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Isadore Sharp: outstanding CEO of the year.

Isadore Sharp, founder, president and chief executive officer of the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, has been named as Canada's Outstanding CEO of the Year for 1992.

He was chosen from a blue-chip list of Canadian executives as the business leader who best exemplifies excellence in corporate achievement, leadership, vision, innovation and global competitiveness. An Advisory Panel comprised of distinguished business leaders screened the nominations and made the final selection of Mr. Sharp for the top honour.

In just 30 years, Mr. Sharp has advanced his business from a single hotel on Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto to become the world's largest luxury hotel and resort operation, with 43 hotels in 17 countries.

The Outstanding CEO of the Year Award, now in its third year, was founded by The Caldwell Partners Amrop International, North America's leading executive search firm -- with partners around the world, and The Financial Post.

"Issy Sharp has it all--the ability to conceive a vision of what is possible, the business acumen to plan for success and the unique gift to inspire others to help him carry the dream through to reality. He is a first-class individual recognized around the world by his hotel guests, his staff and his peers as someone to admire and emulate," says Doug Caldwell, chairman of The Caldwell Partners.

The award was presented to Mr. Sharp by His Excellency, the Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn, Governor General of Canada, at Rideau Hall. A gala dinner, sponsored by Canada Post Corporation, followed.

Previous award recipients are Harrison McCain, chairman of the board of McCain Foods Limited, honoured in 1990 and Laurent Beaudoin, chairman of Bombardier Inc., named as the 1991 recipient.

Imagination Fuels Success

The Four Seasons' story of growth and innovation began in 1961, when Mr. Sharp, then an architect working with his father in a two-man construction company in Toronto, envisioned the creation of a luxury hotel after building a small motel for someone else.

He chose an unlikely, but affordable site -- the corner of Jarvis and Carlton on the edge of Toronto's red light district -- and turned his imagination to developing a property that would provide an elegant, hospitable home-away-from-home for business or leisure travellers.

His fresh approach to design -- an inner courtyard provided a plush view when the neighbourhood couldn't -- was the first of many steps he'd take in establishing the Four Seasons as a unique and popular location for business travellers, celebrities and vacationers.

Since opening that first hotel, Mr. Sharp has expanded his operation to become a global network of luxury hotels and resorts. Four Seasons currently owns and/or operates properties in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, as well as the U.S., U.K., Japan and the Caribbean.

Last summer, 10 Regent International Hotels located in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and the U.S. were acquired, and new properties are now under development in Bali, Hawaii, California, New York, Milan, Mexico City, Paris, Singapore, Jakarta and London.

Innovation Leads the Way

The Four Seasons name is synonymous with unparalleled service. It is Mr. Sharp's obsession with attending to a guest's every need that produced such innovations as shampoos and bathrobes in each room, mini-bars, overnight dry cleaning, pressing and shoeshine services. Taking a cue from the European hospitality industry, the Four Seasons was also a North American leader in employing concierges.

Other innovative approaches to business include recycling programs for glass, paper and other biodegradable garbage, special seating areas closed off from bedrooms, and perhaps as a reflection of Mr. Sharp's own healthy lifestyle, the replacement of the traditional chocolate truffle on the pillow with bottled water -- a healthier choice for bedtime.

Staff Play Key Role in Business Success

Regardless of the location or the style of the hotels under the Four Seasons/Regent flag, all maintain the highest standards of quality in product and service. Mr. Sharp credits his staff with this success and has commented that "our product doesn't begin on the assembly line, but at the front desk. If we're the best in the field, that's why."

Hotel guests and employees are treated with equal respect and no detail is too small to be overlooked. On his frequent and regular visits to each of the hotels, Mr. Sharp spends time listening to staff, problem-solving and ensuring that employees feel they have the right -- and in fact, the obligation -- to take whatever steps are necessary to see that any guest's needs are met.

Staff are rigorously trained and once their performance quality is assured, Mr. Sharp believes that they must be trusted to carry through the philosophy and implement their own innovative solutions to solve customers concerns. One famous anecdote tells of a baggage carrier who, on his own time and at his own cost, flew to another city to return a piece of luggage that he had forgotten to load for a guest. It is this kind of commitment that has made Mr. Sharp and his hotel legendary in the hospitality industry.

Community Involvement Significant

Mr. Sharp has the same drive to succeed in his activities outside his regular executive responsibilities. He is currently a director of several companies and organizations including The Bank of Nova Scotia; Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto; The Council for Canadian Unity; the Investment Dealers Association of Canada and Roy-L Merchant Group Inc.

Mr. Sharp has a special affinity for activities that support cancer research as he lost a young son to the disease. He initiated the corporate sponsorship program for The Terry Fox Marathon of Hope and continues to direct the annual run which has been tagged as the largest fundraising event worldwide, having raised some $35 million to date. For this and other work with the Canadian Cancer Society, he received the first Ruth Hartman Frankel Humanitarian Award.

Mr. Sharp and his wife Rosalie (Wise) live in Toronto. They have three grown sons Jordan, Gregory and Anthony. Their fourth son, Christopher, died in 1978.

"Through our consultations with business leaders around the world, we see many company presidents and executives managing their companies competently and profitably. But Isadore Sharp goes well beyond, integrating vision, innovation and strategy into every decision," comments Mr. Caldwell. "He truly embodies the Outstanding CEO title and we congratulate him on his valuable contribution to Canadian business -- at home and abroad."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Canadian Institute of Management
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts CEO is Canada's Outstanding CEO of the Year for 1992
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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