Curt Strand, retired chairman and CEO of Hilton International, passed away peacefully in his home July 11, 2020. He was born November 13, 1920.
Mr. Strand was one of the most successful and influential CEO’s in lodging in modern history. He was a graduate of the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, class of 1943. Mr. Strand served in the United States Army Military Intelligence from 1943-1946 during World War II. In 1947 he was named Superintendent of Service for New York’s famed Plaza Hotel. In 1953 he served as Hilton
International’s Vice President of Planning. From 1958-1960 he was the General Manager of the Berlin Hilton, and he eventually became President and Chairman of Hilton International, and Director of Trans World Airlines. Under Mr. Strand’s leadership, Hilton International grew from one hotel in 1949, to encompass more than 100 hotels in 60 countries with 35,000 employees, at his retirement in 1987.
Subsequently, Mr. Strand became a senior consultant for American Express, SAS Hotels, Tishman-Speyer, Pierre Hotel and Sherry Netherlands Hotel in New York City. He lectured at Cornell University, Cornell Essec (France), New York University, Y.P.O. and University of Houston.
Some of the most important practices in the structuring of brand management for hotels were created by Mr. Strand. In a January 25, 1981 interview with The New York Times, he explained that Hilton International was essesntailly in the business of hotel management. He stated, “We are no longer basically a real estate company, but we control the standard of operation. We not only manage them but design the hotels carrying our name”. In the New York Times interview, Mr. Strand, then age 60, revealed that he logged 300,000 miles a year, flying around the world to open new hotels, oversee construction and operations, and look into new opportunities.
He shared, “I get off the plane with no jet lag, my stomach eager to enjoy all the varieties of food, and my mind eager to experience the local culture. I don’t know what jet lag feels like. I only need four or five hours of sleep. I knew I wanted a hotel career since I was 12 years old.”
Mr. Strand was respected throughout the world, universally considered a singular important contributor to the lodging industry. In a letter dated May 14, 2009, J. Willard Marriott, Jr. wrote, “You must feel very good about the entire industry chasing management contracts- a philosophy that you created.”
Mr. Strand was born November 13, 1920 in Vienna, Austria. He moved to the United States when he was 17. At age 25, Mr. Strand met 17 year old Fleur Lillian Emanuel at a dinner, and the two were engaged three weeks later. He remarked that she was the most intelligent, beautiful and sophisticated young woman he had ever met, and he knew he needed to move quickly, as Fleur was in New York only briefly en route from South Africa to Edinborough to enter medical school. The two were married June 14, 1946 in New York. His
wife went on to become a physiologist and pioneer of the “neuropeptide” concept, and held the title of Caroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Biology and Professor of Neural Science at New York University, and President of The New York Academy of Science. They were happily married for 65 years until Mrs. Strand died in 2011. They were part-time residents of Snowmass Village since 1968, and full-time residents since 2004. They had one daughter, Karen, who died in 2006. Curt is survived by his brother-in-law, Frank Emanuel, and his two nieces, Gigi and Nicole.
An avid skier well into his nineties, Mr. Strand actively participated in many affairs in the community he and Mrs. Strand loved. Mr. Strand served on boards of The Aspen Foundation, the Snowmass Resort Association (as chair from 1989 to 1997), Aspen Council of the Arts and the Executive Service Corps (ESC). He was a Fellow of The Aspen Institute, a member of the National Council of The Aspen Music Festival and School, and of Aspen Public Radio. He will be remembered, honored, appreciated and missed by countless friends in the valley and throughout the world.