- Jul 23, 2003
WSJ carried his Obit. Died of ALS at age 85.
United Airlines Chief Tried to Create a One-Stop Travel Shop
Richard J. Ferris, who has died at age 85, later invested in hotels and helped organize acquisition of Pebble Beach resort
In the mid-1980s, Richard J. Ferris assembled what he hoped would be a one-stop shop for travelers. As chief executive of the holding company for United Airlines, he led acquisitions of the Hertz car-rental business and the Hilton International hotel chain.
For a time, Hertz customers could check their luggage on a United flight while returning a rental car. Long before the internet made reservations simple, Mr. Ferris believed customers would reward a company that let them book a flight, a car and a room with one call.
Before he could give this strategy an extended test, however, investors grew impatient for more profits and the board rebelled. He resigned under pressure in June 1987.
Only 50 years old, Mr. Ferris had time for a second act. He and Peter Ueberroth, a former baseball commissioner, joined other investors in buying the Boston-based Guest Quarters hotel chain, later combined with the DoubleTree chain and others.
He also teamed up with Mr. Ueberroth, Arnold Palmer and Clint Eastwood in 1999 to line up investors and acquire Pebble Beach Co., the owner of an oceanside golf resort near Carmel, Calif., from Japanese investors for $820 million. Mr. Ferris served as co-chairman of Pebble Beach until the end of 2019