Marilyn Carlson Nelson hands over reins to non-family memberby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
Carlson, the Minnetonka-based hospitality industry powerhouse, has gone outside of the founding family to appoint a new president and CEO. It is a first for the iconic Minnesota company, which has worldwide annual sales of about $37 billion.
Minneapolis — In the rotunda of Carlson's world headquarters in Minnetonka , outgoing CEO Marilyn Carlson Nelson announced her successor.
"It is my distinct pleasure to announced that the Carlson board of directors on behalf of the Carlson family is appointing Hubert Joly as our new president and chief executive officer."
The French-born Joly has been an executive with Carlson since 2004. He will take over as CEO and president on March 1.
His appointment comes less than a year after a bitter family feud erupted over who would succeed Marlyn Carlson Nelson to lead the company.
Her son Curtis Nelson, sued his mother and the Carlson company, claiming he should lead the company. Curtis Nelson said he was denied the position because of a "hostile" relationship with his mother and the company board.
The Carlson company was built by Minnesota business icon Curt Carlson, who started the business in 1938 with a $55 loan. But his daughter Marlyn is credited with growing Carlson into a true global giant whose brands and services employ nearly 200,000 people around the world. The company owns or manages 1,000 restaurants and nearly 1,000 hotels. It is also a powerhouse in the travel management business.
Joly says Carlson is strong and poised to grow.
"The strengths of the hotel company are very impressive around the world; the strengths of the restaurant company, the skills of the marketing company and of course the strengths of Carlson in travel are truly impressive."
Joly says opportunities are especially good overseas, where Carlson is getting much of its current revenue.
"Each of these businesses has the opportunity to become truly global leaders in their various industries. We see each of these business growing and becoming more and more relevant to their consumers or business customers." It is not surprising Carlson went outside the family for a CEO. The move has been expected since Curtis Nelson, Marilyn's son, filed his lawsuit last year, charging he was being denied the top job.
The lawsuit indicated Nelson did not think her son was up to the job of heading Carlson, one of the of the largest family-held corporations in the country. There were allegations that Curtis Nelson has drug and alcohol problems and trouble controlling his temper.
Reached at his home, Curtis Nelson declined to comment on the lawsuit or Joly's appointment. Joly may be in for a challenge in dealing with the Carlson family. Tom Hubler, president of Hubler Family Business Consultants, says it may be hard for Carlson to hang on to Joly as CEO.
"The biggest challenge they're going to have is keeping the new CEO because of family politics, the family culture and the family business. This is nothing specifically against or negative about the Carlsons. It just has to do with how family businesses operate."
But Hubler says Joly's track record at the company and knowledge of the Carlson family may help him greatly.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson will continue as chair of the Carlson board and the Carlson family will continue to select members of the company board.
Nelson said Joly will lead Carlson but the company board will have final authority.
While a Carlson did not ascend to the CEO slot this time, Marilyn Carlson Nelson suggested one could in the future.
"We are nurturing a generation, a fourth generation, 16 members strong.>
Nelson, who is 68-years-old, dismisses any suggestion she is retiring. She says she will spend more time with family and friends. But she says she will be a busy and passionate ambassador for the Carlson company and for causes in which she believes.
- All Things Considered, 01/08/2008, 5:54 p.m.