Leaders as Humble as They are Successful

Refreshingly candid conversations with some of today's most humble leaders. Adam Kaufman dives into topics often left unexplored. His guests’ challenges, fears, and motivations show what it takes to become a humble leader.

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Philippe Bourguignon: The Choice of Optimism

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Philippe Bourguignon: The Choice of Optimism

Philippe Bourguignon has travelled constantly since his early twenties. Only recently has he been forced to stay in one place for any length of time and even this is propelling him forward. Always one to learn and seek new adventures and challenges, Philippe has always risen to the occasion and as a result has served as the CEO of Euro Disney, Chairman and CEO of Club Med, and as the co-CEO of the World Economic Forum. He currently spends a majority of his time advising other business leaders through his role in the Washington D.C. based venture capital firm, Revolution.

Quoted in Episode:

Never be afraid of life, never be afraid of adventure, trust chance, luck, destiny. Go, go and conquer other spaces, other hopes. The rest will be given to you.

-- Henry de Monfreid, French adventurer and author (1879-1974)

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Bio from Revolution Website

Philippe Bourguignon is vice chairman of Revolution Places, a company that is creating a new model for travel and tourism that promotes and encourages a healthy lifestyle, Philippe establishes consumer brands that reflect those values. In addition, he serves as executive co-chairman of Exclusive Resorts, a carefully vetted collection of more than 300 privately managed multimillion-dollar residences in iconic destinations paired with highly personalized and intuitive service. Revolution Places’ approach is to create unique, authentic experiences that can become treasured memories that last a lifetime — and build large businesses in the process.

Prior to joining Revolution Places, Philippe was co-chief executive officer of the Davos-based World Economic Forum in 2003 and 2004. Previously, as chairman and chief executive of Club Med, he was widely credited with a comprehensive turnaround of the company in 2000. The change included refocusing the brand, revamping operations and restoring competitiveness, implementing an innovative pricing policy, and completely overhauling the management culture.

Beginning in 1988, Philippe worked with Disney in several capacities, including as chairman and chief executive officer of Euro Disney, and executive vice president of Disney Europe. As the head of Euro Disney, he led a far-reaching corporate restructuring which restored the company on solid financial footing and achieved operating results far ahead of market expectations.

Previously Philippe spent 14 years with the Accor group, one of the largest hotel groups in the world. Initially serving as vice president of Development for Asia/Middle East and executive vice president of North America, he was eventually promoted to president of Accor for the Asia/Pacific region.

Today, Philippe sits on the board of two Revolution companies: Exclusive Resorts, a luxury travel club, and Mint House, a hospitality company setting a new standard in business travel.

In addition, he is also an active member on the board of Neiman Marcus, the global board of Operation Hope and chairman of HOPE Global Forums, a non-profit organization with a vision to eradicate poverty.

He is also the chairman of Primonial a Paris based wealth management firm and an active investor in OneRagtime, a European disruptive venture platform. He previously served as a member of the board of directors for Zipcar and spent 11-years on the board at eBay.

Philippe is also a co-founder of the Monthly Barometer. The Barometer is a subscription service that enables executives and leaders from around the world to anticipate and leverage emerging trends, using “contextual intelligence” methods to distill into one page the macro issues relevant to time-starved decision-makers. It has been in existence for more than five years and has a remarkably accurate track record.

In 2005, Philippe published his first book, Hop!, a revealing discussion on the paradoxes of the world and the French economy.

On a personal note — Philippe Bourguignon is married, and the father of two children. He is a man of many passions – a dedicated racer of yachts who, with Bruno Peyron, set a record in 1996 for crossing the English Channel.

Dave Douglas:

Welcome to another episode of Up2. Eight years ago, Up2 started as a live event series showcasing leaders who are as humble as they are successful. The humility piece is extremely important. As we identify leaders who can inspire others, we try to focus our interviews on the non-business aspects of their lives. And in doing so, have found there's a real thirst to explore their hearts and minds in atypical ways. Our host, as always is Adam Kaufman, and we're glad to have a favorite guest return today, Philippe Bourguignon. Thanks for joining us. We'll be right back.

Adam Kaufman:

During the first season of the up to podcast, I had several companies and entrepreneurs approached me about potential partnerships, but I'm really selective before choosing to do something like that. One choice we did make happily is to partner with VividFront, a full service digital marketing and website design agency based in Cleveland that works with both local and national brands. They built their entire client base on referrals, and they've won a lot of awards, including the 2019 Inc Magazine, Top 5,000 fastest growing companies, North coast, top places to work and several others. They're known for their talent, they're known for their creativity, they're known for their culture. A firm I liked before we agreed to partner together for the show, check out vividfront.com or you can email me and I'll introduce you to their dynamic leader, Andrew Spott.

Adam Kaufman:

Welcome back. You're listening to the Up2 podcast with host, Adam Kaufman. Today's guest, Philippe Bourguignon. Our guests today has been the CEO of major international organizations, both in the U.S. and abroad. He was the CEO of Euro Disney, the CEO of Club Med, the CEO of Exclusive Resorts, the co-CEO of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, also the CEO of Miraval Luxury Resort. And he has served on the board of directors of major corporations like the E-commerce leader, eBay, for 10 years and Luxury Icon, Neiman Marcus, as well as one of my favorite fast casual restaurants in the U.S. CAVA based in DC, but with about, I think, 100 locations all over the U.S.

Adam Kaufman:

I've gotten to know our guests today most closely as an annual participant at a very special event he co-hosts each September in Chamonix, France, which of course Americans could not attend this year, [foreign language 00:02:39]. But today we are very fortunate to have Philippe Bourguignon with us today live from France. [foreign language 00:02:45].

Philippe Bourguignon:

[foreign language 00:02:45]. How are you?

