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February 06 2013

Kathleen Taylor Steps Down at Four Seasons

By PCMA

kathleen taylorThree years into her position, Kathleen Taylor is stepping down from the top job at Four Seasons Hotels Inc.

Ms. Taylor was the hand-picked successor to Isadore Sharp, the Toronto hotel mogul who founded the company in 1961 by buying a good motel in a bad neighborhood.

Sharp went on to expand the privately held company into an international powerhouse synonymous with luxury, before selling it for $4-billion in 2007 and ensuring Ms. Taylor would take over when he stepped away from the company’s day-to-day operations.

Now, as chairman of the board, Mr. Sharp is in charge once again as he leads a management team tasked with running the company until a replacement can be found for Ms. Taylor.

The company said Tuesday that it has hired a search firm to find a new chief executive officer, with industry sources saying the company is likely looking for an outsider to lead its expansion into countries outside of its traditional markets, while it continues to expand in North American and Western Europe.

Ms. Taylor’s appointment as CEO was not a rapid decision; Mr. Sharp brought her to the company in 1989 to work in its legal department, but she was rapidly promoted into an operating role. She took over as chief operating officer in 2007, and was credited with guiding the company through a recession that was especially hard on high-end hotels.

 “I try to visit between 25 and 30 hotels a year just to stay in touch with employees, capital partners and hotel owners,” she said in an interview with The Globe and Mail last summer. “It’s important for them to feel they have a very personal relationship with the company. This is a high-touch business and we’re very high-touch with all of our stakeholders.”

Ms. Taylor was also a strong link to the chain’s Canadian heritage; after the chain was sold to Saudi Arabian Prince al-Waleed bin Talal and Bill Gates (Mr. Sharp retained a 5-per-cent stake).

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