Rotana CEO Selim El Zyr to step down
COO Omer Kaddouri promoted to CEO as of January 1, 2014
On December 31, Rotana Hotels co-founder Selim El Zyr will step down from his role as CEO of the company he set up 21 years ago.
El Zyr, who has dedicated the past 40 years to the Middle East hospitality industry, opened his first hotel with Rotana, Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, in 1993.
He will be replaced by the current COO Omer Kaddouri, effective January 1, 2014, with El Zyr continuing to sit on the board of the company in a consultancy role.
Speaking exclusively to Hotelier Middle East about his future plans Selim El Zyr said: “I’m going to be here to answer any questions he (Kaddouri) wants. And I’m going to probably look at unconventional deals that the company makes with third parties. I want to spend four to five hours a day [with Rotana] for the next couple of years until things are smooth.”
Speaking about his successor, El Zyr also stressed his confidence that with Kaddouri, Rotana Hotels is being left in safe hands.
“I discovered my successor maybe ten years ago. I discovered in him the drive and the energy, the intelligence and the fairness; he was fair, he was correct. I saw that this guy has got a future, the way he talked, the way he behaved, the way he performed his duties, I saw that this is a promising individual. And I said to myself and I even shared it with some of my partners and colleagues here that this is a winning bet. He has not disappointed me yet,” said El Zyr.
A Lebanese national, El Zyr first started working in hotels in 1964 before graduating from renowned hospitality school Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland in 1970 and becoming chief steward at the Waldorf-Astoria New York.
In 1973 he came to Abu Dhabi, where a 12-year career with Hilton ensued, followed by a brief stint founding fast food chain Juicy Burger in Lebanon in 1982, before returning to the UAE with Abu Dhabi National Hotels.
El Zyr founded Rotana Hotels with life-long friend Nasser Al Nowais, chairman of Rotana, as a local hotel group that was capable of competing with international operators, and has since taken the brand to emerging markets, launched a loyalty programme, made in-roads with online and mobile bookings, focused on accessible, authentic and entertaining F&B options and most recently, in 2013, launched Rotana Earth.
El Zyr was also the first ever hotelier to score the top spot in the Hotelier Middle East Power 50 in 2009 and since then has remained in one of the top six positions every year.