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Extended Stay Hotels said yesterday that it has named Jim Donald - the former CEO of Starbucks, Pathmark and Haggen - top be its new CEO. He succeeds Gary DeLapp, who is expected to remain with the company as a consultant.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, “The hiring marks the rare choice of an outsider to lead a U.S. hotel company. It comes as the 685-hotel chain is looking to revitalize its business after investors bought the chain out of bankruptcy proceedings two years ago.”

And, the Journal writes: “Extended Stay plans to consolidate its brands later this year and to refresh itself under one name with a new logo, according to a person familiar with the matter. Extended Stay currently operates with five brands, including Extended Stay America, Extended Stay Deluxe Hotel and Homestead Studio Suites Hotels.

“As part of the plan, the company plans to invest more money to improve its hotels, said people familiar with the matter. The plan includes renovating two- thirds of Extended Stay's properties over the next 18 months, replacing and upgrading mattresses, carpet and paint, one of the people said. Hotel rooms are expected to get flat-screen televisions, this person said.”
KC's View:
Better than almost anyone I’ve ever met, Jim Donald understands that competitive wars are won on the front lines, not at headquarters. He gets the fact that it is the unique combination of people, facilities and price that can make a company a winner - and that’s true whether it is a supermarket chain or a hotel group.

It sounds like Extended Stay is going to double down on whatever brand equity it has, and really focus on the hotel experience. (My view is that a hotel room needs five basic qualities: a good mattress, a great shower, large and thick towels, a flat screen TV and free internet.) And I have to believe that Jim Donald is precisely the right person to push this company to the next level.

The only loser in this deal are the folks who write me every time their company gets into trouble saying that we all need to lobby for Jim Donald to get the top job.