by Michael J. Shapiro | February 01, 2016
Thomas B. Mangas (pictured) CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts
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Thomas B. Mangas officially became the new CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts on Dec. 31, 2015. He is charged with leading the lodging company until the merger with Marriott International closes -- likely by midyear. M&C recently spoke with Mangas to get his perspective on the acquisition.

Planners have a number of concerns about the merger, particularly regarding their sales contacts and loyalty points. Can you provide any specific insight on those issues?
Our combined global platform and growth opportunity will allow us to offer more choices in more places, expand our guest and customer base, and enrich our loyalty proposition and offerings. Rewards and recognition continue as normal, and we remain committed to SPG Pro, Luxury Privileges and delivering the level of service excellence that our customers have come to expect from us.

Until the deal closes, we will continue to act independently, and Starwood hotels will continue to run business as usual. It is in both Marriott's and Starwood's best interests to keep delighting our loyal customers now and through the integration.

As planners have questions over management changes, are you encountering hurdles in booking future group business at Starwood hotels?
We haven't experienced any hurdles so far. Because Starwood hotels are continuing to run business as usual, and planners are continuing to work with their respective contacts at Starwood on existing and longer-term business, we don't expect to encounter any hurdles. Starwood will continue to honor current contract terms through the integration, and there is no change to RFP bids or existing reservations.

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson has referred to Starwood's luxury brands in interviews, as well as the company's global reach. Will the luxury tier or the international presence be specific areas of focus for you in the coming months?
We continue to have aggressive goals to grow our luxury portfolio and global footprint, and those are particular focuses of mine. I will soon travel to Asia to work with the Starwood leadership team there on how we can continue to accelerate growth in that region.

In the meantime, what do you consider your number-one priority for guiding the company over the coming months?
For the next six months, I will focus on meeting the conditions of closing our merger with Marriott, including executing our spin-off of Vistana Signature Experiences and sale to Interval Leisure Group, regulatory approvals and shareholder vote. At the same time, I will work with the team to continue vigorously competing as an independent company. I want to accelerate our rooms and fee growth, and ensure we continue strengthening the guest experience, because all of that strengthens our brands and hotels.