Student or Learner
‘Look here, you’d better clear out of here, and come back when you’re sober.’
‘I shall clear out when I choose and not a minute before,’ said Lawson.
It was an unfortunate boast, for Chaplin in the course of his experience as a hotel–keeper had acquired a peculiar skill in dealing with gentlemen whose room he preferred to their company, and the words were hardly out of Lawson’s mouth before he found himself caught by the collar and arm and hustled not without force into the street.
(W.S. Maugham; The Pool)
Does it mean something like 'whose absence he preferred to their company'?
That's what it comes to. He would prefer to be in possession of their (unocccupied) room than to have their company.