Adam Kaufman:

Good. What have you been up to?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Like you Adam and everybody else, up to a lot of things.

Adam Kaufman:

Tell me, what have you been doing with yourself?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Well, first of all, I came to France for two weeks from the Washington, D.C., where I live. This was in late February, early March, and the COVID caught me in Paris. The ban was put in place, not allowing Europeans, even those like me with a working visa not being able to go back to the U.S., except I could have gone back in 48 hours, we were allowed two days.

Adam Kaufman:

I remember that.

Philippe Bourguignon:

But like everybody else, I felt it would take two weeks or maybe three weeks.

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So I decided to stay in France for that period. And I've been here for nine months.

Adam Kaufman:

Nine months. Now, you said the COVID caught you, do you mean that's where you were? You didn't personally get Coronavirus, right?

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, no, no. It just happened that I obviously I heard about it before. the Monthly Barometer, the think tank you talked about.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Alerted us around mid February that this virus was something very serious.

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

By the way, if I may make a side here. While I was the co-CEO of Davos, we had a session in Davos 2003-

Adam Kaufman:

Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

On what's called systemic risks.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Which are very large significant risk.

Adam Kaufman:

And this was back in 2003?

Philippe Bourguignon:

2003.

Adam Kaufman:

Long time ago.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And I opened that session and I presented not only the state of the world quickly, but what those systemic risks could be. Like the collapse of an electrical grid and all of a sudden North America has no electricity for five days. Actually-

Adam Kaufman:

That happened.

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, it happened in regions.

Adam Kaufman:

Yeah. In New York, DC, Cleveland- [crosstalk 00:04:55]

Philippe Bourguignon:

It may happen in one day in the United States and Canada together for a week. Same thing with the Web, it may happen. Okay. So the chances are remote but this little chance has amazing consequences.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And we obviously mentioned pandemic as one of the-

Adam Kaufman:

Possibilities.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And the idea was to alert the leaders of the world in Davos that they had to get ready for it. And that the world was not prepared for it. And to my disappointment since 2003, and maybe a few people talked about it before me obviously, nothing has been done.

Adam Kaufman:

Bill Gates famously, right?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Bill Gates. Actually, the session I opened was a session between Bill Gates and Bill Clinton on this very subject.

Adam Kaufman:

Wow.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Bill Clinton raised it also. Bill Gates raised it. A lot of people raised it, but nobody dealt with it.

Adam Kaufman:

Do you think people now are beginning to realize that we have to think longterm about risk, not just like dealing with today's fires and putting them out? Post COVID, are we going to be proactive for the longterm?

Philippe Bourguignon:

I hope so. I was hoping politicians as well as some economic leaders, but mostly politician, take the organization of the state as granted and they don't challenge it. So we've been living whether it is in France, in Germany, in the UK, and obviously in the U.S. and Canada or elsewhere, with an administration which kept building layers over years. And the politicians accept this as a fact.

Adam Kaufman:

What do you mean by layers?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Administration is made of other layers of people or new committees-

Adam Kaufman:

Bureaucratic layers, got it.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Yes.

Adam Kaufman:

Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And some countries have more-

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Like France, some countries have a little less, maybe the United States, even though United States you have a complexity because you have it at state level-

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And you have it at federal levels. And I was hoping that we would take this huge, phenomenal crisis to deal with it. To wake up and say, we have to simplify things. We have to be able to move faster. By the way, look on the vaccines, people are moving faster than they have ever done. So it is possible.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

It should be possible in day-to-day things. It doesn't have to be possible only to deal with the pandemic. So I hope that one good consequences of this pandemic is that we will simplify the administrative layers.

Adam Kaufman:

I like that. So we jumped right into the serious topic of the world COVID but let's back up for a minute, Philippe. What have you been doing with your time since you unexpectedly found yourself... I mean, I know you love France. You're from France, but you're used to traveling all over the world. So how have you spent your time being forced to stay in one country?

Philippe Bourguignon:

So, first of all, it's the first time in I guess 45 years. I have to make computation that I've not traveled in that longer period of time.

Adam Kaufman:

45 years.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I don't think that in the last 40 years I've stayed in the same place for more than two weeks except maybe a little bit my time at as CEO of Euro Disney, where I was going back to the U.S. every six weeks, kind of.

Adam Kaufman:

Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

But other than that, I've been traveling extensively all my life.

Adam Kaufman:

You're always on the move.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And this was kind of a choice. I wanted to discover the world. When I was young, my goal in life was to find a job, not paying well, but allowing me to travel. So obviously that's a change. Now, you get used to it. It's fine. And there are worst places getting stuck in than France. I have a nice place in Paris and two beautiful homes. One in the forest, one out west of Paris, one in south of France. So I spent the first three months of confinement in the forest and I rediscovered my forest, even though I knew it for... We had this home for 30 years. I did not know the forest as well as I do now. I walked every day. I had new ideas everyday walking. I walk and I sit, put notes in my cell phone.

Adam Kaufman:

That must've been kind of wonderful. I mean-

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, no. It was wonderful. And it was in the spring, by the way, I did something I never did. I did a picture of the same tree every day for three months during the spring.

Adam Kaufman:

What a great idea.

Philippe Bourguignon:

You should see it. It's amazing.

Adam Kaufman:

I want to see it.

Philippe Bourguignon:

First, there are no leaves. Second, there are leaves, then there are flowers, and then the flowers are blooming and they are bigger and then they change color.

Adam Kaufman:

What a great idea.

Philippe Bourguignon:

In fact, I work very hard because we have, at Revolution, I've been working for 15 years with Steve Case in Washington and at Revolution, we have a number of companies-

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And obviously a lot of young leaders and they needed some help and advice to muddle through this crisis. So in fact, I've not been busy as I've been the last nine months for a long time either.

