It's the end of an era.
Choice Hotels International has announced that Steve Joyce, the charismatic and candid CEO of the company since 2008, will be succeeded as CEO by Patrick Pacious, Choice's current president and COO, effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Joyce will continue in his role as CEO through the end of the year, after which he will assume the role of vice chairman of the board. Pacious is expected to join the board of directors in September.
The appointment of Pacious as president and CEO is the culmination of a long-term succession planning process, focused on maintaining leadership continuity, while driving new ideas that result in continued positive business growth now and into the future, the company said. Over the past several years, Joyce has collaborated with the board of directors to identify and prepare his successor. The board and Joyce identified Pacious as the right person to lead Choice into the future.
"Under Steve's tenure as CEO, Choice Hotels has grown stronger. We are grateful for Steve's leadership, passion for talent development, and his legacy of innovation and growth over the better part of a decade," Stewart Bainum, Jr., chairman of Choice's board of directors, said in a statement. "When Steve joined Choice as CEO, he was immediately impressed with Pat's strengths and talents, and by enhancing Pat's roles over the years, Steve ensured that Pat is the clear choice to succeed him. Pat demonstrates exceptional vision, and has spearheaded innovations that cement our position as a hospitality and technology leader and pioneer, while further strengthening our strategic differentiation and our core values."
Unlike many other of his hotel CEO contemporaries, Joyce was brash, forthright, never missing—especially when on stage with others—the opportunity to drop a zinger or needle another CEO. And who could forget his mesmerizing turn on CBS' "Undercover Boss."
Joyce steered many initiatives at Choice, including the launch of the Ascend Hotel Collection in 2008, reinvigoration of Choice's flagship Comfort brand and launch of its own vacation rental platform. Today, the company currently franchises approximately 6,500 hotels, representing more than 575,000 rooms in more than 40 countries and territories.
One of Joyce's most recent public appearances was at the company's global convention in Las Vegas, where he touted the franchise company as "Future Ready," underlining its commitment to technology as a differentiator. He also made one ironic statement: "Leadership succession is something that we’re all watching closely," though referring to the current administration in Washington, not him.
"We are looking for the new administration to be a champion for travel, not a limiter, and to promote a secure, efficient but welcoming customs process that attracts more international visitors, not less,” he said.
Joyce has also been a vocal opponent of hotel industry disruptors, such as the online travel agencies, which he railed against with ubiquity during his career.
At Choice's 2017 conference, Joyce spoke glowingly of his future successor, referring to Pacious as a leader, a caring individual and someone with a strong commitment to the Choice franchisee. "Pat has earned the respect and admiration of an entire industry," Joyce said. "And he certainly has mine."
Pacious joined Choice in 2005, and under his direction Choice built global technology platforms that resulted in improved profitability and efficiencies for the company's franchised hotel owners. He led strategies and growth initiatives around brand, marketing, development, franchise services, revenue management and performance analytics. This includes the company's growth in the upscale segment with both Cambria Hotels and The Ascend Hotel Collection, as well as the transformation of the Comfort brand. During his tenure at Choice Hotels, Pacious was appointed COO in January 2014 and additionally became president in May 2016. Previously, he held senior management consulting positions with BearingPoint and Arthur Andersen, during which time he was engaged on several projects for Choice, and is a former U.S. Navy officer.
"Choice is in a great position with an amazing leadership team, and I am proud of the outstanding achievements that we have accomplished during my tenure. I expect the company will continue to lead the industry with innovations and technology with Pat as CEO," Joyce said in a statement. "Pat is a natural leader, and I fully endorse the Board's decision to appoint him to the helm of Choice Hotels at this time. We have worked closely together since I joined the company in 2008. I believe his strategic thinking and vision will continue to drive growth and profitability for the company. Our shareholders, franchisees, developers, partners and associates are in good hands."
"In essence, we have two executives at the top of their games, one who is agreeing to stay on the board as vice chairman, and another stepping in to take the reins of the company," Bainum said. "As a result, Choice benefits from a deliberate and well-executed long-term succession planning strategy coming to fruition."
"This is an exciting time at Choice. We have a strong performance-based culture that focuses on agility and speed, creating momentum and opportunity for the company, franchisees, associates and shareholders. I am honored by the confidence that the Board and Steve have placed in me, and I look forward to strengthening Choice Hotels' position as an industry leader," Pacious said in a statement. "Business is strong. Our upper midscale and midscale brands – Comfort and Sleep Inn – are experiencing their strongest growth in recent history. We have solidified our place in the upscale market with Cambria Hotels and The Ascend Hotel Collection. Most importantly, we remain focused on embracing digital disruption and creating innovative technology solutions that improve our franchisees' return on investment, expand our customer reach, and serve the broader industry."