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WORDS of MOUTH

Executive Speechwriting
& Presentation Services

Susan Goldman

2817 N. Burling
Chicago, IL 60657

Phone: 773-348-9554
FAX: 773-442-0906

 

BRYAN LANGTON’S
"THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES"
FAREWELL ADDRESS
HOLIDAY INN WORLDWIDE CONFERENCE
Las Vegas, Nevada
October 15, 1996
Following is the text of the CEO of Holiday Inn Worldwide’s farewell remarks at the last worldwide conference of franchisees before his retirement. When this speech was first drafted, the CEO, Bryan Langton, planned to retire on his 60th birthday, two months after the conference. This led to the original objective to say thank you and good-bye and walk off into the sunset. Ten days before the conference was to begin, however, Mr. Langton’s successor abruptly resigned and Mr. Langton was asked to stay on until a new successor could be found. Therefore, the objective changed suddenly to include the need to instill confidence and communicate that a strong hand remained on the tiller. And yet, since a successor was expected to be named before the next annual conference, the speech still had to retain its original flavor of farewell and thanks. This speech won the Bronze Anvil Award for Speeches in 1997.

I actually wasn't planning to talk much this morning. (Unusual for me.)

I really wanted to sing.

For six years now ... from my first Conference as Chairman, in New York, I've been promising to do a song and dance routine ... and, for those of you who were there in 1990, I know ... I really know ... you've been expecting that of me.

So Chairman ... you're not going to like this.

I know you've been worrying about it ... that I'll do what I've always threatened to do ... what I've always wanted to do, in fact.

Tap dance, on stage. And here they are. [HOLD UP SHOES]

Right size. Double taps. Top hat and tails waiting in the wings. Legs'll stand up to it. Ankles in training.

>>SLIGHT PAUSE<<

But Chairman, even I wouldn't do that to you.

>>PAUSE<<

However, I did think I should start my remarks today with:

(Sings) "OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING ... "

But the conference production team said, "No, Bryan, you can't do that. You can't SING. It wouldn't be right."

And at first, of course, as usual, I listened to them. But then I thought, "What the hell, I'm retiring ... I can do whatever I want!"

So ladies and gentlemen:

(Sings) "WHAT A DAY THIS HAS BEEN ... WHAT A RARE MOOD I'M IN ... "

In fact, this is very appropriate for today ... since my wife and I are still celebrating that eight days ago, we welcomed our 4th grandchild into the family.

He was actually due to be born today. Another golfer.

>>PAUSE<<

Life. What an experience.

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Perhaps it's wrong of me to get too nostalgic, but I started to add up a couple of days ago. I have been in this business for 43 years, 3 months and 14 days ... and I realized that I've actually loved every single minute of it. I regard myself a lucky man.

Last week, however, I thought my career would last 43 years, 5 months and 5 days! Retirement parties had already begun.

In fact, I was honored at a surprise party in England a couple of weeks ago, with people who have worked for me, or with me, over the past 30 years.

Then what happened? Phones started ringing after Ian's announcement. Can we have another party?

But for today, let me go back maybe 9 years ... and in particular, perhaps, the past 7. As I look back on the years with the Holiday Inn system, what do I see? Re-engineering. Reucturing. Re-locating. Tough decisions. Endless meetings. Enormous pressure. I have learned so much ... and, my God, am I still learning.

Above all, what have I really seen? That commitment. That unbelievable commitment ... to one sign. The Green Sign.

But - the greatest experience I've had really, has revolved around people.

The foundation of my happiness ... is the relationships I have made with so many people ... in all walks of life ... and, in particular, with so many of you sitting out there.

Maybe it's because I was a rebel at school. Maybe it was my headmaster telling my father I would never succeed. Maybe it was the reply my father gave to the headmaster ... which I'm told was not awfully polite! Maybe it was the influence he had on my life.

However, I recall that I thought he had ruined my life in my teens, because my ambition was to do exactly what I'm doing today ... be on stage. He said no. (I suppose you could do that with kids in those days. How times change.)

