Skip to main content

Carlson Companies, Inc

Carlson Companies, Inc










701 Carlson Parkway
Minnetonka, Minnesota 55305
Telephone: (763) 212-1000
Fax: (763) 212-2219
Web site:

Private Company
1938 as the Gold Bond Stamp Company
Employees: 171,000
Sales: $4.93 billion (2005 est.)
NAIC: 721110 Hotels (Except Casino Hotels) and Motels; 483112 Deep Sea Passenger Transportation; 541611 Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services; 561510 Travel Agencies; 561520 Tour Operators; 722110 Full-Service Restaurants

Carlson Companies, Inc., transformed from a trading stamp business to a highly diversified operation before honing in on the hospitality and travel industries. Carlson Hotels Worldwide, a leading hotel franchiser, includes the Radisson, Regent, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inn & Suite brands. Jointly owned Carlson Wagonlit Travel is the second largest travel management network in the world, after American Express. Among its other operations are T.G.I. Fridays restaurants, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Carlson Marketing, which ranks among the largest marketing agencies in the United States.


The story of Carlson Companies begins with founder Curtis L. Carlson. Carlson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1914, the son of a Swedish immigrant and a first-generation American. Early on he showed entrepreneurial talent when he farmed out paper routes to his younger brothers, realizing a small profit on their labor. Upon graduation from the University of Minnesota, Carlson went to work for Procter & Gamble Company selling soap, but, after a year, he decided to go into business for himself.

With $55 of borrowed capital, the 23-year-old Carlson registered the Gold Bond Stamp Company with the Clerk of District Court in Minneapolis on June 8, 1938, in the midst of the Great Depression. Carlson had noticed that the Leader, a downtown Minneapolis department store, gave away coupons to its customers with each purchase that could be saved up and redeemed for cash or prizes. The point of the coupons was to encourage customer loyalty and spur sales. Carlson reasoned that what worked well for department stores would also work well for grocery stores. He was familiar with both forms of retailing from his work at Procter & Gamble and from his childhood, when his father had worked in the food business.

Carlson set up a mail drop, rented desk space in a downtown Minneapolis building, and paid a secretary in a nearby office $5 a month to answer the phone. Hanging onto his regular job for four additional months, he spent his evenings and weekends selling reluctant small grocers on his new trading stamp idea. Five months after he quit his steady job, Carlson made his first sale, in March 1939, to a small grocer in south Minneapolis. The store owner purchased $14.50 worth of Gold Bond stamps to dispense, which customers would then present to Carlson for redemption. Carlson guaranteed that his client would have the exclusive right within a 25-block area to give out Gold Bond trading stamps. To call attention to the sales incentive, Carlson plastered the store with posters and banners and distributed balloons and refreshments. The idea was a success and, by the end of the year, Carlson had added 39 more grocery stores to his list of clients.

With this progress, Carlson moved his growing firm to an office in south Minneapolis, in between a Chinese restaurant and a pinball machine repair shop, and took on an additional employee to handle the administrative side of things while he sold the Gold Bond program to grocers. In addition, he roped his wife into the business, dressing her up in a golden majorettes costume with a feathered hat and positioning her at a card table inside stores during their gala inaugurations of the Gold Bond program. Mrs. Carlsons job was to explain to homemakers how to save the stamps and redeem them for cash.

In 1940, strapped for cash, Carlson sold six $100 shares in his enterprise to friends but planned to buy them back when he became more solvent, since he was intent on retaining control of the company himself. By 1941 his client list had grown to include 200 merchants in the Minnesota area. With the entry of the United States into World War II at the end of that year, however, the fortunes of the Gold Bond Stamp Company went into a dive: wartime shortages eliminated the need for merchants to provide incentives to their customers. When ration books replaced trading stamp books in shoppers hands, Carlsons company lost two-thirds of its business within three months. Carlson reduced the company to a skeleton operation when his two employees entered the military, and he began moonlighting as a manager in his father-in-laws childrens clothing store in downtown Minneapolis to make ends meet for the duration of the war.


