AccorHotels taps former Starwood exec to NA post

NEW YORK—AccorHotels’ recent appointment of a former Starwood executive to its development team in North America can be viewed as furthering its commitment to growing its property portfolio on the continent. The French multinational hotel group tapped Mark Purcell as its VP of development in North America early last month.

In his new role, Purcell will be responsible for growing the hospitality group’s pipeline in North America. Accor has about 80 properties on the continent—the vast majority of which are Fairmont products (Accor acquired FRHI Hotels & Resorts and its three brands—Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel—in July 2016). “There’s a beautiful portfolio of resorts in Canada—going back to some of its historical roots,” he said. “Then it’s a handful of Sofitels, a couple of Novotels and Pullman products. In Mexico, we have a few more Novotels and then a few of our economy brand properties under development.”

Purcell led a regional development team for Starwood Hotels & Resorts prior to joining Accor. His team secured management and franchise agreements on more than 100 hotel projects valued at more than $10 billion. These transactions added more than 30,000 rooms to the Starwood system across all product types. He left Starwood at the end of 2016 following a three-month transition period after Marriott International Inc.’s acquisition of the hospitality company (which was completed in September 2016).

Discussions between Purcell and Accor began shortly after his departure. It took about five months to finalize his role as well as his agreement with the hospitality group. He stayed involved in the industry during this time by continuing to establish and maintain relationships, examine trends, and monitor active buyers, lenders and developers.

He also found time to give back to his community by sharing insights on the hiring process with those in need of a little extra help during potentially lengthy job searches.

“Probably, the most interesting activity I did during that time was to volunteer at the Northern Westchester Community Center, which provides services (food pantry, clothing boutique, job and life skills) to those less fortunate—many of whom are immigrants (both documented and undocumented),” he explained. “I worked primarily with people seeking assistance related to finding employment—building resumes, training for interviewing skills, instructing on the best way to fill out employment applications, how to go about finding employment, etc. You get a very different perspective from the national rhetoric when hearing the personal story of each individual.”

Now at Accor, one of his initiatives is to establish its pipeline in the region, thereby producing “consistent, continual growth on a go-forward basis,” Purcell said. Two flagship properties opening in the region this year are the 1,048-key Fairmont Austin in Texas (opening in September 2017) and the 982-room Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal (reopening this month after a year of renovations). Another property to note is the Fairmont Century Plaza, slated to open in Los Angeles in 2018 after a revamp is completed.

“We have a great Fairmont footprint in North America,” he said.

The Raffles brand currently doesn’t have any properties on the continent; however, “It’s got a great international portfolio of iconic assets,” he said. For example, announced fairly recently, the iconic Old War Office building in London will become a Raffles property. “To take that momentum and plant a Raffles in a couple of major markets in North America would really round out that global portfolio, so that’s a strategy and an initiative we’re aggressively approaching,” Purcell said.

He expects Accor’s legacy brands—such as Sofitel, Novotel and Pullman—will gain more traction in major markets in North America, “although we will be opportunistic for any real opportunities that may come about,” he said. His team will be “aggressively approaching our relationships, both domestically and internationally, to be investment partners on projects,” he said, noting Accor’s commitment to providing funds as well.

Purcell would like to see some Jo&Joe properties on the continent, too. As of now, Accor’s hostel brand can only be found in Europe. “We’ve had some great interest and traction with that brand in North America, so we’re working on getting a few of those rolled out,” he said. “We think that’s a real opportunity for us to be a market leader in that type of product.” Having invested in Mama Shelter and 25hours Hotels, Accor would also like to see both brands grow in North America.

“You’ve got a situation where there’s a lot of consolidation, and I think that will present opportunities,” Purcell said. “For example, Accor, with its limited distribution in North America, and one that’s really focused with Fairmont, does have an opportunity to leverage the strength of its platform—its Le Club AccorHotels frequent travel program—to position itself well in markets where some of the major North American, domestic brands are heavily saturated.” HB

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