Intel's former chief takes on hospitality

Craig Barrett spent three decades in Silicon Valley, but now he's trying his hand at innkeeping.

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By Jennifer Reingold, senior writer

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Triple Creek Ranch in Montana
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Craig Barrett, former chairman at Intel and owner of the Triple Creek Ranch

(Fortune Magazine) -- It's somewhat ironic that former Intel CEO and chairman Craig Barrett, having spent nearly his entire career at a place where rapid advances in technology defined success or failure, is having his next act in a corner of the country so rural that there isn't even any cellphone service.

After revolutionizing the chip industry and helping the world speed up, Barrett has decided to focus on getting people to slow down. On May 20, the date he stepped down as Intel's chairman, Barrett, 70, gained a new title: innkeeper at his Triple Creek Ranch, a high-end, all-inclusive lodge in Darby, Mont., that he has owned since 1993.

"I've always been a work hard, play hard advocate," says Barrett. "It's a place to leave the other side behind for a while."

For Barrett, the transition from technology executive has been easier than you might think: He and his wife, Barbara, a former U.S. ambassador to Finland who is now training to be a space tourist (yes, really!), are outdoor types.

Barbara grew up on a farm, and Craig actually intended to be a forest ranger before realizing that Stanford University didn't offer a degree in forestry, so he opted instead for a Ph.D. in materials science.

The couple first visited Triple Creek as guests in 1988. Charmed by the ranch's natural beauty and its personalized approach to customer service -- which has won it a spot in the top 10 U.S. hotels for service in Travel + Leisure -- the Barretts bought it in 1993.

Six years later they added a neighboring 25,000-acre piece of property called CB Ranch, on which guests can help brand cattle, hike, fish, and enjoy a Sunday evening cocktail party at the Barretts' home.

While Barrett was CEO, he held an annual retreat for Intel's executive staff at the ranch, which is affiliated with the prestigious Relais & Chteaux group of hotels.

Barrett reports that he uses some of the skills he honed at Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) -- budgeting, performance reviews -- at the ranch, along with a business lesson that works both in the business-to-business world at Intel and in the business-to-consumer one at Triple Creek.

"You use the same nose for hiring," says Barrett. "You hire people that are skilled and that have a love and passion for what they do." That translates to a staff whose attentiveness brings people back time and again, despite room rates that range from $650 to $2,500 per night.

Stories of outstanding service are typical: One couple mentioned that they intended to take a drive into nature the next morning -- and left their cabin to find their car washed, with the windshield spotless. And when another couple returned to the ranch after two years, they were pleasantly surprised to find that the innkeepers remembered that she liked celery in her salad, but he didn't.

"We created an environment which made you feel that you were part of a family," says Barrett. "While here, anything is possible." To top of page

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