Adam Kaufman:

Did you just say you're more busy now?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Yes.

Adam Kaufman:

In spite of being in France.

Philippe Bourguignon:

At the same time, you live... So what's interesting is, you work where you live. So in my forest, then in South of France, you don't have commute time. You're not rushing to the airport, so you have more quality time-

Adam Kaufman:

Absolutely.

Philippe Bourguignon:

That's what I discovered.

Adam Kaufman:

I've noticed that myself.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And so I do an hour to an hour and half walking every day, but it's much less than the waste of time I had. So this was good. Also, despite the crisis and the intensity of the change with our leaders I think I've been more creative during that period than I have been in a very long time.

Adam Kaufman:

Isn't that interesting? You've been more creative. You've said a few interesting things that I want to delve into a little bit. So you were saying that with Revolution, which is a venture capital firm, you've had to spend more time with the portfolio company founders and the entrepreneurs leaving those companies. Like what were you helping them do?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Well first of all, I went through a few crisis in the past. Not as severe as this one, but different type of crisis. And what I learned, particularly in September 11, I was the CEO of Club Med at the time and our business stopped overnight. Okay, and you learn that things are moving faster than you can control. So the only way to manage a crisis like this is to prepare for any sort of how do you say?

Adam Kaufman:

I think we call it contingency planning. Planning for different contingencies.

Philippe Bourguignon:

It's a little more than contingency, but the idea is to do a plan A that's the best plan, which by the way should be for like three months, not for one year. Okay?

Adam Kaufman:

Yeah.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Then you do a plan B or plan C plan D or plan E. And depending what happens, you click on plan B or plan C and you're ready to do it. In other words, you have already talked to your board, you have talked to your investors, you have prep your management team.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And when the situation happens, you just have to click to plan C and you implement it right away, rather than losing or wasting another two or three weeks, which is a lot of time in the crisis.

Adam Kaufman:

Things move quickly.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So I'm telling you, by the way, I admire all the CEOs have been dealing with because they reacted very promptly. Some, immediately, they faced reality immediately. Some say, "Well, Philippe, we're going to revise our budget a little bit" I say, "No, that's not enough." So they had to wait another week to realize that what you told them the week before was actually happening, but I'm telling you within two weeks everybody had five, six, seven different plans.

Adam Kaufman:

That's great. Now, am I correct? Didn't you also help your daughter start a business during COVID or right before?

Philippe Bourguignon:

It should be more than that.. We had an idea together. And three years ago, and we work on the idea slowly, but surely me in Washington, my daughter in Paris. And it's called Urban Oasis.

Adam Kaufman:

Urban Oasis. Is that outside Paris or where is that?

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, it's in Paris right in the center, next to the Opera.

Adam Kaufman:

Oh.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And it's a place [crosstalk 00:13:51].

Adam Kaufman:

What area in [crosstalk 00:13:51] is that?

Philippe Bourguignon:

The ninth.

Adam Kaufman:

The ninth. Okay. For our listeners who want to look for it [crosstalk 00:13:59]. Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

At the Opera and no, it's an amazing place. It's a place where people can reconnect. Today people are kind of disconnected. They have more connection with the cover of the iPhone than they have with another individual.

Adam Kaufman:

Isn't that so true?

Philippe Bourguignon:

So you have to create opportunities for people to reconnect.

Adam Kaufman:

That must be so meaningful for you to launch a business with your daughter at this point in your own career.

Philippe Bourguignon:

It's fantastic. And then my son, who had an interesting job, resigned and said, "I want to join you. Have fun with you." So, he's also, yeah.

Adam Kaufman:

Oh, I didn't know that. Okay. That's great. Well, tell me more about how are you doing during this period of time given that you've had to stay in country? It's wonderful, your family's there, but how have you been through all this?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Well, unfortunately it was not my whole family because we were not allowed to have the whole family. So I was with my wife, which is great, by the way.

Adam Kaufman:

Of course.

Philippe Bourguignon:

But my children and grandchildren, I did not see them for three months originally. And now by the way, I work in Paris because I'm currently in Paris. So instead of the forest, I do different itineraries. And yesterday was Sunday-

Adam Kaufman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Philippe Bourguignon:

We walked with my daughter, my son-in-law and two of my three grandchildren. We walked around [French 00:15:18] on the small streets-

Adam Kaufman:

[French 00:15:20]

Philippe Bourguignon:

Which I had not done in I think, 20 years.

Adam Kaufman:

Wow. And are the artists out painting in [French 00:15:26] Are they always- [crosstalk 00:15:27]

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, no more painters. No tourists, no painters, whatever. But you see, in fact, you see the place, the buildings, the architecture. The other thing is, which really has been for me very interesting is that walking in Paris, you watch, you look at things. And I knew that Paris was beautiful, but I'm telling you, it's amazingly beautiful. The architecture is amazing.

Adam Kaufman:

One of the prettiest cities in the world.

Philippe Bourguignon:

The neighborhoods are changing from one place to the other and so on. And you know, when you are in the car or in public transportation or on the phone in the car, you don't see anything. So now I see things and I'm telling you one thing which this crisis will have anchored into me-

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I'm not going to give up my long walk every day ever.

Adam Kaufman:

Philippe, I love hearing that and I cannot tell you how many places my wife and I have been walking, whether it's in our own neighborhood or somewhere around the world, and she brings up, usually first, Philippe tells us to meander. He wants us to walk. We can't race from point A to point B and you've taught us how to take different paths to the same destination and what you can learn by seeing different people in different settings. And that has really lasted with us. So thank you for that.