Whatever the reason, relationships have meant so much to me.

I have had the hand of friendship extended to me, by so many, in such a wide variety of ways ... in places all over the world. I could mention so many people by name.

I think I probably have a story for many in this room ... but time is too short to tell all of the stories. What I can do, however, is reminisce for a few minutes about some of those wonderful experiences.

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The vibrant city of Hong Kong ... where I was embraced by a family ... a family whose leader is one of the stalwarts of the system ... taken into their confidence ... taken into their home ... and taken into their family.

A very meaningful experience for me, and my family ... and one that I know will carry on in the future. I remember the first time I met this family.

It was on my first trip to Hong Kong after Bass took over the international business ... and it was the evening of the wedding of one of the daughters in his own Holiday Inn. They showed me the wedding cake. I asked naively if there was any special significance to the 11-tier cake, which rose to the ceiling.

I was told, no, you must understand: if the ceiling had been higher, the cake would have had more tiers!

The world is small. This industry of ours is small. South Africa ... a few years ago.

I went back to the hotel where I had worked 20 years previously in Durban ... I had never been back in that time ... and I was greeted at the hotel by people who worked for me then ... and, amazingly enough, still wanted to see me and have a chat, so many years on.

In Johannesburg, on that same trip ... I walked into another hotel -- same chain.

I was walking through the lobby ... a hotelier through and through ... admiring the atrium first ... getting the feel of the place ... when I heard a voice: "Don't turn around, Mr. Langton. Do you know who I am?"

I said, "It's been 20 years, keep talking."

After he spoke a few more sentences, I remembered, and said, "It's Ronnie ... and you were the head telephonist in the Durban hotel."

I think that turned out to be the most expensive recollection I ever had. Ronnie was now the concierge ... and I spent more money in tips over the next four days, than I spent on the room!

I recall, just prior to the start of the Gulf War, my first visit to Kuwait.

Whilst still in England, I was warned to be careful about giving compliments ... because, as many of you know, the custom in that part of the world ... and you have to watch the etiquette ... is that if you admire your host's possessions, he's pretty likely to give them to you.

I have to admit that before embarking on that trip, I made what I thought was an important executive decision and it was this: I told my Board colleagues that if anyone ... if anyone ... was going to admire Oriental rugs, that would be me.

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At a cocktail party given by our host on that trip, I was introduced to the Emir of Kuwait's brother. This man, sadly, was later killed by Sadam Hussein's troops, as he tried to defend the family palace.

The night I met him, I remember seeing the brother fingering a set of jade worry beads. I slipped. I admired them ... they were so beautiful.

And here they are ... one of my most treasured possessions. (Holds up worry beads)

I've had them in my office for the past six years ... and there's hardly ever been a day that I have not taken them from my drawer and counted them!

I recall the Great Wall of China ... and a trip there organized by the Holiday Inn Beijing.

It was February ... it was so cold ... we were wrapped in trenchcoats ... fur hats ... and many layers of clothes. Not a soul was in view ... it was a breathtakingly beautiful panorama. Just miles and miles of that Great Wall stretching into the sunset.

And then, as we came from one turret to another, what did I experience? A spectacular champagne lunch on the wall itself. What a memory.

I remember having the opportunity to get so close to the terra cotta soldiers in Xiamen ... and visiting the private museum belonging to the founder of our Japanese franchisee system.

I remember going to Little Rock to celebrate with winners of the very first Priority Club Members Choice Award. I sat next to what seemed to be an extraordinarily nice chap at lunch, called Jim-Guy Tucker, the governor of the state. Who could have known then that a few years later, he’d get embroiled in the Whitewater affair and have to leave office.

I have been so fortunate to have been invited into homes in Abu Dabi, Bahrain, Salalah, Bali, Rome ... experiencing delicious food and meeting delightful people. I cannot forget the fine meals I've had in our hotels in China, experiencing the gambay ... and the headache ... and similarly, superb meals all over Europe. Wonderful times, with wonderful people.