In 1944, when Carlson was called up to join the war effort, he sold a half interest in the company to Truman Johnson, who had also been employed by Procter & Gamble, and left the business in his hands. At the wars end, the small firm was in dire need of rejuvenation. In 1946 Carlson vowed to expand the company into seven states within the next five years. Toward this end, he hired salesmen to work new territories, including next-door Wisconsin, and, farther afield, Texas, Indiana, and Oregon. In addition, the trading stamp concept was extended to outlets other than grocery stores. Accordingly, the Gold Bond stamp program was sold to gas stations, dry cleaners, and movie theaters. In a more imaginative vein, feed and grain millers, a turkey hatchery, and even undertakers signed on, as the men from Gold Bond urged merchants to invest 2 percent of their gross receipts in the incentive program, promising a 20 percent rise in sales.

By the early 1950s, Gold Bond stamps were offered in 11 midwestern states. In 1953 Carlson scored a major coup, leaving behind forever the days of individual sales to mom and pop-type stores, when the largest grocery chain in the nation, Super Valu Stores, Inc., based in Minneapolis, began offering Gold Bond trading stamps. In a switch to accommodate the wishes of the chain store, the stamps were redeemed for prizes, rather than cash, a much more complicated undertaking. Gold Bond was forced to open warehouses, maintain inventory, set up redemption centers, and hire people to staff them, a process by no means free of errors. Since Carlson had purchased stock in Super Valu when it implemented his program, he reaped a reward from the soaring value of the grocery stores stock, as well as from his own business, which notched $2.4 million in sales that year.

Through the connection with Super Valu, Gold Bond stamps gained a higher national public profile. When Kroger Company, a competing Midwest grocery store chain, approached the company about implementing a stamp program, Carlson inaugurated a second trading stamp, called Top Value Stamp Co., to avoid competition with the Super Valu line. Doubling the size of his companys workforce, Carlson expanded the Top Value line to grocery chains in other areas of the country, including the Northeast, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.


Carlson Credo: Whatever you do, do with integrity. Wherever you go, go as a leader. Whomever you serve, serve with caring. Whenever you dream, dream with your all. And never, ever give up.

In 1957 Kroger, the companys original Top Value client, bought the Top Value portion of Carlsons business for $1 million. With this money, Carlson was able to buy out his more cautious partner, Truman Johnson, who had held a half-interest in Gold Bond since the war years. Carlson regained full control of the company in 1958.

Rapid expansion of the company continued throughout the late 1950s. Safeway Stores Incorporated, another large chain of grocery stores in the West and Southwest, was added to the fold, and the company also entered the international arena, inaugurating trading stamp operations in Canada, the Caribbean, Japan, and other countries. By the 1960s, the trading stamp business had become ubiquitous, and Gold Bond was one of the largest companies in the field. All but one of the top 20 American grocery store chains offered the trading stamps, and half of all gas stations provided them as well.


Nevertheless, the tide of consumer sentiment had begun to turn against the trading stamp industry. Trading stamps were blamed for inflated prices in stores: shoppers began to demand lower prices, not vouchers toward free prizes. Gold Bond lost Safeways business, and it became clear that Gold Bond would have to diversify to other fields if it hoped to maintain its steady growth.

Carlson began diversification by purchasing real estate, buying large parcels of land in Minnetonka, a western suburb of Minneapolis, for future development. In addition, he purchased the Radisson Hotel, a high-profile property in downtown Minneapolis, in 1962, marking his companys entry into the hospitality industry. Both the hotel and the real estate transactions were intended to act as tax shelters for Gold Bonds earnings, enabling the company to retain as much of its profits as possible, so that it could use them to fuel further growth.

This growth took the company in a number of different directions. Throughout the 1960s, as the popularity of the trading stamp business continued to decline, Carlsons diversification and acquisition strategy took on more importance. As sole owner of Gold Bond, Carlson was able to manage his assets with virtually no outside surveillance or interference. Willing to take risks and amass debt, he sought to acquire businesses that were already in solid financial shape but had the potential to benefit from his companys proven sales savvy. The key elements of Carlsons philosophy of acquisition, then, were the capacity for growth and the possibility of replication. By 1973 the name of the Gold Bond Stamp Company had been changed to Carlson Companies, Inc., to better reflect the firms expansion into new markets and businesses.

