October 27, 2013

Frits van Paasschen: Is he America's most-fit CEO?

The CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts – best known for brands like Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis and W – exercises six days a week no matter where he is in the world.

By Scott Mayerowitz
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

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Starwood Hotels CEO Frits van Paasschen, a triathlete, prepares for a ride in New York’s Central Park this month. His passion for health and fitness is reflected in amenities offered at the hotels he runs.

The Associated Press

So, I wonder, is van Paasschen one of the most fit CEOs in America?

“I’m not competing against other CEOs,” he says. “It’s really a kind of a personal goal setting thing.”

Every road warrior has his or her own habits. For instance, Van Paasschen is ultimately responsible for the types of closets and dressers guests encounter in his hotel rooms. But he typically doesn’t use them. Instead, he lives out of a suitcase.

“My wife is actually quite tidy,” van Paasschen says. He’s the opposite. “I’m always quite fascinated how quickly I can make a mess of things.”

Starwood has made a concerted push to win over road warriors who spend 50, 100 nights a year at hotels. Last year, it introduced a personal ambassador service for its most-frequent guests, a personal point of contact to handle their needs.

“About 2 percent of our travelers account for about 30 percent of our profitability,” van Paasschen says. “What I think is surprising is that they actually don’t have very extravagant demands. But what they want are a few things consistently executed.”

That often means a microwave in the room for popcorn, having the temperature set in advance or stocking the fridge with Diet Coke. Big requests only come when they are traveling with their families.

“Folks who travel as much as they do, they do want to be a hero,” van Paasschen says.

Just as we start to break a sweat, it’s time to end the ride. I get the sense van Paasschen wouldn’t mind being out in the park all morning – but he has a meeting. We finish and an aide thanks me for returning her CEO in one piece.

I think: He’s the triathlete; I sit in a cubicle all day long. It’s me who’s thankful for being back in one piece.

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