Philippe Bourguignon:

On Friday, I walk to a place in my neighborhood where I've not been walking a lot. And certainly not in the recent past. And there is lycée, which is a high school called [inaudible 00:17:03]. The school was built at [inaudible 00:17:07] so the architecture is beautiful and I convinced the guy at the entrance to let me walk in. It took me five minutes of talk and he let me in. And then I started talking with students.

Adam Kaufman:

Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And was fantastic.

Adam Kaufman:

I bet. Wow.

Philippe Bourguignon:

It was, yes. N, no. It was. I keep saying we had discussion on this. Life is made of encounters and moments, and this was a moment.

Adam Kaufman:

That's a great moment.

Philippe Bourguignon:

You know what I wish I can do one day, Adam?

Adam Kaufman:

What?

Philippe Bourguignon:

You and I and your wife?

Adam Kaufman:

Tell me. Go to Lebanon.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Walking, Beirut. I cannot wait.

Adam Kaufman:

Let's plan for that. I just got chills on my neck thinking about that. Let's make that a goal.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I think I told you two months ago. I went to, and this was before this explosion in the port-

Adam Kaufman:

The awful ammonium nitrate explosion in the warehouse on August 4th, yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

It was just before, but I read the book on the evolution of Lebanon and Syria, and it gave me a little nostalgia of my time there. And I watch Google earth and I meandered in Beirut, but with Google earth.

Adam Kaufman:

Wow. [crosstalk 00:18:25] and meander.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I found some places where I used to go, anyways.

Adam Kaufman:

That's wonderful. Well, I would love for us to do that someday. And it is a definite goal. And then that'll give us a reason to have a third podcast. Do you know, Philippe, I've had now 30 guests on our show, thankfully, with Dave Douglas here as our able producer. And you're only the second person that I've asked to have back for a second time. Your first appearance on the show was so interesting. And the feedback we got was really compelling from our listeners. So really glad you're back with us today.

Dave Douglas:

You're listening to the up to podcast. We'll be right back.

Adam Kaufman:

Hello, my name is Adam Kaufman, and I'm thankful you're joining us today on the up two podcast. I want to tell you about a group that I'm grateful for, and that is TownHall, Cleveland's most popular restaurant. And one that I can say is the only place my wife tells me she can eat every meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. TownHall was the first all non-GMO restaurant in the U S a few years ago and they're now expanding into Columbus, Ohio soon. I'm also very selective about who we choose to partner with for this podcast. And it was with open arms that I embraced the idea of partnering with Bobby George and TownHall to learn more about what they're up to you can visit townhallohiocity.com.

Adam Kaufman:

One of the aspects of podcasting I enjoy the most is the ability to delve into long form discussions without any interruption, other than a periodic commentary about one of our partners. I'm grateful that Calfee, Ohio-based law firm, has agreed to partner with us. They have offices throughout Ohio and also in Washington, DC in New York and Indianapolis too. They are a full service firm, every type of legal need. One example I'll share right now, because so many of our listeners are entrepreneurs, is not too long ago, a friend of mine sold his company to a public corporation. And with that came some restrictions and ramifications on his future employment.

Adam Kaufman:

And to navigate through that properly, he asked my advice. And without hesitation I recommended Calfee because I knew they'd have the right type of specialist to help him with his particular needs. And my friend continues to rave about that experience and I'm very grateful that Calfee has agreed to partner with Up2. So whether it's selling your own business or the more routine needs of creating your first will or anything in between, this firm can really do it all in terms of legal needs. Once again, the firm is Calfee. You can find them at calfee.com or on the Up2 Foundation website.

Dave Douglas:

Welcome back. You're listening to the Up2 podcast with Adam Kaufman. Today's guest, Philippe Bourguignon.

Philippe Bourguignon:

My father used to tell me when I was young and I totally forgot it, that the most important decision you make every day is to be in good mood.

Adam Kaufman:

Be in a good mood. So you, you learned that from your father? I was planning on asking you that today. You're the most optimistic, glass-half-full guy I know. You're always making people laugh. You're always lifting up others around you. So I was planning on bringing this up, so continue about what your father taught you.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So he taught me and I can't forget, but I mean, I'm, generally speaking, in good mood.

Adam Kaufman:

You definitely are.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I'm lucky. It's my DNA. And I think it's an expression, but it's hard to decide to be in good mood if you're in bad mood.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes, absolutely.

Philippe Bourguignon:

But anyway, this year, independent from the COVID. Before that, I decided to read books on the history of countries where I've been traveling and which I liked. So that's why I lived in Beirut as you know back in the mid seventies. But I also have a lot of connection with Vietnam.

Adam Kaufman:

Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Or let's say what used to be called Indochina. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and so on. And so I read a book on the French war. The war Indochina, not the Vietnam war. The war before.

Adam Kaufman:

Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And I decided to adopt what I call the Indochinese philosophy.

Adam Kaufman:

For your own life?

Philippe Bourguignon:

For my own life. So what is the Indochina? When they were at war against the French, they did not try to understand why the French were fighting them. They didn't try to understand why the French were bombing them. What they were doing is fighting with their sticks in tunnels or trails, which they dig themselves in the jungle. And that's how they won the war. So I have my little stick and I'm digging my own little tunnel, and I'm going through this crisis.

Adam Kaufman:

Well, about your own mood and your own happiness and your father's encouragement to try to be that way. It really is remarkable how you always seem to be so happy in finding things to laugh about. How do you, Philippe, get unstuck? How do you get out of bad moods? Is there some practice or some train of thought that you try to implement to put you back into that better place?