Companies purchased by Carlson included the Ardan Catalogue showrooms, a business related to the premium showrooms earlier opened by Gold Bond, and a number of properties that tied into the hotel business in some way, such as a wholesale food distributor called the May Company and the creation of a chain of restaurants and pubs known as the Haberdashery. In addition, the company had extended its Radisson Hotel franchise, opening additional facilities, first in Minnesota, and then in other areas of the United States.

Farther afield, Carlson invested in a $7 million hardboard plant in northwestern Wisconsin. Failed projects included a chain of grocery stores called Piggly Wiggly, an investment in Caribbean shrimp boats, and a money-losing meatpacking plant. All were eventually shed by the growing company.


Curtis L. Carlson launches Gold Bond Stamp Company.
U.S. entry into World War II drives down business.
Carlson embarks on expansion plan.
Nations largest grocery chain begins offering Gold Bond stamps.
Diversification begins.
Company purchases a Radisson Hotel.
Name is changed to Carlson Companies.
T.G.I. Fridays restaurants is purchased.
Ask Mr. Foster Travel is acquired.
Edwin C. Skip Gage begins short-lived term as CEO of Carlson Companies.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson succeeds father as president and CEO.
Founder dies; Carlson Nelson becomes chair.
Curtis Nelson, son of Marilyn Carlson Nelson, rises to positions of president and COO of Carlson Companies.
Carlson Companies produces record sales.
Top management is reorganized.

Although the Carlson Companies underwent a slight recession in 1975, one acquisition made during that year proved to be a consistent money-earner. T.G.I. Fridays (from the expression Thank God Its Friday), a chain of 11 restaurant-bars based in Dallas and featuring eclectic decor and an airy, multiple-floor arrangement, grew to encompass 73 branches within eight years. T.G.I. Fridays was soon joined by another restaurant chain, Country Kitchen International, which catered to the family market, with down-home decor and low-priced meals.

In 1978 Carlson began the acquisition of WaSko Gold Products, a New York City-based jewelry manufacturer, for about $18.2 million. This company fit in well with Carlsons Ardan company, which specialized in jewelry sales. By this time, Carlson had added several other retail businesses, including Naum Brothers, a catalog showroom based in Rochester, New York; the Indian Wells Oil Company, E. Weisman, dealing in tobacco and candy sales; Jason Empire, Inc., an importer of binoculars and telescopes; and the Premium Corporation, which provided sales incentive programs similar to those offered by the Gold Bond Stamp business.

After gaining experience in the hotel industry through the ownership of the Radisson Hotel chain, Carlson Companies ventured into the travel agency business in 1979. The addition of the well-known Ask Mr. Foster Agency (later known as Carlson Travel Network and still later as Carlson Leisure Group), founded in 1888 in St. Augustine, Florida, opened the door to the travel services industry, which Carlson would eventually grow to dominate.

In 1980 Carlson Companies announced plans for the real estate development west of Minneapolis that its founder had acquired in the late 1950s and 1960s as a tax shelter. The company proposed a 307-acre development, to be anchored by a new corporate headquarters building. The project would include businesses, restaurants, and a hotel, and was slated to cost $300 million and be called Carlson Center. Carlson Companies continued to manage its acquisitions, purchasing shares in a company called Modern Merchandising and selling its groceries wholesaler, May Company, to another food company. The following year, Carlson added another company to its collection of marketing concerns, purchasing the E. F. MacDonald Company, a sales incentive and motivation business in Dayton, Ohio, and merging the company with its other holdings in this area.

By 1982 Carlsons holdings had grown to encompass 75 different companies with combined sales of $2.1 billion. Despite its move into a much broader arena of business, the conglomerate had managed to maintain a 33 percent compounded annual rate of growth for the 44th consecutive year. One of its holdings, Curtis Homes, offered a new approach to success in the housing construction market. Curtis Homes provided the basic outer shell of a house with the wiring and roof, leaving all inside finishingfloors, paneling, and so forthto the buyer of the house. The end result was a low-priced home for the buyer and big business for the company. As a result, Curtis Homes was able to turn a profit even when housing sales overall were in a slump. Carlson later sold this operation to a competitor in this field in order to concentrate on businesses with which he was more familiar.

