Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chair and CEO of Carlson Companies, today is announcing the promotion of Curtis Nelson, 39, to President and Chief Operating Officer of privately held global travel, hospitality and marketing giant Carlson Companies. The formal announcement will be made during a gala 65th Anniversary celebration at Minneapolis` State Theatre, held in conjunction with the company`s annual executive conference.
“I look forward to working more closely than ever with Curtis to chart the future of Carlson Companies,” said Mrs. Nelson. “Curtis is a dynamic leader who is uniquely qualified to lead the operations of our complex global organization.”
“I am anxious to harness the full potential and power of the entire Carlson enterprise on behalf of our employees, customers, clients and shareholders,” said Mr. Nelson. “Working together as a unified team, our companies can and will come together and excel to new levels of success.”
Carlson Companies is the parent of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Carlson Marketing Group, Regent International Hotels, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Park Plaza hotels, Country Inns & Suites By Carlson, Park Inn hotels, Cruise Holidays, Results Travel, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, and T.G.I. Friday`s and Pick Up Stix restaurants.
President and COO Curtis Nelson will chair Carlson Companies` operating committee and implement the strategy within Carlson`s business units, while Chairman and CEO Marilyn Nelson will continue to chair the Carlson executive committee and will be responsible for setting the company`s strategy.
Mr. Nelson is the son of Mrs. Nelson and Dr. Glen D. Nelson, and grandson of company founders Curtis and Arleen Carlson.
Favorable 2002 Results Announced: The company also announced at its executive meeting that it had weathered the tumultuous 2002 year well. Carlson`s 2002 systemwide sales (including franchises) were even with the prior year, totaling $19.8 billion in 2002 versus $19.8 billion in 2001. Sales in its owned and operated divisions trended similarly, totaling $6.7 billion in 2002 versus $6.8 billion in 2001. Operating income was not disclosed, but was cited as having nearly returned to 2000 levels (preceding the 9/11 terrorist attacks) due primarily to significant increases in productivity.
Presidential Role: Reporting to Mr. Nelson in his new post will be the presidents of all of the operating divisions of the company. He continues to have responsibility for all day-to-day operations of Carlson`s consumer division, which he has headed since 2000, but now adds oversight of the company`s corporate client operations as well, which include Carlson Marketing Group and Carlson Wagonlit Travel`s business travel division. Mr. Nelson is active in leadership roles in various association, industry and philanthropic initiatives, and is a member of the Travel Business Roundtable and the World Travel Tourism Council. At the 2003 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Nelson was selected as a “Global Leader for Tomorrow.”
Preparation for Leadership and Career History: Mr. Nelson prepared for leadership of his family`s company by learning it “from the sink up.” His first job in the industry was as a dishwasher in a Country Kitchen restaurant.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., followed by a Master of Business Administration degree from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Mr. Nelson embarked on a management career in the hotel industry, working for two industry-leading organizations, Hyatt Hotels and Four Seasons, then joined Carlson`s hospitality division in 1989 as an executive with Radisson Hotels Worldwide, where he served in a variety of management positions in key company operations around the United States.
He became Executive Vice President of Country Hospitality Worldwide in March 1993 and was named President and CEO later that same year. At the time, Country Hospitality Worldwide included Country Inns & Suites By Carlson and Country Kitchen Restaurants - the same operation in which he had worked years prior. Carlson sold Country Kitchens in 1997.
While serving as President and CEO of Country Hospitality Worldwide, Mr. Nelson`s innovative strategies and operational initiatives resulted in a 400 percent growth of Country Inns & Suites By Carlson.
In 1995, Mr. Nelson was named Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide. He was the driving force behind the company`s expansion into the luxury segment of the world`s lodging industry, engineering the acquisition of the Regent hotel brand from Four Seasons Hotels.
Mr. Nelson was named President and CEO of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide in 1997, and added the COO-Carlson Consumer Group title in 2000, when he assumed responsibility for the company`s leisure and franchised travel operations. He serves on the Board of Directors of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Carlson`s joint business travel venture with Accor.
New Global Responsibility: Prior to the announcement, operations under Mr. Nelson`s leadership included more than 3,315 hotels, resorts, restaurants, cruise ships and travel agency locations in 82 countries. To that is now added the $1 billion, 20-country operations of Carlson Marketing Group, and the oversight of Carlson`s collaboration with the $10.7 billion, 140-nation Carlson Wagonlit Travel business travel operation. Carlson Marketing Group helps corporate clients build better relationships with their consumers, employees and distribution channel partners, and is ranked by Advertising Age Magazine as the largest marketing services agency in the U.S. It also is a major player in the incentive travel and corporate meetings/events arena.
Carlson Wagonlit Travel operates in more countries than any other business travel company in the world, and currently ranks second globally
Like CEO Nelson, President Nelson is a champion of technology, globalization and building relationships across the entire Carlson enterprise to increase customer value. He supports a range of employee engagement strategies that are designed to create “a great place for great people to do great work.” Mr. Nelson is a member of the Board of Directors of the Conrad Hilton College at the University of Houston and also serves on the advisory board of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He holds honorary doctorate degrees from Johnson & Wales and Niagara Universities, and serves on the boards of the Walker Art Museum and the Greater Twin Cities United Way.
Background: Carlson Companies: Carlson Companies is a global leader in corporate solutions and consumer services in the marketing, travel and hospitality industries. Ranked among the largest privately held corporations in the United States, Carlson Companies is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Carlson-related brands and services employ about 180,000 people in more than 140 countries. In 1938 - with an idea and a $55 loan - entrepreneur Curtis L. Carlson (July 9, 1914-February 19, 1999) founded the Gold Bond Stamp Company in his home city of Minneapolis. Carlson knew that grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations and other independent merchants could use stamps to distinguish themselves from their competitors. In the late 1960s, when the trading stamp market reached its peak, the Gold Bond Stamp Company expanded into the hospitality industry. In the 1970s, the company acquired dozens of additional businesses, including the highly successful T.G.I. Friday`s restaurant chain and internationally renowned Ask Mr. Foster travel agencies. In 1973, to reflect its diversification, Gold Bond changed its name to Carlson Companies.