BETHESDA, MD—RLJ Lodging Trust President and CEO Ross H. Bierkan will retire from the company, effective at the end of the term of his existing employment agreement on August 22. In alignment with the board’s executive succession planning, the board of trustees has named Leslie D. Hale as president and CEO, effective August 22. Bierkan will not stand for election at the 2018 annual meeting, and Hale will be nominated for election then.
Hale currently serves as EVP, COO and CFO. The company is working with an executive search firm and will make announcements with respect to the roles of COO and CFO in the near term.
Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of RLJ Lodging Trust, said, “We have an active and engaged board, and part of our ongoing responsibility is thoughtful succession planning. Through this process, the board determined that Leslie is singularly positioned and is the right person to take RLJ to the next stage. Leslie has done an incredible job as both COO and CFO. She knows our strategy well, and with her deep involvement in both the operational and financial sides of the business, she is uniquely prepared to succeed Ross and lead the company forward. We are confident this leadership succession will be seamless and that Leslie will drive the company’s continued success with an intense focus on maximizing value for our shareholders.”
Johnson continued, “Ross was the first executive that Tom Baltimore and I hired and he became a critical part of our hotel real estate vision and venture. I want to thank Ross for his dedicated service as CEO of the company. Ross has been a key member of the management team at RLJ Lodging Trust and its predecessor company for almost 20 years, and he has played a crucial role in its tremendous growth and development. We wish Ross all the best in his future endeavors.”
For her part, Hale said, “This is an exciting time for the company as we build on our strong momentum and continue to execute on our priorities. We are well-positioned for continued success with a proven investment strategy, a high-quality diversified portfolio, a solid balance sheet and an attractive cash flow profile. I am confident in our strategic direction and in our ongoing ability to pursue the optimal path to unlock value.”
“I am proud to have served with a team that has evolved from a start-up in the year 2000 to the third largest pure lodging REIT… We are well on our way to achieving our key objectives this year, and with this backdrop, now is the right time for me to retire and celebrate the next generation of leadership at RLJ Lodging Trust,” said Bierkan.
Hale joined RLJ Development LLC, the company’s predecessor, in 2005 as its director of real estate and finance and was promoted to VP in 2006. In 2007, she was promoted to CFO and SVP and, in 2013, she was promoted to EVP. In 2016, Hale also took on the role of COO, with the added responsibility for management of the company’s operating platform, in addition to overseeing all financial matters. Prior to Hale’s tenure at RLJ, she held several positions of increasing responsibility within General Electric Capital Corporation, including VP in the mergers and acquisitions group of GE Commercial Finance and associate director in the strategic capital group of GE Real Estate. Before GE, Hale was an investment banker at Goldman, Sachs & Co.