Along with the acquisition of new companies, Carlson grew by fostering development within the properties it already owned. In the restaurant business, that meant a proliferation of outlets within each franchise. The Country Kitchen restaurant chain, for instance, included 285 restaurants by the early 1980s, most of which were in small towns across North America. T.G.I. Fridays, with the highest sales per unit ($3.45 million average per store) of any American restaurant chain (and a favorite of founder Curt Carlson), opened 17 new locations in one year alone. By 1992 Fridays had over 200 restaurants throughout the world, many of which were franchised. The Radisson Hotel chain had increased to two dozen sites, including one near the pyramids in Egypt. Radisson Hotels International, as it became known (it was later called Radisson Hotels Worldwide), together with other Carlson Hospitality hotels, inns, and resorts, by the mid-1990s numbered over 345 properties throughout the world.

Despite this progress, Carlson found its empire suffering from a recession in the early 1980s. In June 1983, Business Week reported several problems for Carlson. Although Country Kitchens had opened a large number of restaurants, the chain was plagued by poor management and bad relations with its franchise owners; it failed to meet a four-year sales goal by a large margin, fulfilling just over one-quarter of its targeted growth. Ardan, the catalog showroom, suffered from overexpansion, and its sales had not improved in several years. Radisson, the flagship hotel chain, seemed stalled in the doldrums of a highly competitive industry, apparently blocked from major advances. Business incentive programs and travel agency operations, too, had suffered in the recession.

Carlson Companies owed its historically steady and successful expansion over the course of decades to the tight control of its autocratic founder and sole owner, Curt Carlson. As Carlson neared the age of 80, however, it became clear that he would have to transfer some of his power to a capable successor. On January 1, 1983, Carlson appointed his son-in-law, Edwin C. (Skip) Gage III, to be executive vice-president. Gage had previously been the president of the Carlson Marketing Group, which ran the companys businesses associated with incentives and promotions; he had been groomed for many years to follow carefully in Carlsons footsteps. Gage told Business Week that he planned to concentrate on doing very well the things we already do.


In the mid-1980s, Carlson Companies began to evolve from a conglomerate with somewhat disparate holdings to a more tightly organized company, focused on the hospitality, travel, and marketing businesses and the strengthening of the synergistic ties between the three groups. In addition, the company began to shift its emphasis from owning hotels and travel agencies to franchising them. This enabled Carlson to expand rapidly without large outlays of capital in a time when cash was scarce. It also enabled the company to realize millions in fees and royalties from its franchisees.

In 1986 Carlson moved to cash in on its relationship with nearly 500 different travel agencies and raise the number of bookings for its 22 hotels. Also in that year, the company announced the formation of a new chain of hotels, called Country Inns by Carlson, to serve a more middle-class segment of the market than the full-service, upscale Radisson line. Country Inns by Carlson were decorated with homey touches, including fireplaces in the lobbies and down-filled quilts on the beds.

By the following year, under the leadership of Juergen Bartels, a German-born former president of the Ramada Inn chain, Carlsons hotel holdings ranked near the top ten in the nation in number of rooms. Through the careful selection of franchise holders and thorough staff training, the company sought to upgrade its properties and began to tailor its operations to fit the needs of the growing population of women business travelers. Building on these moves, Carlson set a new goal of becoming the preeminent travel company in the world. Towards this end, the company announced in the following year that it would nearly triple the number of hotels it owned, from 200 to 550, within the next few years.

In 1988 Carlson Companies underwent a corporate reorganization that resulted in the formation of Carlson Holdings, Inc., a parent company governance for all the properties of the Carlson family. This company consisted of three divisions: one to manage the familys investments, one to handle commercial real estate scattered throughout North America, and the third made up of Carlson Companies. The Companies moved into a new corporate headquarters in 1989, two gleaming towers of glass on the Carlson land west of Minneapolis in the suburb of Minnetonka. Shortly thereafter, as if to symbolize that a new era had begun with the companys move into new quarters, Curt Carlson staged a ceremony in the rotunda of the new building, turning over the reins of the company to his son-in-law Skip Gage, who took over as chief executive officer. Although a thousand employees turned out to applaud their new leader, his tenure was brief.

