Barry Sternlicht, the bold young founder of Starwood Lodging Corp. that grew over a decade into the massive Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (HOT), has resigned as Starwood’s executive chairman and as a member of the board of directors. He has assumed the title of founder and chairman emeritus.
While building his company from a modest realty firm with an equity market capitalization of less than $10 million to the world’s largest hotel company with an enterprise value exceeding $15 billion, Sternlicht entered the gaming industry with the acquisition of ITT Corp., then the owner of Caesars World and the Desert Inn during the late 90’s. However, he soon realized that gaming was not his forte and he sold Caesars in 1999 to Park Place Entertainment Inc. and the Desert Inn to Steve Wynn.
Starwood currently owns the Westin Casuarina on Flamingo Road and Koval Road, near the Las Vegas Strip, and operates the Aladdin under the company’s Sheraton brand on behalf of its partner, Planet Hollywood.
Sternlicht has been credited with the successful integration of Westin Hotels and ITT Sheraton, the acquisition and expansion of Vistana, now known as Starwood Vacation Ownership, and the development of the two major brands, W Hotels and St. Regis.
Last year, Sternlicht indicated his interest in leaving the company to devote more time to his family and his other business interest, including a real estate investment and private equity firm called Starwood Capital. He led the search for a successor and chose Steven J. Heyer who became CEO in October of last year.
Sternlicht said he will be replaced as chairman of the board by Bruce W. Duncan, a current board member. Also, he said, joining the board will be Lizanne Galbreath, current managing director of Galbreath & Co., a family-owned business with real estate and private equity holdings across the U.S.