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, it's just, again, it's this combination I said of moments and encounters. So I've been walking alone for quite some time at the beginning of this crisis. And one day when I moved back to Paris, I decided to reconnect with A number of people I've not seen in years. Remember I left France 15 years ago for Washington and a number of people have not seen in 20 years. So I reconnected with them and they are... It's strange because when I call them I say, "Well, are you ready for a walk?" And we walk in a neighborhood. We decide which one. And we walk together. We have not met in a long time and we talk about things and then you have entirely different angles. And people will talk about different subject.

Adam Kaufman:

Sure.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And we try to avoid to talk about COVID because it becomes an obsession.

Adam Kaufman:

Absolutely.

Philippe Bourguignon:

The problem, again, my Indochina theory is that we should stop blaming everybody, okay. The administration is doing a number of mistakes. This, this, and that. But if the only way you lead is by criticizing everybody that the crisis could have been managed better, then you don't make it.

Adam Kaufman:

That's not going to help us.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So we ignore it. And you are careful when you meet people, obviously.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Okay. And you talk about every subject except this one. And it's terribly helpful.

Adam Kaufman:

So these walks with old acquaintances, old friends has helped to keep your spirits up. When you walk alone, are you listening to anything? Whether it's music. I know you love music or podcasts or books on tape or-

Philippe Bourguignon:

No.

Adam Kaufman:

Are you just listening to the city or the forest?

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, usually I... At the beginning, when I was in the forest, I would, let's say if I walked like 90 minutes, I would give 30 minutes calls. Again, same thing. Reconnect with people. Talking to them.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Every day. No one, two or three maybe.

Adam Kaufman:

Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And and then I would just walk. In the forest, I learned from a guy who did a nervous breakdown and was saved from his nervous breakdown by reconnecting with nature. That it is important to connect with trees. And so now I'm connecting with trees. It looked to me totally stupid, honestly, the first time I did it.

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

But he explained me, "Philippe, because you walk in your forest, go and you embrace the tree. You put your arms around the tree, you breathe deeply and you feel the vibrations of the tree." It's amazing, Adam.

Adam Kaufman:

Well, I love how you took a picture of the same tree throughout COVID to see the changing stages of life of the tree. That's pretty powerful too.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Yeah. but it's a stupid idea I had one day and I did it.

Adam Kaufman:

That's not stupid. That's-

Philippe Bourguignon:

And then I was very proud I did it.

Adam Kaufman:

That should go on your personal website. I'd love to see those photos. I mean, that's pretty interesting. And then I know you like poetry too, so I'm already imagining some sort of combination of art and poetry in nature. So if you could get that done by tomorrow, that'd be great.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I can send you a link on the photos.

Adam Kaufman:

I would love that. We'd share that. Yeah, for sure. When I was preparing for this, I was reminded that you've talked about five crises in your life and among those five crises that you've learned different things out of each crisis. Now we're not going to talk about all five here, but could you give me an example of a crisis? And then maybe something you've learned. We already talked about 9/11 and how quickly businesses have to change gears. But tell us about another crisis. This is what I call navigating curves in the road.

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, I will give you a little sentence or a code for each of those, which represent what I felt at the time.

Adam Kaufman:

Go ahead.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So my first crisis was in the Middle East. And I'm going to Cairo to finalize a deal for a hotel in Cairo.

Adam Kaufman:

Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

At the time I was working for Accor and I fly into Cairo. And the day after, the War of Six Days starts.

Adam Kaufman:

The Six-Day War.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And I'm stuck in Cairo. At the time, no cell phone, no fax, telex, whatever. And I got stuck there and I didn't know what to do. I could not give a talk to anybody and I could not leave the country. And we were buried behind sandbags because of the bombing.

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So I read at that time Henry de Monfreid. Henry de Monfreid is a French adventurer who was a great writer and was importing gold from India into Dubai on those boats. This is back in 80s, 70s.

Adam Kaufman:

Late 80s. Yeah.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Yes. So he said, "Never be afraid of life. Never be afraid of adventure. Trust chance, luck, destiny."

Adam Kaufman:

I like that.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So that's my take. So I stayed in Cairo for four weeks and then [inaudible 00:29:06]. And that's one. The second one was a hug crisis at Euro Disney. We're losing tons of money on the verge of bankruptcy. And I decided that it was better to leave alive in mediocre health than be dead in good health.

Adam Kaufman:

So that was a personal decision for your own wellbeing.

Philippe Bourguignon:

It's a personal decision, which was helping making decisions every day. Otherwise, would've died.

Adam Kaufman:

Was that a huge decision for you to make or did you make it-[crosstalk 00:29:38]

Philippe Bourguignon:

It was a huge decision because it was against some interest of the Walt Disney Company.

Adam Kaufman:

And do you think now that you're glad you made that decision to leave?

Philippe Bourguignon:

I'm so glad I made it and by the way, I got congratulated by Frank [Wells 00:29:53] and Michael Eisner at the time that I actually did it.

Adam Kaufman:

Yeah, you had the courage to make such a big decision.

Philippe Bourguignon:

It looks like a stupid one, [inaudible 00:30:02]. But it means that you do thing that may affect your long term future, but help you survive.

Adam Kaufman:

Yeah, I don't think it looks stupid at all. I mean, look how happy you are and how much meaning you give others. So it was a great decision.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Then there was the 2008 crisis, which you know, obviously, and we had invested in [inaudible 00:30:21] companies.

Adam Kaufman:

The economic crisis. Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

What I learned there was that there are decades where nothing happens and weeks where decades happen.

Adam Kaufman:

That's kind of like now.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And this was what I call Lehman brother Week. Remember?

Adam Kaufman:

Oh, yeah.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And now, COVID. Here's one thing I wrote. I'm going get something. One of my little notes.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes, one of your 15 notes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

[crosstalk 00:30:43] I told you about.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So COVID life has become the embodiment of the Heisenberg in certain key principle. One cannot measure both the position and velocity of an object at the same time. That's the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

Adam Kaufman:

Who's Heisenberg?

