Jarvis named as new Hilton chief

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David Jarvis has become head of the Hilton International hotels group just three weeks after resigning unexpectedly as chief executive of Hiram Walker, one of the world's leading drinks companies which is owned by Allied Domecq.

The appointment has caused some surprise among leisure analysts, who had been expecting Ladbroke, owner of Hilton, to recruit an experienced hotelier.

Ladbroke said the hunt for a replacement for Tommaso Zanzotto, who only became chief executive of Hilton 18 months ago, had involved "a trawl through all the major hotel companies world-wide and other lists of senior executives."

Mr Jarvis, a spokesman added, was selected from a final shortlist of two. He declined to name the other candidate, but did say that he was a hotelier.

One industry observer said in Ladbroke's defence that the company's chances of recruiting a top hotelier were slim, mainly because the salary that would have had to be paid "would have made Greenbury's eyes pop out of their sockets.".

However, drinks analysts who became acquainted with Mr Jarvis during his long career at Allied said he was an efficient manager of brands but questioned whether he had the charismatic leadership needed to front an international hotels group. Hilton operates 160 hotels with more than 51,000 rooms in 46 countries, and employs 53,000 world-wide.

David Jarvis is the fourth chief executive of Hilton since the company was acquired by Ladbroke in the mid-1980s.

Ladbroke defended the criticism about appointing Mr Jarvis instead of a recognised hotelier. The spokesman said: "In terms of hotel experience, we have lots of hoteliers who are very good on the operations side. David Jarvis is used to running a major profit centre of an international business, and he is used to aggressively setting up businesses overseas."

The terms of Mr Jarvis's contract are not yet being disclosed, although analysts said he would probably be on the standard Ladbroke two-year contract and be paid a similar amount to the pounds 325,000 a year earned by Mr Zanzotto.

The compensation paid to Mr Jarvis by Allied has also not yet been disclosed. Speculation around the time of his departure suggested he would receive upwards of pounds 500,000.

There was some relief yesterday in the City, however, that a replacement for Mr Zanzotto had been found quickly, given Ladbroke's on-going negotiations to try and unify the Hilton name world-wide through a deal with Hilton Corporation of the US. Ladbroke has the rights to the Hilton name outside the US.

Mr Jarvis is 48 with a degree in politics from Essex. He played a pivotal role in the delicate negotiations to persuade numerous family members of the Domecq drinks group to sell-out last year to what was then known as Allied-Lyons.