Founder & Chairman – Minor International
William E. Heinecke is the founder and chairman of Minor International, the parent company of Minor Hotels. His leadership of Minor International has spanned close to six decades, guiding what began as a small startup into one of the world’s largest hospitality and lifestyle groups.
Known as one of Asia’s most inveterate entrepreneurs, Mr. Heinecke’s journey to business icon began at age 17, when he launched his first company while still in high school. Using US$1,200 in borrowed funds, he went to register his company in Bangkok, however as he wasn’t yet 18 years old and considered a minor the business was registered under the name ‘Minor.’ In the intervening years, Mr. Heinecke has fused his passion for experiential hospitality with a maverick style and shrewd commercial acumen, growing what became known as Minor Hotels into a diversified global hospitality group with brands including Anantara, Avani, Oaks, Elewana and Tivoli. The group’s hotel portfolio tripled in size with the acquisition of Spain’s NH Hotel Group in 2018, the year of Minor’s golden anniversary, and Mr. Heinecke continues to be a driving force behind Minor Hotels, which currently boasts more than 530 hotels in 56 countries.
Mr. Heinecke’s name has become synonymous with entrepreneurial success and hospitality leadership in Asia. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Asia Pacific Enterprise Awards in 2022, and HOTELS Magazine’s Corporate Hotelier of the World 2017. He also received a HICAP Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 and was recognized with the Trailblazer Award at the Asian Business Leadership Forum Awards in 2013. He is the author of The Entrepreneur: 25 Golden Rules for the Global Business Manager. Under his leadership, Minor Hotels was an early pioneer in eco-friendly hospitality in Southeast Asia and has since established itself as a leader in sustainable tourism development.
Mr. Heinecke served as CEO of Minor International until 2020, before deciding to focus on his role as chairman of the board and direct more of his attention on the group’s long-term strategy and philanthropic endeavours including the Heinecke Foundation, which supports education for less-fortunate children; the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which seeks to improve the welfare of elephants; and the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which helps rejuvenate the turtle population in Thailand’s SirinatMarine National Park. In his role as chairman of the board of Minor International, Mr Heinecke also oversees one of Asia’s largest restaurant companies, Minor Food, with more than 2,500 outlets globally under brands including The Pizza Company, The Coffee Club and Benihana; and Minor Lifestyle, which operates nearly 400 retail stores.
Born in the US in 1949, Mr. Heinecke moved to Bangkok in 1963 with his family after stints living in Japan, Hong Kong and Malaysia. He became a Thai citizen in 1991. He married his high school sweetheart Kathy in 1968, and together they have two sons, John and David. An avid adventurer, Mr. Heinecke fills his limited free time pursuing life-long passions for aviation and automobiles.