Kempinski Hotels’ GC on the ‘happy coincidence’ of a career in the hospitality industry, his passion for sustainability and the importance of integrity
Hadrian Beltrametti-Walker is executive vice president and general counsel of Kempinski Hotels. He is a member of the advisory board of the Luxury Law Alliance, which is affiliated with the Global Legal Post, and is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
You have said that you knew you wanted to work in-house from the beginning of your legal career. How did you know that?
I was drawn to the legal profession at a young age, probably influenced by the prevalence of it in the family (there is a long line of lawyers going back some 400 years). Because I am passionate about law and business, working in-house was the perfect combination for me as it enabled me to act as a business partner while handling legal matters.
Did you seek out the hospitality industry at the beginning of your career?
I always liked hotels and hospitality, but I never thought of it as a career. When I finished law school, I happened upon a job at Hilton Hotels, which became a happy coincidence.
I joined Hilton in July 2007 just as Blackstone announced the acquisition of the company. I was away on holiday and received a call asking how soon I could start. I joined the real estate practice group, and we became extremely busy with the due diligence of what would become a $26bn deal. It was an amazing opportunity for me – what better way to get to know a company and an industry?
When the time came to move on, an opportunity arose at Kempinski Hotels. I loved the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin when I was young and it was a great opportunity, so I jumped on it.
What did you learn from this experience that made you want to continue in the hospitality industry?
There are so many aspects to the hospitality business beyond it being international and cosmopolitan. Each individual hotel within a group is its own independent business and they form a mega business globally. There are many different business models – leased, owned and operated, franchised and so forth. Then there is the corporate head office that has functions like legal, marketing, public relations, sales and finance – each its own discipline operating globally.
For someone who speaks several languages and enjoys international travel, it provides a great place to work. (Note: Born in Munich to an Italian mother and English father, Hadrian speaks English, French, Italian and German.)
At this stage of your career, what most interests you?
I am passionate about sustainability. When the opportunity arose at Kempinski for someone to take over that area, I raised my hand. The issues are so important – policies and procedures against modern slavery, equal pay, no discrimination, the environment. These are things that are important to me and I believe everybody should have equal opportunities regardless of their background or circumstances.
As a lawyer, I have a strong sense of justice and I believe companies can make a difference. When a company operating globally puts a policy in place, it can make a huge change. Now that sustainability is on an ESG platform, the general counsel is well placed to coordinate this area.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
At the end of the day, you are only as good as the work you do and what you contribute. Your reputation is essential and it’s very important to have the highest levels of integrity and professionalism in all you do.
Work has always been an important part of my life and I admit that I am a bit of a workaholic. I would tell younger self to work hard, but to not neglect having work/life balance. Also, not to compromise on professionalism and integrity, no matter how hard it gets!
In your life and in your work, you have travelled the world. Do you have a favourite place?
Venice is my favourite place. It’s where my maternal grandmother was from and has been a source of stability for the family, regardless of where we lived or how much we travel. It’s a place that is close to my heart.
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