The Business On... Richard Solomons, chief executive, IHG

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The Independent Online

Is that another bland conglomerate?

Far from it: IHG is InterContinental Hotels, the world's largest hotelier, owning brands such as Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and, of course, InterContinental itself. Mr Solomons has been running the show since July.

Did he work his way up from hotel porter?

Not quite. He started out as an investment banker before, in 1992, joining Bass, the leisure group of which InterContinental used to be a part. He's been with the company in one role oranother – the decade prior to the top job was spent as chief financial officer – ever since.

A numbers man then?

That's it. Mr Solomons made his name when he masterminded the demerger of InterContinental Hotels and Britvic from Bass, just three weeks after the 9/11 attacks in New York.

And how is the hotel business just now? Feeling the squeeze presumably?

Actually, Mr Solomons saidyesterday that reservations are holding up, even in the corporate sector, despite the slowing in the pace of the global economic recovery. Sales at IHG have been slower in recent months, but mostly because of the unrest in the Middle East, where travellers have understandably been less inclined to make bookings. Generally speaking, hotel businesses, including IHG, Marriott and Accor are all performing well.

What's the trick?

Well, IHG's mid-market brands are benefiting from corporates seeking to make economies on booking and its global spread is helpful too – its operations in Asia aren't facing the same sort of headwinds as in the West, for example.

Not such a bad time to take over after all then?

So it would seem. Mr Solomons might even have a bit of time left over for his passions – mountain biking and skiing (not to mention cars – his prize possession is a silver Porsche 911).