Jet Tale

攀山越岭

Jet Asia Pacific - - Contents - Writer: Joyce Yip

成功有道

Founder and chairman of Minor Group William Heinecke attributes his success to his love for Thailand.

美诺集团创始人兼董事长William Heinecke将其成功归功于他对泰国的热爱。

Ask William Heinecke anything about Minor Group and he can readily spit out specifics: what planes (and how many) are in his Mjets private-jet fleet; the name of the architect he employed for his Leyan Beach hotel property; exact number of restaurants currently operating in China; and how many more employees he must hire in the next five years (the answer was 60,000).

As the founder and chairman of one of the largest hospitality brand in Asia – with arms spreading across F&B, upscale hotels and residences as well as fashion and accessories chains – the 69-year-old remains hands-on in almost everything because, to him, his family of brands are his big-boy toys.

For instance, restaurants like Swensons, Burger King and Dairy Queen were brought into Thailand as early as the 1980s because they were “things I could only get when I was back home”, says Heinecke. And the reason behind his exotic hotel locations? “They’re places that I found myself very excited to go back for; they’re places I love. I wouldn’t build a hotel where there wasn’t something interesting for me.”

Having moved from the States to the Thai capital at the age of 14, the son of an American Foreign Service member and a journalist began his empire in his teens, when he convinced the editor of now-defunct Bangkok World to give him his own column in exchange for ad space. Soon, he was making more money than most full-time reporters, and at age 17, became the paper’s advertising manager. After graduation, he began a business selling office cleaning services and radio advertising – a business he funded via sponsorship money from racing his car from Singapore to Bangkok.

Three years later he sold out and started Minor, a nod to his youth, during which he took over a hotel in Pattaya and founded The Pizza Company – a chain that enticed middle-class Thai with specialties like tom yum goong flavoured pies. The eatery quickly came to dominate the country’s fast food market. On top of his professional success, his biggest leap of faith was when he and his wife Kathy gave up their American citizenships for Thai passports in 1991.

Today, Minor Group is a listed-company that operates 165 hotels and residences in Thailand, Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Portugal, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Australia and Brazil. Aside from being the man behind the curtain for hospitality giants like JW Marriot Phuket, Tivolis in Portgual, Four Seasons Chiang Mai and St. Regis Bangkok – where Heinecke is famously known for having an 8,600sqft penthouse – the chairman is especially proud of his two home-grown labels, Anatara and Avani.

You can find both spread out in almost all of where Minor Group has footprints and in addresses that’ll debunk any “been there, done that”. Anantara Golden Triangle, for instance, has one of the most reputable elephant street-rescue programmes, meaning guests can get close to the giants without putting them in jeopardy. Its Angkor Wat location, meanwhile, has options that take you away from the typical temples and into local villages, bustling markets and the French quarter via motorbikes, jeep rides, ultra-light, horses and even helicopters.

“I’ve always been in aviation, and having a fleet of our own lets us explore all of those unusual locations, flying across a lot of Thailand and other regions that other people couldn’t see,” said Heinecke. “We make sure our hotels are centered around experiences, so even though Anantara was born in Thailand, our hotels are very indigenous wherever it goes; we try to adapt to the location, which is something Marriotts and Four Seasons can’t do: when you go somewhere, they all tend to look pretty much the same.”

Heinecke admits that he’s never thought what was just his small investment would blow up into a global phenomenon, especially when cruxes like the 1997 financial crisis, the 9/11 terrorist attack, the 2002 SARS epidemic and the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 have brought the company to such a low point where the chairman had to sell almost all of his overseas

properties including a Jaguar E-type and a Chevrolet Corvette to keep Minor Group afloat.

“I call Thailand home – it’s the people, it’s the economy. And when something goes wrong with your home, you do everything you can to fix it. Back then, we only had joint ventures with overseas partners and didn’t control them; so that meant selling a lot of things to survive that period. I didn’t want to live anywhere else, so it just seemed logical.”

Celebrating his 70th birthday next year, Heinecke – a diver, aviation-enthusiast, and Ferrari-devotee – still enjoys his share of sun and beach and has no intention of slowing down.

“I still enjoy all of it. I am still learning things, especially when I travel. I always say if I stop learning, I’ll retire.”

