end of the year thus far doesn’t extend into next year.

Last month, Accor withdrew plans to list its 49% stake in the French casino operator Groupe Lucien Barriere because of a lack of investor interest. The plans are part of the company’s efforts to reduce debt as it no longer has the vouchers division, which was traditionally used to fund hotel expansion.

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