Alejandro Bernabé new CEO of Kempinski Hotels

Alejandro Bernabé_2As part of Kempinski Hotels’ long-term succession planning, the group has announced that Reto Wittwer, President and CEO since 1995, has retired from this role yesterday, and has handed over to his successor, Alejandro Bernabé. Alejandro Bernabé became CEO of Kempinski Hotels effective October 29, 2014.

After being identified by the Supervisory Board as one of Kempinski Hotels’ talents a little over a decade ago, Alejandro Bernabé has been groomed through successive postings and increasing responsibilities to succeed Wittwer at the helm of the group.

A graduate of the Hotel Institute Montreux in Switzerland, Bernabé has a Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts USA, as well as an MBA from Reims Management School in France. Bernabé started his career in Food & Beverage, a core focus, and indeed passion, for the group, working in Switzerland, South Africa, France and Sri Lanka, before joining Kempinski in 1998 as pre-opening Food & Beverage Manager at the Kempinski Hotel Plaza in Jakarta. Bernabé continued in Food & Beverage at the Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg, managed by Kempinski as the time, then at the Ç?ra?an Palace Kempinski in Istanbul. He was soon promoted to Resident Manager in Spain, then General Manager in Malta, Kuwait and Jordan. Bernabé’s success in leading Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates in Dubai to increasingly high levels of performance and quality standards brought him to the Supervisory Board’s attention once more, and Bernabé was transferred to manage the Siam Kempinski Hotel in Bangkok. There he reaffirmed the hotel’s strong reputation as one of the city’s most important leisure and culinary destinations, while gaining exposure and recognition with the group’s shareholders. Bernabé was made responsible for the group’s operations and development efforts in Southeast Asia in 2013, and his development efforts in one of the group’s most important emerging regions have already resulted in the group signing two exciting hotels in Myanmar. His practical, hands-on experience in city and resort hotels, combined with his inspirational and rigorous management style, make Bernabé an ideal successor to Wittwer.

Michael D Selby, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Kempinski AG, states that “The Supervisory Board unanimously agreed to nominate Mr Bernabé as CEO of Kempinski Hotels. We’re confident that Mr Bernabé will bring renewed vigour to accomplishing our vision, and bring Kempinski Hotels to greater heights of financial and operational performance, together with his colleagues in the Management Board.”

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Kempinski AG’s Management Board members are now: Alejandro Bernabé, CEO, Markus Semer, Deputy CEO, Marcus van der Wal, Chief Operating Officer, and Colin Lubbe, Chief Financial Officer.

Wittwer Reto_1In a career spanning four decades, Reto Wittwer is one of the hospitality industry’s longest-serving CEOs, since being appointed President & CEO of Ciga S.p.A. (from 1992 to 1995) and prior to that President & CEO of the then Swissair Nestlé Swissôtel Ltd. (from 1989 to 1992). A Swiss national, Wittwer has travelled extensively and gained experience in almost all operational departments before becoming CEO, and has a remarkable capacity to relate to staff at all levels as a result. When he joined Kempinski Hotels in 1995 as President & CEO, Wittwer was clear in his vision to grow Kempinski’s portfolio internationally and build the brand. In the nearly 20 years since he was appointed, Wittwer has succeeded in turning around the fortunes of the group, by focusing its offering on luxury hotel management services, and realising an ambitious yet highly selective expansion strategy, growing the portfolio from 21 hotels to the 73 under operation today, with a further 35 under construction or final development. He credits the success of this strategy to the group’s shareholders, who have focused on long-term growth and returns. Today, Kempinski has an international portfolio, having entered many markets as pioneers, and recorded the group’s best financial performance in 2012 and exceeded this again in 2013.

Michael D Selby, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Kempinski AG, says “It’s nearly two decades since the shareholders of Kempinski asked Mr Wittwer to make a long-term commitment and help make our joint vision a reality. He’s steered the group through challenges, which other competitors have failed, and Kempinski has weathered the economic crisis thanks to our business model of pure management agreements for hotels in Kempinski’s portfolio. Mr Wittwer really has been part of making Kempinski Hotels the successful company and respected brand it is today. The Supervisory Board of Kempinski AG thanks Mr Wittwer for having dedicated so much of his career to the group, we hope he will stay close in his new role as President Emeritus, despite going into a very well deserved retirement.”

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