Under Gages command, the company announced more ambitious plans for expansion and proceeded to extend its international holdings, purchasing A. T. Mays, a British travel agency, and changing the name of Ask Mr. Foster to Carlson Travel Network to reflect a more global outlook. Amid talk of operations in eight new countries and a goal of 3,000 worldwide travel agencies, economic reality began to intrude. In late 1990, the Carlson Travel Network was forced to put some home office employees on a shortened work week to avoid layoffs, as its business was damaged by tension over the impending Persian Gulf War, which battered the travel industry.

In 1991 the recession continued, and profits for Carlson Companies dipped. Despite the fact that he had undergone quadruple bypass heart surgery early in the year, Curt Carlson dismissed Gage, still new in his job, in November 1991 and reassumed control of the company. At the same time, Carlson promoted his eldest daughter Marilyn to vice-chairman, apparently grooming her to follow him (Gage was married to Carlsons younger daughter Barbara). Despite the decline in profits, Carlson returned to oversee a company with a small debt load, growing in its targeted industries at a furious rate. By 1992 Carlson was adding a travel agency a day to the more than 2,000 it owned, and a new hotel every ten days. It planned to double the number of T.G.I. Fridays restaurants it ran to 400 within four years. The company had operations in 38 countries, and it took to the high seas as well in May 1992, when it inaugurated service on a futuristic-looking cruise ship, the Radisson Diamond, through its newly formed Radisson Seven Seas Cruises luxury cruise line.


By the mid-1990s, Carlson Marketing Group was struggling. At that time, the group specialized in direct marketing; performance improvement programs such as incentive programs that reward top salespeople; loyalty marketing such as frequent-flyer programs; and event and sports management. This successor to the original trading stamp business generated only 5 percent of the revenue for Carlson Companies. The travel business generated 65 percent, while the hospitality operations contributed 30 percent. Forbes reported in October 1993 that the success of the travel and hospitality groups was at least partly attributable to Curtis Carlson allowing the heads of these groups considerable autonomy.

As head of the newly renamed Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, Bartels continued to achieve impressive, profitable growth with his consistent reliance on franchising; this trend continued under John A. Nor-lander, a 21-year veteran of Radisson and Carlson who took over for the departing Bartels in 1995. Fridays Hospitality Worldwide Inc., for example, had grown to more than 460 restaurants in 350 cities and 40 countries by mid-1997 and included not only the T.G.I. Fridays chain but also such spinoffs as Fridays Front Row Sports Grill and Fridays American Bar and such new concepts as Italiannis. By January 1998, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises boasted of six luxury liners with a total capacity of 1,202 berths, making it the fourth largest luxury cruise line in the world. In late 1996, Carlson formed a partnership with Four Seasons Hotels Inc. to expand the Four Seasons Regent luxury-hotel chain. Regent had nine hotels located primarily in Asian cities; through the partnership, Carlson would concentrate on building new Regent hotels in North America and Europe.

Carlson Travel Group, meanwhile, was headed by longtime Carlson executive Travis Tanner. The 1990s were difficult ones for travel agencies and mergers became commonplace as competition heated up. Tanner engineered a merger for Carlson as well, with Carlson Travel Network linking with Paris-based Wagonlit Travel to form Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) in 1994. CWT was 50-50 owned by Carlson Companies and Accor Group, a France-based company with additional interests in hotels and car rental. CWT immediately became the second largest travel agency in the world, trailing only American Express, with some 4,000 offices in more than 141 countries and annual sales in excess of $9.5 billion. After essentially operating as one agency for a couple of years, Carlson Travel and Wagonlit were formerly merged in early 1997, with headquarters in Miami, Tanner acting as chairman, and Herve Gourio, who had headed Wagonlit, as cochairman. Carlson Companies, meanwhile, created Carlson Leisure Group (CLG) to act as the U.S. licensee of the Carlson Wagonlit Travel brand name for leisure travel, as well as to oversee non-Carlson Wagonlit travel operationsfor example, the 1997-launched Carlson Vacations, a leisure travel agency based in Russia. Also in 1997, CLG acquired Travel Agents International, a prominent U.S. leisure travel agency which made CLG the largest franchise travel agency company in North America, with more than 1,300 locations. In mid-1997 CLG expanded in the United Kingdom with the purchase of Inspirations PLC and its 97-unit, Glasgow, Scotland-headquartered A.T. Mays travel agency, the fourth largest such agency in the United Kingdom.


