Executive Grooming At Marriott

Stephen Joyce, who grew up in Prince George's, said he left Marriott to prove he can run a company.
Stephen Joyce, who grew up in Prince George's, said he left Marriott to prove he can run a company. (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
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By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 12, 2008

Earlier this month, Stephen P. Joyce left a key position at Marriott International to become president and chief-executive-in-waiting at Choice Hotels International.

The new job was only a few miles away, but it's a symbolic road that Marriott executives have gone down before, leaving a job as a senior executive at one of the world's largest hotel companies for a corner office somewhere else.

With Bill Marriott running the company since 1964 and showing no signs of slowing down, it has become a law of Marriott's executive culture. The company nurtures executives capable of running their own show. In many ways, it's a farm team for corporate America.

Former chief financial officer Stephen F. Bollenbach left the Marriott empire for Disney, then became chief executive of Hilton. Gary Wilson also left for Disney, and later became chairman of Northwest Airlines. Fred Malek was president of the hotels division and now has his own hotel investment company. Leland Pillsbury, an executive who worked under Malek, is his partner.

Yet Marriott International forges ahead, adding rooms and opening hotels near and far, with new executives moving up in line. That makes it, as Joyce said, an "attractive place for people to go fishing."

"You get such great training at Marriott," he said, "and Marriott is such a fertile ground for people looking for executives, there are more offers being thrown in to Marriott executives."

Earlier this month, Joyce became president and chief operating officer of the Silver Spring hotel franchiser Choice Hotels, whose brands include Comfort Inn and Econo Lodge. The company says he is positioned to become chief executive when Charles Ledsinger Jr. retires from that post in October.

Joyce, a senior executive in Marriott's development group, had a number of jobs in his 26-year tenure, including establishing and building the firm's franchising program, which he said made him an ideal candidate for the job at Choice.

"What I saw at Choice was a platform that was almost uniquely structured to my skill set," he said.

Joyce weighed his options, which included heading up global development for Marriott. He was being groomed to take over the department when James M. Sullivan retires. Sullivan, the third-highest-paid executive in the company, made $5 million in 2007.

"That was a great opportunity," Joyce said. "To be basically the chief growth officer for Marriott is an incredible position. I think if I had done that, I could have done that for a long time and been very happy."

(Of course, the Choice job has perks. According to his employment agreement at Choice, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, besides a $775,000 base salary when he becomes chief executive, Joyce gets a membership to a "dining and/or recreational club" and use of the company jet.)

Joyce, who grew up in Prince George's County, said he had personal reasons for leaving Marriott. "I grew up in the D.C. area. I'm a product of the PG school system. It has always been my belief that I could run a company. One of the things that's important to me is to prove it to myself."

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