I remember all of our Conferences ... and one in particular perhaps ... our 40th anniversary year, in London. I was persuaded ... I have to say, against my better judgment ... by a couple of franchisees ... who will remain nameless ... to take our conference to London that year. Given my on-stage mentality, I naturally decided we had to have our Gala evening at the Royal Albert Hall.

My Chairman thought we should have one performing artist ... we finished up with about 500 ... (I've always listened to him) ... and for everyone there, it was literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Another highlight of my Holiday Inn life.

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I recall in Israel ... one of the most moving experiences of my life ... a meeting last fall with Rabin, the late Prime Minister, in his office. It was the last private audience he gave, before he left to spend Shabbat with his family. Thirty hours later, dining in a restaurant, Saturday evening, the news came through to me.

Assassinated. So sad. What a great man. What a great memory.

Will I ever forget the arrival of the Olympic torch in Los Angeles?

Another great experience ... and then dining privately in the Getty Museum as the guest of one of our strategic alliance partners ... and meeting Rayfer Johnson, the first person to carry the Olympic torch on U.S. soil.

So many other memories, in America, my adopted home ... the place I shall stay when I retire. I remember playing golf with some of you ... losing money ... not often, I must admit ... and, of course, visiting many of your hotels.

There's Atlanta ... where the warmth and friendliness of people instantly made a big impression on me. We have had a wonderful life ... much happiness in this great Olympic City. People made it so.

Then, of course, there’s my love affair with the trade press.

Will I ever forget ... a few days after the Bass acquisition ... inviting a reporter in to Memphis ... and being compared to an "unmade bed" in the first story written about me here? The problem was, I don't think I ever went to bed in those first few days!

>>PAUSE<<

As I relate all these stories ... I suppose you are wondering ... as I'm sure my Chairman is: "Have I done any work at all?"

But you know what they say: "Find a job you love, and you'll never work a day in your life."

>>PAUSE<<

But then I think about the progress we have made ... the growth ... the global focus ... the quality ... and the success. We've had a lot of that ... however you define success. And it's not always about money. Very, very happy memories.

>>PAUSE<<

Above all, when I look back, I am filled with pride.

I have talked about pride a lot over the past six years, and I do take great pride in all we have accomplished together.

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But not too proud. I have never been too proud to listen. I've never been too proud to admit when I've been wrong. I've never been too proud to fix a mistake. I have never been too proud to ask for your help.

It has not always been easy, as we have gone through and changed the way we do business. But I am very, very proud of what we have all done, together, to revitalize this brand.

I am so proud of my relationship with the IAHI ... and with individual franchisees. Proud to have known you. Proud to have worked with you. Proud to call many of you "friends."

I think the old German proverb sums up our relationship best: "When one is helping another, both are strong."

>>PAUSE<<

Many things I am proud of personally:

My first tip as a waiter. 1953. That was a big moment.

My first General Manager job ... my God I was so excited. My first directorship of a subsidiary of Bass ... Crest Hotels. My appointment to the Bass Board, in 1985. Receiving the honor of the CBE, Commander of the British Empire, and having it personally presented to me by Her Majesty, the Queen, and particularly proud that it was given in recognition of service to the hotel industry.

I am proud to have been given an honorary doctorate from the Manchester Polytechnic Institute in my home city, Manchester. And one of the highlights of my career, being named "Corporate Hotelier of the Year" last year, which many of you here supported. I thank you for that.

I am so proud of my staff ... how hard they have worked, and how much they have contributed. They have been stretched ... and they have grown ... and, as a manager, there are few things more satisfying than to see your staff develop, and blossom, and achieve their full potential.

There's a wonderful line from the great football coach "Bear" Bryant. (See how American I've become? I'm quoting football coaches now, when, actually, I'm a baseball man!)

He said: "If anything goes bad, I did it.” “If anything goes semi-good, then we did it.” “If anything goes real good, then you did it.” “And that's how you get people to win football games."

Well, to mix a few more metaphors, we've had a pretty good track record here ourselves.

And as the great baseball coach Casey Stengel put it, "Managing is getting paid for home runs, that someone else hits."