Systemwide revenue, which included all sales under the Carlson Companies brands whether owned or franchised operations, reached $20 billion in 1997. Previous year sales were reported as $13.4 billion. Carlson Hospitality Worldwides hotel, restaurant, and cruise ship segment recorded its most successful year in history, according to a March 1998 PR Newswire release. Sales climbed 23 percent and cash flow from operations more than 50 percent. With one new location being added about every three days, the total number of locations climbed to 951 locations, in 60 countries, by year end. New among its brands were Regent International Hotels.

Carlson Companies celebrated its 60th anniversary in March 1998. During the festivities Curt Carlson named Marilyn Carlson Nelson his successor as president and CEO. Her father continued as chairman. When Curt Carlson died the following year, Carlson Nelson also took on the responsibility as chair.

In 2000 Carlson Companies activities ranged from the acquisition of Park Plaza and Park Inn Hotel brands to the activation of customer loyalty program Gold Points web site. The Internet was a bustling market of shopping portals and loyalty programs by this time. The data gathering potential of the Internet lured businesses with the promise of customized marketing for individual consumers.

Carlson Companies competition also had the potential to cross-market its customers. Cendant Corp. engaged in travel and real estate, Hyatt Hotels Corp. developed mixed-use retail, and Marriott International operated senior living facilities. Carlson itself was poised to open its first lifestyle living complex in 2001, according to a September 17, 2001, article in Hotel & Motel Management.

The terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001 (9/11), in addition to killing thousands, levied a direct hit on the industries in which Carlson Companies operated. Consequently, systemwide sales remained flat in 2002 at $19.8 billion, according to Travel Weekly. While company owned and operated division sales had dropped slightly, improvements in productivity helped return operating income nearly to the level achieved in 2000.

Curtis Nelson succeeded his mother as president and COO of Carlson Companies, in early 2003. Marilyn Carlson Nelson continued as chair and CEO. Curtis Nelsons first job in the family-owned business had been as a County Kitchen restaurant dishwasher. During and after college, he held management positions with rival hotel operations before rejoining the family business. Marilyn Carlson Nelsons road to the top, by contrast, had taken years longer. Among the moves under her leadership were the reevaluation of the organizational structure and the profitable sale of British Travel firm Thomas Cook, David Saltman reported for Chief Executive in 2003. Externally, Nelson worked to help jump-start the struggling post-9/11 travel industry. Business and leisure travel produced 65 percent of annual sales, followed by marketing at 50 percent, and hospitality at 35 percent.

Systemwide sales climbed 5.5 percent to $20.9 billion in 2003, according to Lodging Hospitality. The addition of 97 hotels boosted properties to 883 operating in 67 countries by year end. Among the years activities, Carlson Marketing Group acquired Peppers & Rogers Group, known for its customer-based business strategy expertise.

Carlson Companies announced it produced record sales during 2004. The travel and hospitality industries were on an upswing. For the following year, the Star Tribune reported the companys revenue as $34.4 billion. That figure did not reveal the whole picture, as David Phelps explained: Its hard to measure the strength of Carlson Companies and its various segments because the company is closely held. Moreover, all the operations bearing the Carlson brand name factored into the figure.

Another aspect of the company became clouded as well, in 2006, when Marilyn Carlson Nelson consolidated senior management. As part of the move, the position of president of operations, held by Curtis Carlson, was eliminated. Nelson was offered the title of vice-chair, which he refused. The action placed a veil of uncertainty on leadership succession once again.

Phelps wrote, Known for her passion for various Twin Cities civic projects, Carlson Nelson was seen initially as someone who lacked hands-on business experience. But her tenure as CEO has been viewed favorably from within the company and in the industry. She is credited with strengthening the professional management and promoting more women to positions of authority. An effective public speaker and community volunteer, Carlson Nelson was named by Forbes magazine as one of the worlds most powerful women in each of the past three years.

Meanwhile, Carlson and One Equity Partners acquired Accors share of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which in turn acquired Navigant International. The addition of the leading business travel firm doubled the companys North American presence.

Elizabeth Rourke

Updated, David E. Salamie; Kathleen Peippo


Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, Inc.; Carlson Hotels Worldwide; Carlson Marketing International Inc.; Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Inc. (55%).


