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26 D+C  e-Paper  December 2015 Thai-based Minor International (MINT) is one of the largest food and hospitality companies in the Asia-Pacific region with sales worth more than € 100 million in 2014. The company cooperates with internationally known brands, but also develops its own brands. By Chayut Setboonsarng and Cod Satrusayang In 1978, 29-year old William Heinecke founded Minor to operate the Royal Garden Resorts in Pattaya. The name Minor was a nod to his young age. The company has three core businesses today: hotels and hospitality, food and restaurants and retail. It owns and manages over 120 luxury hotels in Thai- land and 22 in other countries across Asia, Africa and Australia. Some hotels are run under brand names such as Marriot, Four Seasons and St. Regis. MINT’s own hotel brand is Anantara. MINT’s food and restaurants unit operates 1,700 restaurants in 18 countries. Brands include the Pizza Company, Thai Express, the Coffee Club and Riverside & Courtyard. In retail, MINT is the Thai distributor for global brands such as Esprit, Gap and Tumi. Heinecke’s commitment to high quality of ser- vice and products has paid off in all lines of business. Through a series of partnerships and strategic mergers and acquisitions, MINT became a global player in the hotel industry. In Dubai, it partnered with Nakheel to start Avani. In 2011, it acquired the Oaks brand in Australia. MINT continues to expand in East Africa through its ownership of the Elewana Collection. Getting involved Heinecke, the group’s American-born chairman and chief executive, is now 66 years old. He became a nat- uralised citizen of Thailand in 1991. He is well-known and liked in Thai business and political circles. He has lived in Thailand since he was a teenager. His father was based in the country for the US foreign service, and his mother was an Asia correspondent for Time magazine. Heinecke intervenes in public discourse in Thai- land. In 2014, after the military coup, he expressed frustration about how western governments and media portrayed Thailand. In an open letter he stated, among other things, that negative media coverage would hurt tourism, an industry not only MINT, but many Thai people depend on. Heinecke argued that negative reporting and misleading “fear-mongering” might help to sell newspapers and attract TV audi- ences. He warned: “This in turn influences govern- ment travel warnings worldwide and has a disastrous effect on tourism.” Heinecke pointed out: “Thailand is not only facing political challenges, but also the com- pounding effects of exaggerated media reports which paint a distorted and unrealistic picture of the situa- tion in the Kingdom.” Not all reactions to Heinecke’s letter were favour- able. He was accused of having adopted the Bangkok establishment’s conventional way of thinking. Some critics said that he was ill-advised to make a naïve attempt of justifying the coup. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for MINT. In 1999, the Minor Hotel Group (MHG) faced off with the investment bank Goldman Sachs. Goldman wanted to buy real estate that MINT was using in Bangkok’s prime Radchadamri district. Thanks to his local knowledge and connections, Heinecke managed to convince the property owners that the land was too valuable to end up in foreign hands. Goldman only managed to buy 41 % of the area and eventually sold the property to MHG. This is where Minor’s flagship hotel, the Anantara Siam, is located. It was formerly the Four Seasons. MINT has taken some surprising steps. In 1980, Minor Food Group was founded to operate and fran- chise Pizza Hut. Heinecke acted against the advice of consultants who told him that Thais had no preference for cheesy foods and bread. His instincts proved to be right and the franchise grew to over 200 locations. Nonetheless, there were serious challenges. 15 years ago, MINT famously came head-to-head with Tricon Global, the US-based food giant that owns the Theman who brought pizza to Thailand Chayut Setboonsarng is a business consultant based in Bangkok. [email protected] kd