The last annual Chairman’s dinner prior to COVID was held in December 2019. Then came the unexpected two years of the pandemic that shattered our lives. This year, in December 2023, the Chairman’s dinner came back with a bang.
Ebullient Mr Alfred Pisani, Chairman of Corinthia, literally gave a one-man show, almost outdoing himself in presenting and exposing a programme of thoughts, actions and surprises.
He thanked everyone “for the personal sacrifice shouldered throughout this unprecedented period.” Typical of how he views all experiences, he added: “Today, we are wiser for the lessons learned ” and emphasised the need to maintain the level of efficiency that has been introduced in the operations of the properties. “We must continue to work with a leaner workforce.” Sharing some information on the future, he explained: “We are seeking to increase the share capital of the company by a minimum of a further 300 million shares, at which stage we will list our company on an international Stock Exchange that has a market maker and strong liquidity, enabling us to raise the free float to at least 25 per cent of the total paid-up capital, at which point our company will have a share capital of around €1.2 billion.”
His drive for oneness in action and purpose was a fitting finale for his address: “With all of us walking together with a common purpose, with one mindset of integrity, commitment and passion, our future success is guaranteed.”
Mr Pisani was visibly moved as he shared some exciting moments he experienced when, on 9 November, he was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in the Hospitality Industry by Hospitality ON. The award ceremony took place in Paris, under the patronage of Mr Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic.
It was indeed emotional to follow a short video showing a packed audience in a stately room welcoming Mr Pisani and following his brief address, where, amongst other thoughts, he stated: “My major satisfaction has been not only the development of high-quality properties offering luxury service under the brand Corinthia, but also the fact that in the process of this evolution, as a company, we developed a philosophy of caring for our colleagues and uplifting their lives, which we refer to as the ‘Spirit of Corinthia.” As an ever-grateful gentleman, he did not fail to thank others for the help he received. “In particular, I would like to thank my wife, Maria, and my family, as well as my colleagues who have supported me throughout this journey.”
That occasion was indeed a fitting reward for his achievements in the hotel industry over the last 60 years. (See also https: //insider.ihiplc.com/lifetime-achievement-award-in-the-hospitality-industry-for-corinthia-executive-chairman-mr-alfred-pisani/ )
Then came what the audience had been awaiting for some years. It was no secret that Mr Pisani was working on his memoirs for some time. Having read evolving drafts, it was clear to me that the result would be an exciting, engaging story. Then COVID struck, and Mr Pisani concentrated on the immediate troubles he had to sail through with this fellow Corinthians. But when matters steered back to normality, he regained his tempo in concluding his account. It was time to go public. It was time for everyone to read through this new 280-page book titled The Corinthia Spirit. Alfred Pisani, a founder’s memoir. And what a story it is! What a narration of grit, passion, determination, positive thinking, family camaraderie and remarkable vision! And all this is recounted in a most readable fashion where the reader is sucked into a funnel of adventurous episodes shaping the Corinthia story.
I just share a couple of excerpts chosen by chance. One’s imagination is immediately captured with the opening words of the book: “I will never forget that chilling call in August 2008. After so much hard work, my lifelong dream and biggest hotel project to date, the Corinthia London, seemed to be in tatters.” When I first read it, I could not wait to see what led to this and what followed. This is an incredible but true anecdote.
In another incident, living a nightmarish adventure, the writer confesses: “I was accustomed to double-dealers and fraudsters seeking to harm our business, but I had never experienced anything like this.” The happenings in this episode are indeed gripping.
And what about this confession of fear when faced by a threatening danger? “Such was the pressure on me that I was starting to feel paranoid. Every time I travelled to Prague by private jet, I would instruct the pilot to fly to Vienna and wait there till I called him. Then I would take two different taxis to my hotel. I never stayed in the same place on two consecutive occasions.”
A page-turner account! A book to read and enjoy!
In the end, Mr Pisani called on stage several persons who had helped him in compiling and writing this book or shared long-time experiences.
He presented each with a copy of his publication with a special dedication inscribed on it, after exchanging short snippets of their experiences. He did not fail to call his siblings on stage and his beloved wife, Maria, who has been an inspiring strength to him, and to whom, in his book dedication, he refers as the one “who gave my life purpose.”
Guests were then regaled with a mouth-watering spread of food, a tour de force of what Corinthia offers in the culinary world.