American Express Company; Darden Restaurants, Inc.; Marriott International, Inc.; Gage Marketing Group; BCD Travel; Brinker International, Inc.


Andorka, Frank H., Jr., Carlson Moves on After Leaders Death, Hotel & Motel Management, April 5, 1999, p. 23.

, Carlson Takes Changes in Stride, Hotel & Motel Management, April 20, 1998, pp. 3+.

Bain, Laurie, Carlson Plays to Win, Restaurant Business, June 10, 1987, p. 161.

Barnfather, Maurice, Capital Formation, Forbes, March 29, 1982, p. 94.

Button, Graham, Still Hungry at 75, Forbes, December 11, 1989, p. 302.

Carlson Celebrates 60 Years of Operation in Grand Style, National Real Estate Investor, May 1998, p. 8.

Carlson Companies: Company Profile, Nations Restaurant News, March 29, 1993.

Carlson Companies Tops $20 Billion, Lodging Hospitality, May 1, 2004, p. 12.

Carlson Cos. Tap Nelson As President, COO, Travel Weekly, March 10, 2003, p. 9.

Carlson, Curtis L., Good As Gold: The Story of the Carlson Companies, Minneapolis: Carlson Companies, Inc., 1994, 238 p.

Curt Carlson: Will a One-Man Conglomerate Make Room at the Top? Business Week, June 13, 1983. Ellis, James E., Curt Carlson Keeps It All in the Family, Business Week, September 30, 1991.

Ferguson, Tim W., In Land of Lakes, He Cares Not if Economic Waters Are Rising, Wall Street Journal, October 23, 1990.

Flynn, Laurie J., Carlson Revives Stamp Redemption Online, New York Times, August 28, 2000, p. C4.

Fredericks, Alan, and Nadine Godwin, Carlson Sets $4 Billion Sales Goal for Empire of Travel Companies, Travel Weekly, October 8, 1997, p. 1.

Kho, Nguyen, Life with Father, Town & Country, August 1992.

Looking at the World Through Gold Glasses, Forbes, March 15, 1975.

McDowell, Edwin, Mellowed by Age, but Still a Tough Boss, New York Times, April 5, 1992.

1997 Was Record-Breaking Year for Carlson Companies, Inc., PR Newswire, March 18, 1998.

Papa, Mary Bader, A Son Named Marilyn, Corporate Report-Minnesota, March 1990, p. 27.

Papiernik, Richard L., and Bill Carlino, T.G.I. Fridays Group Poised for $145M IPO, Nations Restaurant News, August 30, 1999, p. 1.

Phelps, David, Succession Shake-Up Rattles Carlson Cos., Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities, September 6, 2006, p. 1A.

Pine, Carol, and Susan Mundale, Self-Made: The Stories of 12 Minnesota Entrepreneurs, Minneapolis: Dorn Books.

Quintanilla, Carl, Carlson Pushes Growth Despite Woes in Travel Industry, Wall Street Journal, March 9, 1995, p. B4.

Rowe, Megan, Carlsons Culture, Lodging Hospitality, October 1996, pp. 2628.

Salomon, Alan, Hoteliers Diversify to Thrive, Hotel & Motel Management, September 17, 2001, p. 74.

Saltman, David, Global Heavyweight: Marilyn Carlson Nelson Waited Nearly a Lifetime to Become CEO of Carlson Cos., Chief Executive, AugustSeptember 2003, pp. 40+

Stern, William, Hanging On, Forbes, October 25, 1993, pp. 194, 198.

Walker, Angela, Global Goals Power Carlson Wagonlit, Hotel & Motel Management, April 25, 1994, p. 6. Weissmann, Arnie, In a Family Way, Travel Weekly, September 1, 2003, p. 67.

White, Willmon L., The Ultra Entrepreneur: Carl Carlson, Phoenix: Gullers Pictorial, [1988], 139 p.

Wieffering, Eric J., Carlson Companies: Smaller Than You Thought, Revisited, Corporate Report-Minnesota, May 1993, p. 44.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Carlson Companies, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories. . 19 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Carlson Companies, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories. . (January 19, 2019).

"Carlson Companies, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved January 19, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.