|Privately held company|
|Headquarters||Minnetonka, Minnesota, United States|
|Andy Cantwell, CEO of Carlson Private Capital Partners|
Kurt Ekert, CEO of CWT
|Owner||Barbara Carlson Gage and Marilyn Carlson Nelson|
Carlson is a privately held company headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, United States. Its primary subsidiaries are CWT, a travel management company, and Carlson Private Capital Partners, a family office that manages the wealth of the owners. It previously held interests in hotels, including Radisson Hotels, and restaurants, including TGI Fridays. The company is owned by Barbara Carlson Gage and Marilyn Carlson Nelson, daughters of the founder, Curt Carlson.
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Carlson was founded as the Gold Bond Stamp Company by Curt Carlson, with a $55 loan from his landlord, in 1938, during the Great Depression. Carlson used "Gold Bond Stamps", a loyalty program based on trading stamps, to provide consumer incentives for grocery stores, supermarkets, and gas stations. The stamps could be redeemed for various items such as patio furniture or a mink coat. During the 1950s, C.F. Carlson was the largest supplier of mink coats in the United States.
The company was renamed Carlson Companies, Inc. in 1973.
In 1962, Carlson bought into his first Radisson Hotel, a vintage property in Minneapolis named after French explorer Pierre-Esprit Radisson. The chain grew rapidly by franchising the name and taking management contracts for new hotels throughout the United States.
In 1977, Carlson acquired Country Kitchen, a chain of family-style restaurants.
In 1981, it acquired E.F. MacDonald Motivation Co., another incentive management company, making the company the largest trading stamp company in the world. At that time, many employees were working 6 days per week and not receiving a higher pay than at similar companies with less demands.
In 1989, Edwin C. "Skip" Gage, the son-in-law of the founder, became CEO of the company.
In 1997, the company started an electronic incentive program named GoldPoints.com. In 2011, the program was replaced by Club Carlson.
In 1997, the company sold Country Kitchen.
In 1997, Carlson acquired Regent Hotels & Resorts from Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Carlson gained the rights to develop future hotels, while Four Seasons maintained management of 9 hotels.
In 2005, Carlson acquired 25% of Rezidor Hotel Group, a business partner of the hotel division in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) markets. Rezidor became a subsidiary of the Carlson hotel group in 2010, despite retaining its listing status. The hotel group then rebranded as Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group in January 2012.
In May 2013, Diana Nelson assumed the chairmanship of the board of directors, succeeding her mother, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who also continues to serve as chairman emeritus. Rautio retired in 2015, leading to the company having separate CEOs for the hotel and travel businesses until the hotel business was sold to HNA.
In 2016, the company sold its hotel division, including Rezidor Hotel Group, Country Inns & Suites by Carlson, Park Inn by Radisson, Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Hotels, Radisson Blu Hotels, and Radisson Red Hotels were sold to Chinese conglomerate HNA Group. The division was renamed Radisson Hotel Group in 2018.
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- King, Danny (January 18, 2012). "Carlson and Rezidor merge". Travel Weekly.
- "Carlson appoints Trudy Rautio as President and CEO; Hubert Joly resigns" (Press release). Hospitality Net. 20 August 2012.
- Phelps, David (March 6, 2015). "Carlson CEO Trudy Rautio retires; new management team named". Star Tribune.
- "Carlson sells TGI Fridays, reportedly for $800M". CNBC. May 20, 2014.
- Norfleet, Nicole (May 3, 2018). "Carlson family starts investment firm, with an eye on family-owned and midsized firms". Star Tribune.
- Norfleet, Nicole (September 5, 2018). "Carlson HQ to be renovated and open to other tenants". Star Tribune.
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