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Four Seasons beefed up its development pipeline in the 20 years John Davison has been at the company in a variety of roles. The company's brand awareness and new ownership structure should make this CEO search easier than its last time around.

The chief executive at one of the world’s fastest-growing, ultra-luxury hotel companies is set to hand over the top job to an unnamed successor sometime next year. 

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts CEO John Davison, who has been with the company for nearly 20 years plans to retire in 2022, the company announced Thursday. Davison, 63, joined the company in 2002 as a senior vice president of project financing before rising to a variety of other positions, including chief financial officer. He was named interim CEO of Four Seasons in 2018 before permanently securing the job a year later.

Davison’s retirement announcement came a little more than a month after an investment group controlled by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates revealed plans to boost its investment in Four Seasons to a majority ownership stake.

“With our long-term strategic planning process well underway, now is an ideal time to begin the process of handing over the reins to a new CEO who will have the duration and runway to shape and implement execution of our plans in the years ahead,” Davison said in a statement. 

Davison plans to leave his current position once a successor has been named and onboarded. He will move to seat on the Four Seasons Board of Directors. 

Four Seasons expanded significantly under Davison’s tenure. The company swelled from 74 hotels and resorts in 2007, when Gates and Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal took the company private in a more than $3 billion deal, to 121 managed hotels and resorts and a more than 50-project development pipeline earlier this year.

The company also beefed up its presence with offerings beyond a typical hotel stay like the luxury short-term rental division, Four Seasons Private Retreats, along with a private jet offering. Four Seasons has also been among the most active ultra-luxury brands pushing into offering hotel-branded residential projects.

“As we look forward to the future, I am more confident than ever that Four Seasons is well positioned to capitalise on the many growing opportunities within the luxury market globally,” Davison said. “I am incredibly grateful to my colleagues worldwide for their unwavering dedication and commitment and look forward to continuing to do all I can to support Four Seasons in the next chapter of its remarkable history.”

The retirement announcement noted Gates’s Cascade Investment group as well as Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding and Four Seasons founder and chairman Isadore Sharp’s Triples Holdings — the trio of shareholders in the company — are “grateful for [Davison’s] inspired leadership and steady hand” during the pandemic. 

The top job opening at Four Seasons is the latest in a string of high-profile CEO turnovers this year. Anthony Capuano ascended to the top job at Marriott International following the death of Arne Sorenson. Best Western parent company BWH Hotel Group announced Larry Cuculic would replace longtime CEO David Kong later this year. 

Four Seasons didn’t indicate who the successor might be, and the company didn’t respond to Skift’s request for comment. But the company didn’t have the easiest time finding a CEO during its last search. 

Davison’s interim CEO gig turning permanent reportedly came as a result of Cascade and Kingdom Holding stakeholders — operating with more equal footing at the time — not agreeing on who should replace J. Allen Smith, who left the company at the end of 2018. 

Simon Casson, who oversees the Four Seasons Europe, Middle East, and Africa division, was reportedly under consideration during that 2018 search and still holds that position. Twenty properties of Four Seasons’ 50-project pipeline are under Casson’s purview. 

Four Seasons only indicated through boilerplate language its current CEO search would emphasize factors like someone who “shares the vision and values” of Four Seasons and has the leadership and experience to “accelerate development of the organisation and execution of its growth strategy.”

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Tags: coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, four seasons

Photo credit: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts CEO John Davison announced his retirement Thursday. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

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