Executives on the Move: Choice Hotels, Airbnb, McNeill; More…

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—Hospitality companies are bolstering their leadership rosters with recent personnel shifts. Here’s a look:

Choice Hotels Appoints Vikas Bhalla as Chief Transformation Officer

Choice Hotels International Inc. has named Vikas Bhalla to the newly created role of chief transformation officer.

As a key member of Choice Hotels’ senior executive leadership team reporting directly to President/CEO Patrick Pacious, Bhalla will be tasked with advancing the company’s data-driven culture and lead the corporate strategy, business transformation and data analytics teams. In addition to identifying new business opportunities, Bhalla will work closely with Pacious to develop strategies that fuel the company’s long-range growth.

Bhalla has more than 20 years of experience shaping business strategies for large corporations. He joins Choice Hotels from CVS Health, where he served as VP, strategy and business development, pricing and analytics. Prior to that, Bhalla led several large-scale transformation projects as a principal at Strategy&, now the global strategy consulting business for PwC. Bhalla also was a member of the leadership team at start-up technology company Exela Technologies.

Rich Baer Joins Airbnb as Chief Legal Officer

Airbnb named Rich Baer as chief legal officer. Over his long career, Baer has distinguished himself as an outstanding lawyer for large, fast-growing public companies and leader of global legal teams with expertise in a wide range of complex matters at the intersection of law, business and society, according to the company.

A trial attorney by training, Baer has led the legal teams at Qwest Communications where he helped lead the turnaround of the company, United Health and most recently, Liberty Media. Liberty is a set of five public companies which own or hold large stakes in companies such as SiriusXM, Formula 1, LiveNation Entertainment, TripAdvisor, Qurate, Zulily, the Atlanta Braves, Charter Communications and GCI, among others.

McNeill Adds SVP of Hotel Operations

McNeill Hotel Company has hired Jason Harris to serve as the company’s SVP of hotel operations. Mark Ricketts, president/CEO, made the announcement.

In this newly created position, Harris will be responsible for managing the operations for all hotels in the company’s growing portfolio. He will also oversee the revenue management and sales & marketing functions for the hotels.

Prior to joining McNeill, Harris served as VP of operations for Superhost Hospitality, a Chicago-based hotel owner and operator, where he was instrumental in helping the company grow its portfolio from six to 17 hotels.

Best Western Expands Sales & Development Team

Best Western Hotels & Resorts (BWHR) has expanded its North American Development (NAD) team with key new hires and promotions. Jesse Heydorff and Mike Wasserson join the BWHR team as regional directors; additionally, Brandon Moore and Sean Tan have been promoted to managing directors.

Heydorff joins BWHR as regional director of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Heydorff has cultivated solid relationships across his territory and is already well-versed in BWHR’s needs and market demands for the growing boutique segment.

Wasserson rejoins BWHR as regional director of California and Nevada. Wasserson’s experience across both new-construction and conversion opportunities, coupled with his broad knowledge of BWHR and the drivers behind BWHR’s new boutique brands, make him an ideal addition to the NAD team, according to the company.

Moore has been promoted from regional director to managing director. In his new role, Moore will oversee the NAD Regional Directors, driving forward BHWR’s development goals in the Central and Southeast regions.

Sean Tan has been promoted from regional director to managing director. In his new role, Tan will oversee the NAD Regional Directors in the Western U.S., driving forward BHWR’s development goals in his region.

The Fives Hotels Appoints VP of Hotel Operations

The Fives Hotels & Residences has named Renaud Pfeifer to the role of VP of hotel operations. Renaud will consolidate hotel operations in Mexico, improve the quality of service, cultivate talent across the organization and be instrumental in the development of the All Senses Inclusive concept.

With more than 20 years of hotel experience, Pfeifer’s career began with Le Meridien, followed by other international hotel brands such as Karisma Hotels & Resorts, Melia Hotels & Resorts, and Minor Hotels in North America and Latin America.

Oxford Capital Group Promotes Three Executives

Oxford Capital Group LLC has promoted Brad Mulvihill to chief development officer; Kerry O’Hare to chief accounting officer; and Sarang Peruri to chief operating officer.

Mulvihill is responsible for acquisitions and development and has been involved in more than $1 billion of hospitality transactions over his nearly 15-year tenure at Oxford. He is also responsible for select investment opportunities across the real estate spectrum and in the corporate private equity area.

O’Hare is responsible for financial reporting, tax, treasury and finance, investor relations, risk management and human resources. Before joining Oxford in 1998, O’Hare was the manager of finance and controls at Strategic Hotel Capital, a $2-billion company formed primarily by Goldman Sachs, Security Capital and Prudential.

Peruri has been involved in more than $10 billion in transactions during his career and more than $1 billion in transactions while with Oxford. He is responsible for investment opportunities across the real estate spectrum and in the corporate private equity area.

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