Chieko Aoki Leaves as Westin Hotels’ Chief

From Associated Press

Chieko Nishimura Aoki, named just last month as chief executive and deputy chairman of Westin Hotels & Resorts, has resigned, citing health reasons.

Mrs. Aoki had shared leadership of the 65-hotel chain with her husband, John H. Aoki, the president and chief executive of Aoki Corp., which bought the Seattle-based Westin last year.

Larry B. Magnan, president of Westin, will succeed Mrs. Aoki, 40, as chief executive, the company said.


The announcement Friday follows a series of top-level changes at Westin this year.

Magnan, 44, was appointed president in January, when he succeeded Helmut Hoermann, who had joined Westin four months earlier. At the time, Westin said it was undergoing an examination of its corporate structure.

Magnan previously was Westin’s senior vice president for technical services and had managed hotels in Asia and Colorado.

In an interview two weeks ago, Mrs. Aoki declined to say much about the executive changes. “Compared to other types of acquisitions of companies, our turnover was very, very low, because normally they change the whole officers,” she said.

She noted that the promotions of Magnan and others were from within the chain, “so it’s not putting the house down and creating utterly new things.”

Hiroyuki Tsuru, spokesman for Aoki Corp. in Seattle, said Mrs. Aoki stepped down because of health problems aggravated by her new role in the company.

Tsuru declined to comment beyond that statement, and would not elaborate on the health problems.

Karen Amrhine, spokeswoman for Westin in New York, also declined to give details of the health difficulties. Amrhine said she did not know Mrs. Aoki’s plans.

Mrs. Aoki came to Westin after serving as president of Caesar Park Hotels Group, another Aoki subsidiary. Amrhine said Mrs. Aoki would not be further involved in the Caesar Park management.

Aoki Corp. is a Japanese construction and transportation company that had sales of about $3 billion last year. Aoki bought Westin in 1988 for $1.5 billion as previous owner Allegis Corp. retrenched into United Airlines.

While John Aoki took over as Westin chairman with the retirement of longtime chief Harry Mullikin, Mrs. Aoki was in charge of the chain’s operation.

Mrs. Aoki, a native of Fukuoka, Japan, is a naturalized Brazilian. A corporate attorney specializing in labor law, with a degree in business administration, she met Aoki while he was working at the Japanese consulate in Brazil. They married 12 years ago.

Aoki Corp. bought Brazil’s Caesar Park Hotels as an investment, and Mrs. Aoki became its sales and marketing director in the early 1980s. She became executive vice president in 1983 and president in 1986, helping the chain grow to nine hotels, including New York’s Algonquin and Los Angeles’ Beverly Wilshire.