Philippe Bourguignon:

A scientist.

Adam Kaufman:

Forgive me. I don't know.

Philippe Bourguignon:

[inaudible 00:31:03]

Adam Kaufman:

I've heard of Heisenberg from the TV show, Breaking Bad. Walter White-

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, no, no. [crosstalk 00:31:08]

Adam Kaufman:

[crosstalk 00:31:08] call himself Heisenberg. Is that the same guy, Dave?

Dave Douglas:

No, it's definitely not.

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, it's not. No, no, no. Quantum physics. So the consequence is the following, Adam. We may know where we are, but we don't know where we're going, however, some time, we may know where we're going, but we have no idea where we are.

Adam Kaufman:

That's true.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So that's what I learned with COVID.

Adam Kaufman:

Right, oh my gosh. That's so true. You could write a whole book about that alone.

Philippe Bourguignon:

so I wrote, not a real big... Again, I am going to assemble one day.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes. You have a lot of good material here. Is that four of the five crises or did you summarize them all.

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, that's all. I had other crises. I had, obviously. Including being put in jail in Syria, which is an adventure.

Adam Kaufman:

You were imprisoned in Syria? What did you do to lead to that?

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, it's the whole story. I did nothing wrong. I went- [crosstalk 00:32:05]

Adam Kaufman:

Of course, that's what they all say.

Philippe Bourguignon:

To visit the Minister of Defense who owned a piece of land on which we could do a hotel. It was a nice negotiation. I go to visit him at the Ministry of Defense. They ask me my passport. They take my passport and they ask me to wait in a waiting room. And all of a sudden-

Adam Kaufman:

I need context. What year is this? How old are you?

Philippe Bourguignon:

This is '74.

Adam Kaufman:

Okay, so you're pretty young at the time.

Philippe Bourguignon:

'74, '75. Yes, I'm still pretty young. Yes.

Adam Kaufman:

Yeah.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Then suddenly, two guys show up with Kalashnikov guns.

Adam Kaufman:

AK-47, yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Philippe Bourguignon:

Yes and they say, "Do you have an ID?" I say, "No, I left it at the reception. I'm here to meet the minister." "Oh, no, no, no, no. If you don't have an ID, follow us." And I followed them and they put me in a jail cell. In a jail.

Adam Kaufman:

Oh my gosh. Weren't you so nervous?

Philippe Bourguignon:

In fact, it was one of our competitors. Another hotel company, I won't mention the name, who had a go-between who organized it so that they could sign the contract instead of me while I was in jail.

Adam Kaufman:

Wow, I can't believe the Ritz-Carlton would do that.

Philippe Bourguignon:

By the way, it's not them. These were different types.

Adam Kaufman:

Oh my gosh. Do you ever think about who's watching you? I mean, you had some role models, growing up. We've talked about your father a little bit today, but do you ever think about who's watching you? Whether it's these entrepreneurs that you're helping or your children, of course?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Well, again, the people who have counted in my life and made me who I am today, obviously, my dad who kept telling me I should dream and play all of my life. That I shouldn't stop playing because I did a Master in economics.

Adam Kaufman:

Yeah.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And not taking myself seriously. So that's what I remember. My wife, we married a very long time ago and she made me more generous.

Adam Kaufman:

More generous?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Yes, and more grateful than I was originally. But also, I will tell you a story because she was very nervous that [inaudible 00:34:27], all those companies and then you have a driver at sometimes at Euro Disney because of the war and the terrorist. I had a bodyguard. She got concerned that I would kind of lose it and one of those guy disconnected from day-to-day reality. So one day, she told me she was worried about it. And she says, "You know what? You should take the metro at least once a week to stay close to people."

Adam Kaufman:

Great advice.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So since then, even though not in the last few months because I don't take the metro with the COVID around, but each time I'm in Paris, I'm taking the metro once in a while. You stay in touch with realities.

Adam Kaufman:

See, I love this story. I didn't know that about you. This show, Philippe, the them is leaders who are humble as they are successful. And that story of you accepting Martine's advice to take the metro once a week so that you are not detached, that illustrates your humility that you've been doing that. And that probably has helped keep you grounded, wouldn't you think?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Definitely, Martine helped me keep grounded. Another of my mentor, if you want, is a person called [Adrian Zecha 00:35:39]. Adrian Zecha is a Chinese from Singapore. He's the one who created Aman Resorts and before that, he was a journalist and a newspaper owner. And we worked together. Before he started Aman, he helped me developing Accor in Asia, okay.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes, [crosstalk 00:35:59].

Philippe Bourguignon:

One day, we fly between Shanghai and Singapore and on the plane, he tells me, "Philippe, you're not doing well." I said, "Yes, I'm doing fine. I'm great." He said, "No, no, no, no. I can say, you're not doing well." And he insisted. He said, "You have to take two day and reflect on yourself." I said, "I don't have the time to do it." And he forced me to do it. And he forced me the following week. "Philippe, time creates time. If you are stressed and nervous, you're not efficient."

Adam Kaufman:

That's true.

Philippe Bourguignon:

"So take those two days and reflect on yourself." So did I and it changed my life. And every six to eight weeks, I'm taking a day and a half or two days with myself and it has helped me tremendously during this crisis because now, it's not a day and a half every six weeks, it's like an hour and a half every day.

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I'm with myself.

Adam Kaufman:

But it's that same practice of just reflecting?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Yes-

Adam Kaufman:

And walking.

Philippe Bourguignon:

That's why I wanted to tell you about this.

Adam Kaufman:

Absolutely, I'm glad you did. What's the second one? You said you had two additional- [crosstalk 00:37:09]

Philippe Bourguignon:

One, I try. The second one is person called Frank Wells. I don't know if you remember him. He was the president of the Walt Disney Company.

