So you want to be a celebrity hotelier, do you? Unless you were born into a family-run hotel empire or gifted with a multi-million (dollar/pound/euro) bank balance, you’ll probably have to do it the long way – by working your way up the hospitality ladder! Here’s how 5 famous hoteliers made their way to the top…
Name: César Ritz (23 February 1850 – 24 October 1918) Claim to fame: king of hoteliers, hotelier to kings Famous hotels: Hôtel Ritz (Paris) and The Ritz Hotel (London) The early years: Ritz came from a farming family. How he did it: Ritz started out in the hospitality business as a Maître D before managing hotels in Lucerne and Monaco. He was one of the original developers of luxury hoteliering and built a reputation for attracting well-heeled, famous clientele (including royalty) to his establishments due to their elegance and sophistication. Ritz continued to manage hotels around Europe (including the Savoy, Hotel Ritz and The Ritz Hotel) until his retirement.
Conrad Hilton displays a model of Hilton Istanbul – the first hotel ever featured on a postage stamp and to be given its own postal code. Photo © Hilton Hotels
Name: Conrad Hilton (25 December 1887 – 3 January 1979) Claim to fame: father and founder of the Hilton Hotel chain, and great granddad of Paris Hilton! Famous hotels: The Hilton Hotel chain The early years: Hilton worked in his dad’s general store as a boy, completed various studies, was a Republican representative and spent two years in the US army. How he did it: In 1919, Hilton bought a 40-room hotel in Cisco, Texas. The hotel was so successful that he continued to buy hotels around the state. The Dallas Hilton was his first high rise hotel, followed by more Hiltons in Texas and then further afield. After losing some of his hotels during the Great Depression, Hilton bought them back again. During the 1950s and 1960s he expanded the Hilton chain worldwide, and the business has since been passed down from generation to generation of Hiltons.
Hotelier Ian Schrager does a walk-through his property, the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York. Photo © Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY
Name: Ian Schrager (19 July 1946 – present) Claim to fame: inventor of the “boutique hotel” concept Famous hotels: Delano Hotel, Mondrian Hotel, GraMercy Park Hotel The early years: Schrager studied law. How he did it: Schrager worked in the nightclub industry with business partner Steve Rubell running the legendary “Studio 54” before moving into hoteliering. Together they bought the Executive Hotel in New York and reopened it as the Morgans Hotel in 1984. The hotel did so well that they opened two more in the next four years. After Rubell passed away, Schrager continued to pursue a career in hoteliering, starting the Morgans Hotel Group and opening seven hotels (six in the US and one in London) over the next few years. Schrager’s hotels became known as “boutique hotels” for their unique designs and lifestyle-hotel concepts, a refreshing change from the traditional cookie-cutter hotel aesthetics and hospitality experience. In 2005 Schrager established the Ian Schrager Company and has been involved in a number of high-profile ventures since, including the widely publicised collaboration with Marriot International.
Name: André Balazs Claim to fame: self-made celebrity hotelier Famous hotels: The Mercer, Chateau Marmont, The Standard Hotels The early years: Balazs studied humanities, journalism and business before joining his father in the biotech business. How he did it: In 1984 Balazs moved to New York. He invested in a night club before becoming involved in restaurants and then hotels. His first hotel was the Chateau Marmont which he acquired in 1990. Today his portfolio has grown to include the Mercer, Sunset Beach and the Standard Hotels in Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, Miami Beach and New York City. His wildly successful residential projects include “40 Mercer Residences” and “One Kenmare Square”. Balazs’ hotels and residences are popular with the wealthy and connected because of their sheer elegance and luxury.
Sol Kerzner, Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel toast during a lunch to Benefit the Mandela Children’s Foundation as part of the celebrations of the opening of the new One&Only Cape Town resort on April 3, 2009 in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo © Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Name: Sol Kerzner (23 August 1935 – present) Claim to fame: South African hotel, leisure and gambling magnate Famous Hotels: Atlantis hotels, One&Only resorts, Sun International, Southern Sun The early years: Kerzner studied accounting, graduated as a chartered accountant and took over his family’s hotel chain. How he did it: Kerzner’s hospitality career took off in Durban in the early 1960s with the building of the first five star hotel in South Africa: the Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga. After that he built the Elangeni Hotel on Durban beachfront and started Southern Sun Hotels with South African Breweries (SAB). By 1983 Southern Sun managed 30 luxury hotels. One of Kerzner’s most famous projects was Sun City, which he developed in 1979. The Sun City complex was the inspiration for more hotel, leisure and gambling complexes around South Africa and the world. Today Sol Kerzner’s name is synonymous with Sun International, Southern Sun, One&Only Resorts, Atlantis Properties and luxury hotels in South Africa, Dubai (The Palm), The Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico and the Bahamas.
Study hotel management to get your celebrity hotelier status
You of course can get your ‘celebrity hotelier’ ambitions off to a good start by studying hotel management at The International Hotel School and making useful industry connections. Before you can fall back on who you know, you have to rely on what you do to get ahead!