Accor SA, Europe’s largest hotel owner, said Chief Executive Officer Gilles Pelisson will be replaced by Denis Hennequin owing to differences with the board.
Pelisson, 53, will step down as CEO on Dec. 1 after the two sides “recognized the strategic divergences between them” at a meeting yesterday, the Evry, France-based company said today.
Hennequin, 52, has headed McDonald’s Corp. in Europe since 2005, where he implemented a strategy based on development of franchising. As CEO of Accor, he will lead a company that aims to sell properties to cut debt and become Europe’s biggest hotel franchiser by 2015. Under Pelisson, the owner of the Sofitel and Novotel brands spun off its voucher services unit in July.
McDonald’s implementation of a franchise network under Hennequin is the skill Accor needs to meet a target of reducing fixed-lease and owned rooms to 23 percent of the total by 2015 from 40 percent, Alphavalue analyst Cecile Aboulian said in an e-mail. Accor has almost 500,000 rooms worldwide.
The departure of Pelisson comes less than two years after Chairman Serge Weinberg and five independent board members quit the hotel company in protest at the increasing control of Colony Capital LLC and Eurazeo, which own almost 30 percent.
“There is no doubt that Denis Hennequin’s appointment is linked to the wish of the shareholders, and notably Eurazeo and Colony Capital, to speed up Accor’s franchise development,” said Kim-Anh Bassot, an analyst at CM-CIC Securities, in a note today. The analyst has a “buy” recommendation on Accor.
Accor spokeswoman Charlotte Thouvard said the hotel company won’t elaborate on the statement. A Eurazeo spokeswoman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Colony said she was unable to make an immediate comment.
Hennequin will become an executive director of Accor when Pelisson steps down. He will take over as CEO on Jan. 15.
Pelisson, the nephew of Accor’s co-founder, took the CEO position in 2006. He will remain as chairman of the board of directors until Jan. 15, the hotelier said in the statement.
Hennequin began working at Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s in 1984 as an assistant store manager and has been a director of Accor since 2009. A spokeswoman for McDonald’s Europe declined to comment on today’s appointment.
The “stumbling block” may have been the hotelier’s failure to list casino operator Groupe Lucien Barriere, in which Accor has a 49 percent stake, or opening fewer rooms than targeted, according to Bruno de La Rochebrochard, an analyst at Raymond James Equities in Paris.
The withdrawal of the Barriere intial public offering sent a “bad signal” to the market, said Alphavalue’s Aboulian. The planned share sale would have valued Lucien Barriere at as much as 700 million euros ($983 million) and didn’t receive the expected interest from investors, Accor said on Sept. 30.
Accor rose 14 cents, or 0.5 percent, to 29.83 euros at the 5:30 p.m. close of trading in Paris, giving the company a market value of about 6.8 billion euros.
The stock has gained 27 percent since the hotel company started trading as a single entity on July 2.