Friday, June 03, 2011

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts's History

Canadian businessman Isadore Sharp founded Four Seasons in 1960. While a young architect working for his father, Sharp designed a motel for a family friend that succeeded and inspired him to try creating his own hotel in Toronto. As the only large parcel of land he could buy was in a disreputable area, he designed the hotel as an oasis for business travelers; the Four Seasons Motor Hotel opened in 1961. 

Sharp built more hotels, but upscale luxury did not become part of brand until the company expanded to London. When a developer approached Four Seasons about building a hotel in London, Sharp argued that the hotel should compete with the city's old-world, elite hotels, such as Claridge's and The Connaught, which he felt treated customers based on their social class. The hotel opened in 1970.

n 1974, cost overruns at a Vancouver property nearly led the company into bankruptcy. As a result, the company began shifting to its current, management-only business model and eliminate costs associated with buying land and buildings and instead begin earning profits once the hotel opens. The company went public in 1986. In the 1990s, Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton began direct competition, with Ritz-Carlton emphasizing a uniform look while Four Seasons emphasized local architecture and styles with uniform service; in the end Four Seasons gained market share.

The first full-service spa was introduced in 1986 at Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas and today, nearly all Four Seasons hotels and resorts have spa facilities, and the remainder offer spa services. In recent years, restaurants at Four Seasons hotels and resorts have been recognized by Zagat and Michelin. The latter has awarded at total of 14 stars to eight of the company's restaurants, including Hong Kong (two restaurants), Macau, Paris, Prague, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Recent economic downturns have affected the company. When the September 11 attacks caused the collapse of the travel industry, Four Seasons refused to cut room prices in order to preserve the perceived value of the brand, which caused tension with property owners who were losing money. The company recovered and, in 2007, it agreed to a buyout by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia for $3.8 billion. The pair owns 95 percent of the company, in equal shares, Sharp owns the rest. In August 2010, Kathleen Taylor was appointed CEO of the company.

Challenges returned again during the financial crisis of 2007–2010. The company made its first corporate layoffs in its history, cutting 10% of its Toronto workforce. In April 2010, after a year-long dispute with Broadreach Capital Partners and Maritz, Wolff & Co., owners of the Aviara resort near San Diego, an arbitration panel ruled that while both parties contributed to the demise of the business relationship, "Four Seasons didn't violate its management agreement, as Broadreach had alleged, according to a joint statement released by the companies. The panel ordered that Broadreach pay Four Seasons to terminate the contract." The resort is no longer a Four Seasons.

Four Seasons continues to add more hotels and resorts to its portfolio, notably in China. It opened a new hotel in Hangzhou in 2010 and will open in Guangzhou and nine more properties in cities including Beijing and Shanghai to bring its hotels in China to 14. It will also open new hotels in India to add to its one hotel in Mumbai. In 2009, it was reported that they would add a hotel in the Lobanov-Rostovsky Residence of Saint Petersburg. (Wikipedia)


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