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Problem for me is that the Cardinals have been hitting the home runs ... but last night was something different!

Speaking of sport, I am so proud of our involvement with the Olympics. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not only to carry the torch ... and what that meant for me personally ... but for Holiday Inn to be part of the largest peacetime gathering in the history of the world ... and what that meant for the brand.

I know a lot has been written about the Olympics ... there was a lot of flack from the international press. Some deserved, but not all. Always remember, the public enjoyed those Olympic Games ... and we, as a company and a brand, benefited from the sponsorship.

I am so delighted with everyone's efforts to make this the best sponsorship ... with the most mileage ... in the history of the Holiday Inn brand. Gary called it "a smashing success". I couldn't have put it better myself. Let's just take a minute to look at how the world saw Holiday Inn.

>>RUN VIDEO<<

But now it is time to move on. Retirement. What was it I was told about retirement? Oh, yeah. It's time to retire, Bryan, when the candles cost more than the cake!

>>SLIGHT PAUSE<<

But I can't just walk away without saying thanks, to you.

As you've heard, I'll be around for a little while, but I don't expect to have another opportunity to thank you publicly again. So, to all of you collectively, and, if you'll permit me ... actually, you can't stop me, can you? ... to thank several of you individually:

I must start with my Chairman, Sir Ian Prosser. (Who the hell wrote this speech?)

Seriously, Ian, we started within 12 months of each other at Bass, and I thank you, for your belief in me ... in the hotel business ... and in the travel industry ... long before the Holiday Inn opportunity was created.

I thank my colleagues, both past and present, on the Bass Executive and the Bass Board, and I am grateful for those of them who are here with us today.

My own Board ... the Holiday Inn Worldwide Board ... has seen some changes over the years ... but permit me to thank all of them ... past and present. In particular, the present Board. Mylle, gentlemen, your support has meant more to me than you'll ever know.

>>PAUSE<<

And what about you, out there?

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It was impossible to speak with each of you individually ... but your belief in the brand ... your belief in the system ... your belief in the initiatives ... and in everything we tried to do ... has been unbelievable. It was not without pain sometimes. I realize that. But the support was always forthcoming. In supporting me, you were supporting what I believed in: the system. Long may that continue.

To Frank Flautt, Bob Goff, Bill Hart, Gaines Sturdivant, Bob Alter, Tom Weiss and Gary Schahet ... the IAHI presidents with whom I have worked these past few years ... and all the committee members ... I want you to know that I have enjoyed every minute of our time together. I thank you all for your candor, your willingness to open the lines of communication ... keep them open ... it's vital ... and the camaraderie we have enjoyed.

I have had the most wonderful office staff these past six years ... so loyal and hardworking. Heather LeBlanc and Joan Metzger, are in the audience today ... a great big thank you to you both.

And there's another young lady who, although not an employee of Holiday Inn, she's been a very special part of my business life. She's worked with me on all of the scripts for the presentations I've given over the last few years ... I know it wouldn't have been the same without her ... so, Susan Goldman, thank you very much indeed. (You didn’t know I was going to say that, did you?)

And of course, Julia Fox, my Personal Assistant for nearly 15 years. A tower of strength. My eyes, and my ears. Highly efficient. Highly respected wherever she goes. A good friend to me, and to my family.

And finally, if I may, I thank someone who has, over the years, shared all of my memories ... and all of my dreams.

It has sometimes been a lonesome course for my wife Sylva, as I've travelled extensively. But I know that even as I thank her, she too has enjoyed the opportunity to meet with you so often when she has accompanied me.

My life has revolved around my family -- my children and my grandchildren ... very special to me ... my friends ... and my business colleagues. I have been blessed with a wonderful life.

And as I reminisce, I can't help but think of one more tune. It's the theme song of a fellow countryman ... and it perfectly sums up my feelings, for you, my friends and colleagues ... for the IAHI ... for Bass ... for Holiday Inn Worldwide ... and for that which has meant so much to me: the Holiday Inn brand ...

>>"THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES"<<

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