每当问到William Heinecke关于美诺集团的任何事情,他都可以如数家珍一样介绍具体细节:他的Mjets私人飞机团队有什么型号的飞机和飞机的数量;他的Leyan Beach酒店物业雇用的建筑师名字;目前在中国运营的餐厅确实数量;以及他在未来五年内需要雇用多少员工(答案是60,000)。

作为亚洲最大酒店品牌之一的创始人兼董事长,业务遍布餐饮、高端酒店和住宅、以及时尚和配饰连锁店,这位69岁的集团领导人仍然几乎每事亲力亲为,因为对他来说,他的所有品牌就是其最大的玩具。

比如说像双胜冰淇淋、汉堡王和DQ冰淇淋等餐厅,早在80年代已落户泰国,因为Heinecke表示,它们是“我回家才能吃到的东西”。那么其充满异国情调的酒店选址原因是什么?“那是我每次回去都觉得非常兴奋的地方,是我所爱的地方。我不会在我不感兴趣的地方建酒店。”

作为一位美国外交人员和一名记者的儿子, Heinecke在14岁的时候从美国移居泰国首都,并在少年时期开始建立他的王国。当时他说服了现已停刊的《Bangkok World》编辑,让他开设一个自己的专栏,前提是他要负责搞定专栏周围的广告位。很快,他赚的钱比大部分全职记者还要多,并在17岁时成为报社的广告经理。毕业后,他通过参与从新加坡到曼谷的赛车比赛的赞助资金,创办了提供办公室清洁服务和广播广告业务的公司。

三年后,他将业务出售,并创办了美诺集团,以纪念其年青时代。当时 他接管了芭提雅的一家酒店,并创办了The Pizza Company。该连锁餐厅以冬阴功比萨等的特色菜,俘虏了泰国的中产人士,很快便成为泰国快餐市场的龙头。除了事业上的成就以外,他最大的冒险是跟妻子Kathy在1991年放弃美国国籍,改领泰国护照。

时至今天,美诺集团已成为一家上市公司,在泰国、柬埔寨、马尔代夫、斯里兰卡、越南、葡萄牙、赞比亚、博茨瓦纳、纳米比亚、澳大利亚和巴西经营着165家酒店和住宅。除了成为普吉岛JW万豪水疗度假村、葡萄牙Tivolis酒店、清迈四季酒店和曼谷瑞吉酒店( Heinecke以拥有8,600平方英尺的复式公寓而在当地享负盛名)等酒店业巨头的幕后掌权人之外,这位董事长尤其以其两个本土酒店品牌——安纳塔拉和安凡尼——而引以自豪。

在美诺集团业务足迹遍及的所有地方,几乎都可以看到这两个品牌的踪影,而且选址也别树一帜。比如清莱金三角象营安纳塔拉度假村推行最著名的大象救援计划之一,客人可以近距离接触大象,但不会对牠们造成威胁。此外,其位于吴哥窟的酒店,可以让客人远离典型的寺庙,通过摩托车、吉普车、自行车、马匹、甚至直升机,深入当地村庄、熙来攘往的市场和法国区。

“我一直从事航空业,拥有自己的机队让我们可以探索所有不寻常的地点,飞越泰国各地和其他人无法看到的其他地区。” Heinecke说:“我们致力确保酒店以体验为中心,所以尽管安纳塔拉品牌诞生于泰国,但我们的酒店无论在任何地方都非常本地化。我们致力融入当地社区,这是万豪和四季酒店所不能做到的——它们无论在哪个地方,看起来都差不多。”

Heinecke承认,他从未想过他的小投资会发展成为全球业务,尤其是经历过1997年亚洲金融风暴、911恐怖袭击、2002年SARS疫情和2004年印度洋海啸等冲击,使公司陷入低谷,逼使这位董事长不得不出售几乎所有海外物业,包括一辆积架E- Type跑车和一辆雪佛兰科尔维特跑车,以维持美诺集团的运营。

“我把泰国称为家,人和经济是最重要的。当家出现问题时,您会尽全力去修复它。当时,我们跟海外合作伙伴只有合资企业,并没有控制权,所以当时卖掉很多东西以生存下来。我不想在其他地方生活,所以这看起来很合理。”

明年70大寿的Heinecke,是一名潜水员、飞行爱好者和法拉利拥趸,他仍然享受着阳光与海滩,并且不打算放慢脚步。

“我仍然享受这一切,我仍然在不断学习,尤其是当我旅行的时候。我总是说如果我停止学习,我就会退休。”

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