Stephen Sackur is presenter of HARDtalk, the current affairs interview on BBC World and the News Channel. His subjects have included the heads of NATO and OPEC, Shimon Peres, Gore Vidal and Richard Dawkins.
For HARDtalk he has also interviewed a number of the world’s great innovators, from James Dyson to Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and the bioscientist Craig Ventor. Distilling his notes for a series of articles, Stephen identiﬁed the ﬁve qualities they all seemed to share: an indestructible will, passion (almost beyond reason), outrageous optimism, a super-sized ego and a ‘rebel yell.’
These interviews have also given him an insight into how organisations can best bring about innovation: “You need to ﬁnd ways to assess individuals on their merits, and give rewards for innovative thinking rather than play-it-safe mediocrity. You should encourage insiders to get outside and bring back fresh insights. And you shouldn’t confuse seniority with creativity.”
Away from set-piece interviews Stephen has served in Brussels, reporting on day-to-day stories from the major European institutions and across the continent. Before that he was Washington Correspondent, where his coverage and analysis of 9/11 won widespread acclaim.
Ten years earlier it was Stephen who broke the story of the mass killing on the Basra road out of Kuwait, marking the end of the Gulf War. He was then posted to Cairo and Jerusalem as Middle East Correspondent, where he reported on the emergence of the Palestinian Authority.
Chief Executive Officer, RAK Hospitality Holdings
Yannis is a passionate and creative hospitality executive with a long track record in ‘turnaround’ projects and delivery of financial returns for stakeholders. He has over 22 years’ experience in international 5-star and luxury hospitality, with a career spanning 12 cities in 8 countries, across 4 geographical regions.
After obtaining a degree at Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Switzerland, Yannis’ career path included managerial and executive roles in hotel operations, project management, estate management and hotel development.
Prior to joining RAK Hospitality Holding, Yannis was employed by Hilton International (Athens, London, Durban & Cairo), InternContinental Hotels Group (Miami, San Francisco, Toronto & Dubai) and Jumeirah Group (New York & Dubai).
Since joining RAK Hospitality Holding in December 2013, Yannis has been tasked with establishment of the Company and its subsidiaries and oversees their operations.
Chief Executive Officer, Action Hotels
Alain has spent his entire career in the hospitality industry and in particular in the management of hotels, gaining extensive experience in operations as well as hotel development.
He joined Action Hotels in February 2008 shortly after its inception and has been key to its growth. Alain focuses on real estate development, oversees hotel projects from initiation to completion and has a supervisory role to ensure the ownership objectives are achieved. Driven by his sector knowledge and hands-on expertise, Alain is closely involved with the operators to increase profitability and performance of the operating hotels.
Prior to joining the Group, Alain held various management positions with leading hotel management companies, including Mandarin Oriental and Hilton Hotels Corporation. He joined Hilton in 1996 and worked his way through hotel operations to reach general management.
Alain has broad international management and operations experience having worked in the Philippines, France, Venezuela, Brazil, Spain and the GCC. He received a BA in Hotel Management from Institut Paul Bocuse - IGL Lyon in France and has also obtained a certification in hospitality investments and asset management from Cornell University. He speaks fluent French, English, Spanish and Portuguese and is a member of HAMA (Hotel Asset Managers Association).
Chief Executive Officer, Ròya International
Overseeing all aspects of Ròya International, Kees leads an interdisciplinary team of 60 consultants and specialists. Directling the group from the Dubai base, Kees also takes an active role in shaping the three key practice areas - development advisory, asset management, and hospitality services.
Recognized as a leading hotelier, Kees brings with him global expertise and experience gained from senior roles in three continents. Initially working in Europe, his career took him to the Middle East North Africa regions and then to Asia-Pacific.
A significant chapter in Kees’s career was his tenure with Hilton International, where, amongst many responsibilities, he drove all Food & Beverage development across the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific regions. As Vice President Asia, he led the company’s operations during its fast-paced, multi-brand growth in the region including key development markets such as China and the Indian subcontinent.
Prior to taking up the role in Ròya, he served as CEO of Rixos Hotels, orchestrating the transition of the chain from regional to international, shaping its strategy, structure and management tools.
Thanks to Kees’s diverse experience, comprehensive and broad insight at both unit and corporate level, he adds invaluable knowledge and direction to Ròya's services.
Chief Executive Officer, Hotels, Majid Al Futtaim - Properties
Jalil Mekouar is the Chief Executive Officer of Hotels at Majid Al Futtaim – Properties leading the business unit’s growth strategy across the entire portfolio of existing assets and new developments. Mr. Mekouar joined Majid Al Futtaim in July 2017, responsible for overseeing the company’s growth plans, performance and roadmap in alignment with Majid Al Futtaim’s vision of developing integrated lifestyle destinations .
With over 25 years’ international Real Estate and Hospitality experience, Mr. Mekouar has held senior regional and global roles across six continents with large public listed and Fortune 500 companies in corporate finance, investment strategy, asset management, corporate strategy, business development and hospitality operations of various asset classes including hotels, resorts, spas, time-share, retail, residential and mixed-use.
Mr. Mekouar joins Majid Al Futtaim from leading advisory and asset management firms in the US where he was Managing Director and President, and spent several years with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) as Managing Director for Middle East & Africa, based in Dubai, and Chief Operating Officer for the Americas, based in the US.
Mr. Mekouar speaks fluent English, Arabic, French and Thai and holds an MBA in International Hospitality Management from Cornell University (USA) and ESSEC (France) as well as two post-graduate degrees in Financial Accounting in addition to Tourism and Hotel Management.