Born July 9, 1914, in Minneapolis, Mr. Carlson was recognized for his generosity, integrity, entrepreneurial spirit and family dedication. Known worldwide as the “ultra-entrepreneur,” he founded the Gold Bond Stamp Company in 1938 with a $55 loan and a desire to succeed. His “Horatio Alger” qualities were key to the gradual expansion of his business, which has become one of the largest privately held corporations in the world. To reflect its global expansion and diversification, the corporation became Carlson Companies, Inc., in 1973.
“We have truly benefited from Curt’s visionary leadership, dedication and driving spirit over the last 60 years,” said Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who took over as President and Chief Executive Officer in March 1998 when he retired. “We celebrate his wonderful, full life, and we will follow his advice not to do what he did, but to seek what he sought.
Today, Carlson Companies is an international leader in providing hospitality, travel and marketing services and solutions to corporate clients and consumers. The company operates in more than 140 countries, and its brands employ 160,000 people worldwide and generated more than $22 billion in systemwide revenues in 1998.
Mr. Carlson purchased the Radisson Hotel in downtown Minneapolis in 1962 and turned it into an international brand, which currently includes more than 375 properties. Other well-recognized Carlson Companies brands and services include Regent International Hotels, Country Inns Suites By Carlson, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants, Carlson Leisure Group (leisure travel) and Carlson Marketing Group, the largest relationship marketing company in the world.
Mr. Carlson also was instrumental in establishing a global partnership with Accor of Paris, which combined the business travel interests of both companies under the name Carlson Wagonlit Travel, the first truly global company in the industry with international management. In 1998, Carlson Companies announced plans to merge its United Kingdom leisure travel operations with Thomas Cook’s leisure travel and financial services business. The partnership will create one of the largest leisure travel companies in the world.
The company’s hospitality operating group, Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, added 98 new hotels and 76 new restaurants in 1998. On the heels of its 1998 acquisition of S H Citadel, one of the nation’s largest performance improvement firms, Carlson Marketing Group recently was named relationship marketing agency of record for six new national and international accounts.