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Interview with CEOs of Mapletree and Oakwood Worldwide on recent acquisition

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On February 17, Singapore-headquartered Mapletree Investments announced the acquisition of Oakwood Worldwide, a US-based global provider of corporate housing and serviced apartment solutions.

In the process, Christopher Ahearn was appointed Oakwood’s CEO. He joined the company in this role this year, after previously serving as senior vice president sales and marketing for Oakwood from 2005 to 2010. Oakwood’s founder and chairman, Howard Ruby has assumed the non-executive role of chairman emeritus.

The acquisition is part of Mapletree’s long-term strategy to strengthen its corporate housing and serviced apartment business. Currently, all of Mapletree’s nine corporate housing and serviced apartment assets in the US and Australia are managed under the Oakwood brand as part of a collaboration signed in 2014. The collaboration also saw Mapletree acquire a 49% percent stake in Oakwood’s Asia Pacific operating arm, Oakwood Asia Pacific.

Hiew Yoon Khong, Mapletree’s group CEO, commented: “Mapletree intends to step up the acquisition and development of corporate housing and serviced apartment assets that will add to our earnings streams and expand housing options available to Oakwood’s clients and guests. We will be looking at markets across the US, Europe and Asia Pacific, which are also regions where Oakwood is a well-regarded brand.”

Oakwood’s Howard Ruby, who has led the organisation for 57 years, added: “It gives me great pleasure to know that the company, the associates and our clients will be in good hands with Mapletree and CEO Christopher Ahearn at the helm. We have learned through our collaboration that Mapletree shares our key vision of growing and expanding the Oakwood brand globally and maintaining the high customer service standards for which we are known.”

To understand the manpower implications of this acquisition, we reached out to Christopher Ahearn, CEO of Oakwood Worldwide, and Chua Tiow Chye, group chief investment officer and regional CEO, North Asia and new markets, Mapletree Investments.

Q. What do the next 100 days imply for employees of Mapletree and Oakwood Worldwide?

Christopher Ahearn [CA]: I will be working closely with the Oakwood leadership team to continuously review the operating and reporting structure to ensure productivity and effectiveness in growing the business. In the next few months, I have made plans to visit many of Oakwood’s key offices in the US, EMEA and APAC to meet with associates and listen to their ideas to improve the business going forward. My immediate aim is to formulate a strategic plan over the coming months that will optimise the business and further integrate the company’s operations in each country.

Q. Does this acquisition have any headcount implications at either company?

CA: While Mapletree is the new owner, Oakwood associates still work for Oakwood, and are considered employees of Oakwood. The goal is to continue to align and evolve Oakwood’s global capabilities and innovative offerings in order to strengthen and accelerate our position as the global leader in the corporate housing and serviced apartment industry. Oakwood values the experience and capabilities of all associates worldwide, and will review the manpower strength and competencies as part of the strategic plan that is being developed.

Q. In the longer term, what are some of the initiatives you have in the pipeline to evade synergy problems and ensure the workforce remains engaged?

Chua Tiow Chye [CTC]: Mr. Ahearn has been appointed by Mapletree to lead and take Oakwood to new heights. Mr. Ahearn, together with Mapletree, will be reviewing and formulating a strategic plan to guide Oakwood’s growth for the next three to five years. Accordingly, a human resource plan will be developed in tandem with this strategic plan. When this plan is finalised, and if there are competency gaps, the appropriate engagement plan will be put in place. It would be the person with the best fit for the job that will be recruited, which does not have to be someone from Mapletree.

Q. What is the role of the CHRO in ensuring success of such an acquisition?

CTC: People are the most important asset to Oakwood, and human resource forms a critical part of the strategic plan we are formulating. HR has undertaken a large part of the internal communications, such as holding town hall sessions, and reaffirming to Oakwood associates that they are at the heart of the organisation.

Photo / ProvidedPhoto caption: Howard Ruby (left), Chairman Emeritus of Oakwood Worldwide, Chua Tiow Chye, Group Chief Investment Officer and Regional CEO, North Asia & New Markets of Mapletree Investments, and Christopher Ahearn (right), CEO of Oakwood Worldwide at the signing ceremony to mark the start of a new chapter for Oakwood Worldwide under Mapletree ownership.

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