Gary L. Wilson

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Gary L. Wilson was the chairman of the board of Northwest Airlines, chief financial officer of Walt Disney Company, and chief financial officer of Marriott Corporation.[1]


Wilson earned a bachelor's degree from Duke University in 1962 and an MBA from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania in 1963. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Pepperdine University in 2005.


Wilson began his career in 1964 in Manila as CFO of Trans-Philippines Investment Corp. (TPIC), a leveraged buyout of one of the world’s largest sugar companies. He created and was CEO of a sugar-trading subsidiary that produced 20 percent of TPIC’s profit with no capital invested. He recommended and implemented the transformation of the firm from a sugar company to one of Asia’s largest construction companies by acquiring Atlantic Gulf & Pacific (AG&P) in 1969 while selling the sugar mills.

After returning from Asia, he joined Marriott in 1974, as executive vice president for finance, strategy and development. During his period there, Marriott’s market capitalization increased from $200 million in 1974 to $3.6 billion in 1987 for a 24 percent IRR driven principally by hotel expansion through innovative financing techniques.[citation needed] Among his accomplishments were creating and developing the Courtyard Hotel concept, which now comprises nearly 20 percent of Marriott’s rooms, as well as Marriott time sharing, which is now the world’s leader.[citation needed] He also led the 1978 repurchase of one-third of Marriott shares, which at the time was the second largest stock buyback in history.

In 1985, Wilson joined the Walt Disney Company as executive vice president of finance, strategy and development when the Bass Brothers acquired control. During his time there, market capitalization increased from $2 billion to $20 billion, an IRR of 58 percent, primarily by expanding hotel and theme park assets while increasing prices. Among his accomplishments were increasing hotel rooms from 4,000 in 1985 to 18,000 rooms in 1992 and introducing time-sharing based on the Marriott model, which led to Disney becoming a leader in this profitable lodging segment.[citation needed] He also developed the Euro Disney theme park complex in Paris from site selection to financing, which included major concessions from the French government and culminated in one of Europe’s largest IPOs. In addition, he financed films through innovative public partnerships that shifted ownership risk to investors while Disney retainedg large distribution fees and a share of appreciation.

Wilson led the buyout of Northwest Airlines in 1989. In 1997, as chairman of Northwest, he acquired control of Continental Airlines. Prior to the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent fallout on the airline industry, Northwest’s market capitalization reached $6 billion, providing investors with handsome returns on their $300 million initial equity investment. He served as chairman or co-chairman of Northwest from 1991 to 2007.

Wilson has successfully acquired other companies, including Progress Rail in 2004, and is the creator and general partner of several private equity funds: Manhattan Pacific Partners, an investment fund; Thayer Lodging, a hotel investor; and KAILAI Investments, which invests in Chinese companies. These transactions have produced an Internal rate of return to date of more than 25 percent — some over many years.[citation needed]


Wilson is a director of two public companies: Yahoo! Inc. and CB Richard Ellis. He is a trustee emeritus of Duke University and serves on the board of overseers of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and the board of directors of Millennium Promise. He is also a member of the NCAA Leadership Advisory Board and on the advisory board of NeoSpire Inc.


  1. ^ "Gary Wilson - Forbes". 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2012-08-17.