UPDATE 1-Colony's Bazin handed top Accor job - source
* Accor names Bazin as CEO - source close to board
* Bazin to leave Colony Capital - sources
* Expected to pursue more aggressive strategy
* Accor shares up 2.6 pct
PARIS, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Accor has named private equity specialist Sebastien Bazin as the French hotel group's new chief executive, a move expected to speed Accor's asset sales to boost investor returns.
The appointment of Bazin, who heads the European operations of U.S. investment fund Colony Capital, Accor's largest shareholder, was made at a board meeting on Tuesday morning, a source close to the board told Reuters.
Bazin, who was also Accor's vice-chairman, will assume his CEO duties with immediate effect after the "unanimous" vote, the source said.
Accor, which competes with global rivals InterContinental , Marriott and Starwood, has been divided over how aggressively to conduct its strategy of expanding in emerging markets to cope with a weak Europe while accelerating its move toward franchising or managing hotels for others to bolster profit margins.
Bazin, a French national, became vice-chairman in April after the world's fourth-largest hotel group by sales ousted Chairman and Chief Executive Denis Hennequin and put in charge a transition-management team, promoting Chief Operating Officer Yann Caillere as interim CEO.
Now that Bazin has taken the helm of Europe's largest hotel group by sales, the 51-year-old will leave Colony, the $27 billion U.S. private equity firm he joined 16 years ago, two sources said.
"He knows Accor and the hotel business inside out, and for him it's a personal challenge to jump to the operational side," a source close to the matter said.
Colony invested 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) in Accor in 2005 and was joined in 2008 by French private equity fund Eurazeo.
Together they control 21.4 percent of the group and four board seats. Colony directly owns about 11 percent of Accor.
Colony, Eurazeo and Accor declined to comment.
The U.S. firm is also a key shareholder of Carrefour , Europe's largest retailer, where Bazin acts as vice-chairman of the board.
Colony's close involvement in both companies has often been blamed by unions and local investors for fostering management upheaval and short-term thinking.
Accor shares gained more than 2 percent in early trade and was up 0.51 pct at 1004 GMT, against a 1.35 percent decline in the CAC-40 French blue-chip index.
Bazin, a French national, has a strong expertise in the property and hotel businesses. Before joining Colony, he was General Manager of French property group Immobiliere Hoteliere.
"He knows the hotel business and Accor very well and he is a real estate specialist," one trader said, adding that Accor's top priority is "to keep divesting its property".
Prior to joining Immobiliere Hoteliere, Bazin was a director of Hottinguer Rivaud Finances, a French investment bank, and was a vice president in the mergers and acquisitions operation of Paine Webber in both London and New York, according to Colony's website.
Colony masterminded the separation of Accor from its vouchers business Edenred in 2010 and the latter's successful listing.
Former Accor CEO Hennequin was said to have resisted pressure from its top shareholders - notably Colony - to split property holdings from the hotel business.
At the time of Hennequin's ousting, sources said that stakeholders were losing patience with the weak performance of Accor shares and wanted to speed asset sales and franchising to boost returns.
Accor will unveil its first-half earnings on Wednesday.