Company History

1938 The Gold Bond Stamp Company is founded and developed by Curtis L. Carlson. By 1953, Gold Bond Stamps had become a household name in the United States.

1962 Carlson acquired its first Radisson® hotel located in Minneapolis, Minn., marking the company’s entrance into the hospitality business.  Today, there are more than 550 Radisson Blu® and Radisson® hotels globally.

1975 Carlson acquired TGI Fridays Inc. with 12 restaurants in 9 states marking the company’s entrance into the restaurant business. Today, there are more than 930 restaurants TGI FridaysSM operating in over 60 countries and territories.

1979 Carlson acquired Ask Mr. Foster Travel, a travel agency chain that would be rebranded as Carlson Travel Group.

1981 Carlson acquired E.F. MacDonald Motivation Company that would become Carlson Marketing.

1987 Carlson founded the Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM brand with the opening of its first hotel in Burnsville, Minn. The brand now operates over 470 hotels throughout the world primarily in the United States, Canada, India and Mexico.

1989 Carlson opened its world headquarters in Minnetonka, Minn. and is home to the offices of more than 1,000 employees.

1994 Carlson and the Accor Group combined business travel interests to form Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) which has become a global leader in business travel management.

1998    Marilyn Carlson Nelson, daughter of founder Curtis L. Carlson is named president and chief executive officer.

1999 Carlson co-founded The World Childhood Foundation with Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, in an effort to preserve the rights of abused and sexually exploited children around the world. World Childhood supports over 100 projects in 17 countries, working with children who are victims of abuse, families at risk, children in alternative housing and homeless children.

2004 In line with its commitment to World Childhood Foundation, Carlson was the first North American company to sign the Code of Conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.

2006 Carlson and One Equity Partners (OEP) acquired Accor's 50 percent share of Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). Carlson became majority shareholder with 55 percent of CWT shares and OEP owning the remaining 45 percent.

2010 Carlson signed the United Nations Global Compact encouraging businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible practices.

2012 Carlson increased ownership in The Rezidor Hotel Group to over 50 percent and went to market as Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.

2012 Trudy Rautio is elected president and chief executive officer of Carlson.

2013 Carlson celebrated its 75th anniversary. With more than 1,340 hotels in operation and under development, over 930 restaurants, and the world's premier business travel management company, Carlson is a global leader in the hospitality and travel industries.

2013 Diana Nelson becomes chairman of the board, the third in the company’s history, preceded by grandfather, Curtis L. Carlson and mother, Marilyn Carlson Nelson.

2014 Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group announced two new brands, Quorvus Collection and Radisson Red.

2014 Nearing completion and achievement of the goals set forth by Ambition 2015, Trudy Rautio unveiled Vision 20/20, a strategy that builds upon Ambition 2015 and renews the company’s focus on the guest experience and the delivery of the brands’ promises by focusing on developing talent, creating a service culture that is unrivalled in the industry and fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration. The strategy will drive development, deliver value to owners and operators and better align Carlson resources.