A chat with Starwood's new chief

Posted by: Diane Brady on September 4, 2007

Frits van Paasschen says he has “always gravitated towards fun jobs.” Sure enough, his background includes (most recently) being CEO of Coors Brewing Co., running Nike’s operations in Europe and Africa and working for Disney.

Now, he’s about to head up Starwood Hotel and Resorts. For all the glamour of the hotel industry, Starwood hasn’t exactly been a paradise for employees in recent years. Its former chief executive, Steve Heyer, left in late March amid questions about his personal conduct and management style. He was seen to be cold. He commuted to the White Plains head office from Atlanta. He complained to me in one early interview that CEOs were not paid enough, when you consider the sacrifices they make.

Now comes van Paasschen, who’s due to start his job on Sept. 24. He’s quick to talk about the importance of global expansion and building out brands like Sheraton, Westin and St. Regis—this is the man, after all, behind the push to keep beer colder longer and fuel nostalgia for Rocky Mountain refreshment. But he also understands the importance these days of being a nice guy. “At the end of the day, these jobs are all about leadership and the softer side.” He’s so nice, in fact, that he says the hardest part of any job is saying no … “making trade-offs and staying focused.”

Despite the love-starved environment in which Starwood found itself several months ago, chairman and interim CEO Bruce Duncan says morale is now high. “We’re all very excited,” says Duncan, who took says the process of grilling potential candidates was a “very thorough” one. Along with looking for the right mindset and skills, nobody wants any hint of bad behavior in a candidate’s background. Even with names like former Gap CEO Paul Pressler bandied about, Duncan says van Paasschen was “head and shoulders above the rest.”

Reader Comments

Ginny

October 29, 2007 9:34 AM

Didn't Steve Heyer left or fired, because of sexual harassment? Hotel excutive Rick Ueno has been accused of sexual harassment, and was settled out of court when he was at the San Antonio, Westin Riverwalk Hotel on 2004. What made him so special to just get transferred at the Chicago Sheraton Hotel and Towers? He's been known to party with employees and get drunk. He also has extra marital affairs with employees and Starwood is okay with this? He also has a family. Why is he still employed by your company?

Carlos

November 25, 2007 9:54 PM

Rick Ueno believes he is untouchable. Ueno is an ego maniac lunatic sex pervert man. Let’s "Wow" the Housekeeping secrets! All eyes on Ueno’s latest craze; he was known to have slept with a couple of Managers from Sales and Marketing and HR Managers. A tall blonde and currently dating a brunette HR. The drinking, partying, sexing to get promotions. Ueno’s bed is also extended at the W hotel with a young Marketing Manager. Sleeping around is the sports game. Pathetic to get you in bed? You’re nothing but a fish in a 400 degrees oven. This is called the Ueno Starwood culture.

Swahili Olele

November 28, 2007 9:24 AM

Positions are currently open, vacated by Male Directors in this hotel property.
F&B Director, Assistant Controller, Director of Sales. Key positions were vacated by male genders, born without a “V-J-NA”
Is this a sign of conception and inability to connect with work culture?

Anonymous Victim

January 26, 2008 1:07 PM

Often times bullying is engaged in by persons in positions of authority, leaving little recourse for a bullied employee. I have been targeted of rudeness, insensitivity, emotional abuse manifested by yelling, ridiculing, undermining, intimidating and disrespect. A dehumanizing and demoralizing trend in the workplace. Anonymous Victim

bellan

June 19, 2008 1:29 AM

manager always telling me I dont look happy. Pulling me into office everyday emphasizing that I am not good and kind to internal guests aka coworkers. The regular guests love me but this guy is trying to make an example out of me and I dont know why?

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