Leawood-based AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., which lost previous CEO Gerry Lopez to the hotel industry, has tapped a hotel executive as its new chief executive officer.
Adam M. Aron, 61, had been named interim CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. in February. He will take the top post at AMC on Jan. 4.
He succeeds Craig Ramsey, who has led AMC on an interim basis since Lopez left in August to run the hotel chain Extended Stay America. Ramsey will return to his previous post as chief financial officer.
Aron, in an interview Tuesday, referred to Kansas City as his new hometown and noted that he’ll be “house hunting” here soon. He’s new to the movie exhibition industry as well.
But new is not unfamiliar.
“This is not the first time in my career that I’ve gone into a new business. I was in the airline business, the hotel business, the ski resort business, the cruise line business. As a board member, I was in the cellphone business, I was in the florist and men’s shoes businesses,” Aron said. “And I’ve forgotten my little foray into professional sports with the National Basketball Association.”
The cellphone business was Nextel Communications, where Aron was a member of the board of directors when it merged with Overland Park-based Sprint to form Sprint Nextel Corp. a decade ago. That deal didn’t go well for Sprint, which subsequently closed the Nextel network and dropped Nextel from its name.
At AMC, Aron said he sees lots of potential even at a company that is doing well.
Its loyalty program called AMC Stubs stands out, Aron said. He called himself a pioneer in the frequent-flier movement when he was a senior vice president with United Airlines and has focused on customer loyalty in the other industries where he has had a role.
“My whole career has been focused on making sure that consumers’ relationships with companies and institutions are really intense,” Aron said.
AMC’s principal owners, the Dalian Wanda Group in China, also intrigue Aron because Wanda also owns China’s largest movie theater chain. The companies already deal with vendors such as Coca-Cola and Imax as a combined global player.
Aron said he was in China last week with his Starwood hotel job. The CEO post at AMC will take him back for meetings with Wanda Group leaders.
His move to AMC comes as Starwood is merging into Marriott International Inc. to form the largest hotel chain in the world, with 1.1 million rooms. The two companies announced their merger agreement in November with expectations of completing the deal in mid-2016.
Starwood turned to Aron when his predecessor, Frits van Paasschen, “resigned by mutual agreement” with the company’s board of directors. Aron, who was among those directors, had been on the company’s board since 2006.
Aron’s resume offers a list of leisure and lodging credentials. He was CEO and co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team from 2011 to 2013. He has been CEO of Vail Resorts Inc. and Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., as well as a senior vice president of marketing at United Airlines and Hyatt Hotels Corp.
AMC’s new CEO also had been a senior operating partner with Apollo Management LP during part of the time it and other groups owned AMC Entertainment.
Apollo and JP Morgan Chase & Co. were part of an investor group that bought AMC Entertainment in 2004, taking the company into private ownership after several years as a publicly traded company. Several months later, AMC acquired Loews Cineplex Entertainment to become the second-largest movie exhibitor in the United States.
AMC Entertainment’s shares again trade publicly though most of the company’s shares are held by Wanda Group. Wanda Group had bought AMC from the Apollo investor group in September 2012 in a $2.6 billion deal.
In an announcement, AMC director and Wanda Movie Holding executive Jack Gao cited Aron’s success in “traditional, consumer-driven, entertainment businesses” as the basis for hiring him.
“Adam (Aron) has demonstrated an ability to target capital investments, implement customer-focused innovations and organize his teams to drive incredible guest experiences that produce exceptional financial returns,” Gao said in the announcement.
AMC Entertainment operates 4,937 screens in in 348 locations, most in the United States.