Adam Kaufman:

Before Michael Eisner?

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, below Michael Eisner. As a partner to Michael Eisner.

Adam Kaufman:

Okay.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And Frank was an extraordinary man, He told me when I took over Euro Disney, when I became CEO, he told me... He took me around my shoulder showing me the castle and he said, "Philippe, now this is yours. Do your own mistakes."

Adam Kaufman:

Wow.

Philippe Bourguignon:

But hen he added, "Philippe, you're going to have a tough job and you're going to have to fight against the French government, against Walt Disney Company, against whatever. So the only guide you should have is you make the decision which is good for the company. If it's against the Walt Disney Company, do it. I may fight against it, but I will always respect you if you do it." And that's why I could do what I told you earlier.

Adam Kaufman:

To leave eventually.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Yes.

Adam Kaufman:

So the advice was do what's best fro Euro Disney even if it's against Walt Disney Corporation.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Or against the French government or against whatever.

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Do what's good for Euro Disney.

Adam Kaufman:

So do you think when you left Euro Disney, that was good for Euro Disney or was that good for you? Because I bet they'd be better with you there, but I'm glad you made the decision. I'm being a little bit funny, but-

Philippe Bourguignon:

No, the decision... No, it's a good question and you almost succeeded in destabilizing me, but you are not going to.

Adam Kaufman:

I'm not trying to.

Philippe Bourguignon:

The reason I left Euro Disney was Michael Eisner wanted me to move back to Los Angeles to run the Walt Disney Company International. And my wife did not want to move back to Los Angeles because we had moved five years before and it was a tremendous difficulty for my children. And she says you destabilized then once moving from New York to LA and then LA to Paris. You cannot, after five years in France, take them back to the US.

Adam Kaufman:

Understood. Good for the family to make the decision you made.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So that's why I left.

Adam Kaufman:

Yeah, right. I want to now switch gears if we could because I love your ability to identify trends. I've always noticed that about you. And I wanted, before we left, to ask you about one area of your expertise and that is tourism. Tourism. Tourism and travel. You've often worked in the leadership roles around tourism and travel. So what are you think about, post COVID now? What is travel going to be looking like in five years? If you could give us a peek behind the proverbial curtain in your mind of that trend.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So how can I say? I do not believe in trends because trends, it's already the past. You need to try to create trends.

Adam Kaufman:

See that's what's so brilliant. Here you are saying the trend is too late. That's awesome. Keep going.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So I don't know what the trends will be, but I have hope on and about things. This crisis, I told you, I had a hope, which is that politicians will take advantage of the crisis to simplify the way countries are run.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So I hope travel and tourism will go back to basics and will reoffer opportunities for people to recover, to renew, to heal. An opportunity for rebirth. Celebrate the fact that we're alive.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

In the past, vacations was meant to rest your body.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Today, it is meant to reinvigorate your brain because stress is much more painful on your body than your muscles being tired. The problem is, tourism is still based on those mega-resorts, those travel. It's still based on, they call it experience, but it's not experience. It's still based on those commodities. Laying on a beach reading a book. Playing tennis or playing golf.

Adam Kaufman:

Or the type of cocktail poolside that you're going to be served, right?

Philippe Bourguignon:

Exactly.

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I hope this is the past. I also remember the time when I was a student in [inaudible 00:41:40], I told you at the beginning. And I was going to Marseilles Airport to see the 747 which Air France just required. Practice landing and take-off in Marseilles. This is the time tourism started unraveling because they're was a huge over capacity of seats built in the following ten years. I'm telling you, this is in the early 80s you had way too much seats. So airlines had to sell seats very cheaply and people started traveling like crazy.

Philippe Bourguignon:

So you go two days in New York. You go three days here. You go one week in three different places. And then you have cruise ship who vomit 3000 tourist in a little city like Dubrovnik in Croatia which is absolutely beautiful, but you cannot walk anymore because you have too many people in the small streets. I'm sorry, here I talk with passion.

Adam Kaufman:

No, I love it.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I hope this tourism which we call over tourism is dead. Or at least will decline. By the way, it is interesting, I noticed last week that Key West have decided not to accommodate cruise ships anymore.

Adam Kaufman:

My sister lives in Key West and I read that as well. They were both in the hospitality industry, she and her husband and they hated how the cruise ships would inundate their tiny island and tape up their water and their roads and the most basic things that the locals needed.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Exactly. I saw it. Was in charge of Croatia Pacific. I saw it coming to Tahiti. But again, there are cities which I really like. Dubrovnik in Croatia, but even Paris. I do my walks. When I was doing my walks at the beginning of the COVID, you walk by the Louvre and you have 3000 tourist waiting at the entrance and all trying to take the same picture on the same bench because it was on Instagram.

Adam Kaufman:

Right.

Philippe Bourguignon:

I call it Instagramization of tourism. So hopefully, over tourism will decline. Mass tourism and charters. Hopefully, air will become a little more expensive, not that I want to be selective, but if people have to afford the trip, they will pick and choose really what they like and what to do.

Adam Kaufman:

I hadn't that about it that way. It's brilliant.

Philippe Bourguignon:

And more connection with mother nature. I think it's [inaudible 00:44:06] onto nature also. So you have amazing places that people have ignored in the last 10, 15, 20 years and hopefully they are going to rediscover those places.

Adam Kaufman:

Dave, you wanted to say something?

Dave Douglas:

Yeah, I'm just amazed at this conversation because of all the people to talk about traveling less, it's Philippe who you've been involved with travel industry, with the entertainment industry. This has been your whole life and you of all people, have traveled way more than most people have. So it's really interesting bringing up this idea of people traveling less-

Adam Kaufman:

More selectively.

