UST alum named Carlson CEO

Global hospitality and travel company Carlson this week named St. Thomas alum Trudy Rautio as its new president and CEO, making her just the fifth chief executive in the 74-year history of the family owned company whose brands include Radisson hotels, T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

Rautio has been a senior executive at Minnetonka-based Carlson for 15 years. For the past eight years, she’s been executive vice president and chief financial and administrative officer. She replaces Hubert Joly, who had been president and CEO since 2008 and is now CEO of Best Buy.

In an interview with The Associated Press, board chair Marilyn Carlson Nelson called Rautio “an obvious choice” to succeed Joly.

“Trudy is highly respected. She’s probably the most effective go-to person in the company,” Nelson said.

Carlson, formerly named Carlson Companies, operates in more than 150 countries, with more than 1,300 hotels and more than 900 restaurants. Its brands employ more than 170,000 people. Its hotels include Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Country Inns & Suites by Carlson, Regent Hotels & Resorts, Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts and Park Inn. The company reported $38 billion in system-wide revenues in 2011, up 13 percent from 2010, and $4.5 billion in company revenue, sales that show up on its own financial statements, up $4.5 billion from 2010.

Rautio played an important role in developing Carlson’s “Ambition 2015” five-year strategy for growing the company’s market share in each of its business lines despite the flat global market, Nelson said. She said the company sees Rautio as someone who can not only execute the current plan but lead the company beyond 2015.

“We feel that we won’t miss a beat. … She has the understanding of our business models and our competitors that will allow her to lead our team in developing the subsequent five-year plan,” Nelson said.

Rautio, a graduate of Bemidji State University with an MBA from the University of St. Thomas, becomes Carlson’s second female president and chief executive. Nelson was the first. Her father, Curtis L. Carlson, founded the company as the Gold Bond trading stamp company and grew it into a global conglomerate.