Hilton’s budget brand mastermind curiously set to depart the company

The developer of Hilton’s two newest brands is leaving the company in 2024.

Hilton and its chief brand officer, Matthew Schuyler, “agreed that Mr. Schuyler would move to a short-term advisory role” with the company at the start of 2024 and should fully depart by the end of June, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The reasoning for the exit was not provided. It is notable since Schuyler played a pivotal role in creating the premium economy Spark brand, which company leaders frequently tout as on track to eventually be Hilton’s largest brand by property count.

Schuyler first joined Hilton in 2009 as the company’s chief human resources officer before being promoted to chief administrative officer in 2020. He has served as chief brand officer since March of 2021.

“We recently announced that Matt Schuyler, Chief Brand Officer, will be stepping down from his current role after 15 years with Hilton,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to TPG. “During his tenure, Matt had an unmistakable impact on our success — laying the foundation for our best-in-class workplace culture as Chief Human Resources Officer and, in more recent years, leading our brand organization to new heights, including countless milestones and the launch of several new brands.”

Why now?

The spokesperson did not give a reason for Schuyler’s exit. They also did not elaborate, in time for publication, on whether the company’s CEO would comment on Schuyler’s departure following his lengthy tenure at Hilton. But, it does come at a curious time.

At face value, this is a stellar moment for Hilton brands under the tutelage of the soon-to-be-ex-CBO.

“It’s not as sexy as lifestyle or luxury,” Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said, describing Spark — the economy brand Schuyler brought to market — on an investor call earlier this year. “In terms of an opportunity to be a value contributor in the billions of dollars for this company and its shareholders, I’m as excited about this as anything else we’ve done.”

Spark had more than 100 hotels in development as of early October and an additional 400 ongoing deal conversations. On the company’s most-recent earnings call, Nassetta even noted Spark was the company’s swiftest transition from announcing a brand to opening the first hotel in Hilton history.

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“We think this is the start of a journey to reshape the premium economy segment while expanding our customer and our owner base,” Nassetta said.

Further, the yet-to-be-named Project H3 — Hilton’s new extended-stay brand — provides the company with an option in the lucrative business of longer hotel stays. Nassetta indicated on the October investor call that there were 350 H3 deals in negotiation.

None of these factors and comments indicate Schuyler was going down the wrong path by beefing up Hilton’s presence in the economy and midscale sector.

What’s next for travelers?

Chris Silcock, Hilton’s chief commercial officer, will take on the role of president of global brand and commercial services at the start of 2024 as part of the transition. The Hilton filing with the SEC also noted that “Schuyler’s roles and responsibilities as Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer will be distributed throughout the Company’s leadership structure.”

The company also has a new luxury lifestyle brand in the works, according to comments made on Hilton’s last two earnings calls. But it’s highly unlikely Hilton is going to backpedal on more affordable brands just because the man behind them eventually leaves the company.

The budget hotel bonanza has only just begun.

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