Dave Douglas:

But connecting more with those experience and I think that's an interesting parallel too because, you were talking about this Urban Oasis and you've talked about these places that you've been, your walks [crosstalk 00:44:51]. It's all about this honesty and slowing down and this real connection with people, with experiences. Do you feel like it was always built into you or is it just taking all things you've learned from people you respect?

Philippe Bourguignon:

That's what travel teaches you when you pay attention to the places you are visiting. Rather than doing pajama tours as they called. By the way, with my wife, we decided that when I start slowing down some time, we would travel a little bit, but much less. And we will travel to only a few selected places where I have been and where I know people who I really like I have not seen in a long time.

Adam Kaufman:

Like Cleveland, Ohio. You visited us in Cleveland. You liked it. [crosstalk 00:45:43]

Philippe Bourguignon:

Cleveland, Ohio. I did.

Adam Kaufman:

We went to the Rock-

Philippe Bourguignon:

Hall of Fame, yes. I remember very well. I want to go back to New Zealand because I know very interesting people and that's where I was taught how to sell in an effective way. I wold like to go back to Vietnam and Cambodia which we talked about because I know interesting people there. But that's all I want to do.

Adam Kaufman:

Be more selective about how you spend your time.

Philippe Bourguignon:

Yes. More selective. Quality time. Meeting people. Reconnecting with people.

Adam Kaufman:

Well, I absolutely love that we were able to reconnect with you today, Philippe. You are such a gem and you have so many life experiences to share with others. I wish we had more time and I can only say, God willing, we'll do this again if that's okay. Thank you so much today for being with us on the podcast.

Philippe Bourguignon:

You are welcome.

Adam Kaufman:

That was terrific. Our first trans Atlantic conversation. Hopefully not our last. I thought Philippe was quite engaged. So many takeaways for me, Dave. Something that stood out, number one, was the importance of contingency planning in business and how we should have multiple plans in place for different scenarios so that we can rect quickly if we need to. Number two, the most important decision you make every day is to be in a good mood. I love that, from his father. Easier said than done. Number three, he doesn't believe it is important to identify trends even though I complimented him on his talent to do just that. Ironically, he explained that if a trend can be identified, it's too late. It's already in the past. That awesome.

Adam Kaufman:

Number four, I like hearing his belief in a new type of tourism focusing on the rebirth of the mind, tourism on wellness and also on more connection with nature. I hadn't really thought of that before.

Dave Douglas:

Yeah, I like that one a lot.

Adam Kaufman:

How about you? Did anything from Philippe's conversation stick out with you, Dave?

Dave Douglas:

The other takeaway that I had, it's a little bit related to your first one about contingency planning, but he also mentioned, specifically, about governments being a little bit more agile and maybe having a little bit less layers of bureaucracy.

Adam Kaufman:

Yes.

Dave Douglas:

Because we've seen a breakdown in certain governments reacting to COVID.

Adam Kaufman:

Decision making.

Dave Douglas:

And that would of course apply to all circumstances, not just COVID moving forward, but Philippe would like to see a little quicker response time.

Adam Kaufman:

Very good.

Dave Douglas:

The other thing that I really loved that he said and it's not so much a takeaway as just a great moment. Philippe has a great way of saying these really inspiring things. I don't know, maybe his accent helps, but he is a brilliant person who has experienced quite a bit and has lot of wisdom. And he said at one time, never be afraid of life, never be afraid of adventure.

Adam Kaufman:

Love that.

Dave Douglas:

I loved that too.

Adam Kaufman:

He lives it.

Dave Douglas:

He does, absolutely.

Adam Kaufman:

Thank you.

Dave Douglas:

So, we do have a little bit of listener mail that came in and I would love to share one with you here.

Adam Kaufman:

Go ahead.

Dave Douglas:

We got a comment from Dr. [Aditi 00:48:45] Gupta. She owns some clinics in New York. She's physician. She says, "I started listening to your podcast, it's awesome." Exclamation point.

Adam Kaufman:

Nice.

Dave Douglas:

"It's very well balanced, smoothly executed and packed with some good punches. I love it when there's high yield content out there. Thank you for doing that."

Adam Kaufman:

And I love it when we hear from listeners so thank you for that, Aditi. And thank you to the others who send texts and email messages and please continue to do so. This actually wraps up season 3 of the Up2 Podcast. So now we're building plans for season 4. Let me know what you think about topics that we focus on. Let me know if you have ideas and potential guests. Let me know if you want me to stop doing this show and we'll accept all feedback. Thank you.

Dave Douglas:

Where can they send that feedback, Adam?

Adam Kaufman:

Please email me at [email protected]

Dave Douglas:

Perfect.

Adam Kaufman:

And as we wrap up this season. Our third, Dave. I really want to thank our sponsors, our corporate partners who make this possible. VividFront, TownHall and Calfee. We've heard about them each episode, but really appreciate, not only the financial support, but the ideas they give me and the encouragement. I want to also thank all of our guests in this season. We had yet another season of really compelling and diverse guests and I do not take that fro granted at all. They volunteer their time, they're very busy people and they have so much to share.

Adam Kaufman:

I also want to thank our individual donors. We have seen a number of listeners who decide to support the Up2 Foundation. Recently, Dan Richards and Larry Wolf and other who sometimes prefer to be anonymous. Thanks to all of you. And finally, to you, Dave, our producer. It's been a terrific season. We've had two of these together and I feel like the show gets better each week thanks to you.

Dave Douglas:

Thanks to you. Adam, I'm really glad to be a part of it. It's been a treat, so thank you.

Adam Kaufman:

Up2 is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. I'm you're host, Adam Kaufman and thanks you so much for listening to the Up2 Podcast.

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