Christie Hicks, SVP of Sales at Starwood, to Report Directly to CEO

Good news for travel agents: Christie Hicks, senior vice president, Starwood Sales Organization, a 12-year Starwood veteran, will now report directly to Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen.

The move recognizes her ability to lead Starwood’s business-to-business sales, which drive approximately $5.3 billion in revenue annually, Starwood reports. Ms. Hicks has led the sales organization through a period of rapid growth, and is responsible for evolving Starwood’s sales team from a largely North American-oriented operation to a global one. Ms. Hicks is a member of Starwood’s Senior Leadership Team.

The move follows a series of organizational changes at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide after the retirement of three key executives: Matt Avril, president of the hotel group; Denise Coll, president of Starwood North America; and Miguel Ko, chairman and president of Starwood Asia Pacific. The planned retirements will take place over the next several months.

"After four years of stability among our executive leadership team, these three planned retirements create new opportunities for other capable leaders within our ranks," said Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen. "We are also using this opportunity to refine our structure to match a changing marketplace."

Starwood will realign its structure by combining its North America and Latin America operations together into the Americas. This move recognizes the significant commercial overlap between the two regions and will better position both to take advantage of accelerating travel trends within the Americas. The combination of the two groups also acknowledges Latin America’s significant growth opportunity by creating a better support system and infrastructure to maximize this potential. In 2011, Latin America was Starwood’s fastest growing region. In addition, given that the geographic footprint of Starwood Vacation Ownership (SVO) falls entirely within the region, Starwood has made the strategic decision to incorporate SVO into the Americas as well.

In recognition of another vital part of the business, Starwood will also elevate its leadership in China to reflect that country’s great importance for Asia Pacific and the company.

As part of the organizational changes, the presidents of the Americas; Asia Pacific; and Europe, Africa and Middle East; will now report directly to Frits van Paasschen. Specific leadership appointments that are effective July 1, 2012 include the following:  

•    Sergio Rivera, currently president and CEO of Starwood Vacation Ownership, and a longtime member of Starwood’s Senior Leadership Team, has been promoted to co-president of Starwood Americas. Mr. Rivera started his Starwood career 23 years ago at SVO’s predecessor, Vistana Resorts, as corporate controller. During his tenure, he has held progressively senior management roles, including president of global real estate for Starwood. In his current role overseeing SVO, Mr. Rivera has oversight of all aspects of the business including operations, brands, development, finance, design, customer and owner relationships across geographies throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico. In his new role, he will co-lead Starwood’s operations in the Americas, with primary responsibility for North America and SVO.
•    Osvaldo Librizzi, currently president of Latin America and a 37-year Starwood veteran, has been promoted to co-president of the Americas, alongside Mr. Rivera, with primary responsibility for Latin America. Mr. Librizzi began his career at Starwood as assistant controller at the Sheraton Buenos Aires, and currently oversees all hotel operations for Starwood’s 70 properties in Mexico, Central and South America, with an additional 10 properties under construction. During his 22 years as president of Latin America, Starwood has grown to become the largest hotel operator in the region and in the last four years alone has increased its footprint by 40 percent. Highly respected within the industry, Mr. Librizzi is one of the longest-tenured hotel leaders in Latin America.

•    Stephen Ho, currently senior vice president of acquisitions and development for Starwood China, has been promoted to president of Asia Pacific. He has been with Starwood for 31 years, having begun his career as a pastry chef. He was part of the original team that opened The Great Wall Sheraton Hotel Beijing, the first Western hotel in the People’s Republic of China. He has held various increasingly senior positions throughout Starwood Asia Pacific. In his current role, he has led the Greater China development team in building the industry’s largest high-end hotel footprint and pipeline in China. With his many key relationships, operating experience, and exceptional track record, he is the ideal candidate to fill this important role.
•    Qian Jin, currently head of Starwood’s operations for China, has been promoted to the title of president of Greater China, which reflects his breadth of experience over his 26 years with Starwood. His promotion underscores the continued growth of Starwood’s business in China. Early in his career Mr. Qian was the first Chinese citizen to be identified for talent development at Starwood. He began his career at Starwood in 1986 as deputy general manager of the Hua Ting Sheraton, and has held various assignments in Fiji, Malaysia and Singapore, before returning to Shanghai in 2001 to establish Starwood’s regional office for China. He is now responsible for nearly 200 operating and pipeline hotels. He is credited with building Starwood’s operating business in China, and is the natural choice for this newly created position. He will join Starwood’s Senior Leadership Team and report to Mr. Ho.
•    John Peyton, currently senior vice president of operations for Starwood North America, has been promoted to the new role of senior vice president of global initiatives. In this position, he will drive the implementation of key strategic priorities across the globe, including procurement, revenue management and food and beverage. Mr. Peyton is ideally suited for this position with his deep global, operational and brand experience during his 12 years at Starwood. He will join the Senior Leadership Team and jointly report to Frits van Paasschen and Vasant Prabhu, Starwood’s vice chairman and CFO.

•    Robert Hermany, currently senior vice president of operations, North America, has been promoted to replace Mr. Peyton in an expanded role of chief of North American operations and global initiatives. In this new role, Mr. Hermany will manage North American operations, working in close coordination with Mr. Peyton to implement key global initiatives across North America. Mr. Hermany who has spent his entire career in hotel operations is a 15-year Starwood veteran and, in his current position, leads an operating team overseeing hotels and owner relations throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest regions of the United States. Mr. Hermany will report to Sergio Rivera in his new role.