This was quite a week for major hospitality executive shuffles, and their respective moves will certainly impact the future development of the companies and brands they've left and are headed to.
And it ended with news that boutique hotelier André Balazs, the founder of Standard Hotels, was leaving his post as the chairman of Standard International Management.
Leondakis & Equinox
On March 6, Equinox, the company best known for its fitness clubs, but one also planning to open its first line of hotels in 2019, announced that Leondakis would become CEO of Equinox Fitness Clubs.
In her new role, which officially begins in April, Leondakis will oversee the fitness clubs as well as head the executive leadership team, reporting directly to Equinox Holdings executive chairman and managing partner Harvey Spevak.
Equinox Holdings’ brands include SoulCycle, Blink Fitness, Pure Yoga, and Equinox Hotels, all of which Spevak will continue managing, a press release announcing Leondakis’ appointment noted.
Leondakis has more than 30 years of hospitality experience with brands that include The Ritz-Carlton, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, and Commune Hotels. She spent 20 years with Kimpton and before leaving in 2012, she served as its president and COO. In 2012, she became CEO of Commune Hotels. Commune merged with Destination Hotels & Resorts in January 2016, eventually becoming Two Roads Hospitality in September 2016. At Two Roads Hospitality, Leondakis served as CEO of hotels and resorts, overseeing all of its 95 luxury and lifestyle hotels, while former Destination Hotels CEO Jamie Sebatier was appointed CEO.
Two Roads Hospitality issued a statement about Leondakis’ departure, saying: “Two Roads Hospitality announces the departure of its CEO of Hotels and Resorts, Niki Leondakis. Effective March 8, 2017, Leondakis will step down from her role at the company to pursue a new career path in the wellness sector. This past year was one of significant change and growth for Two Roads Hospitality with the integration of Destination Hotels and Commune Hotels & Resorts and the unveiling of the company’s new umbrella brand; the international lifestyle hotel company is grateful for Leondakis’ outstanding service and her substantial contributions to making this transitional time period such a success.
“Two Roads Hospitality will continue to operate under the leadership of CEO Jamie Sabatier with the continued support of a strong and talented management team. The company’s geographical presence will remain the same, with a home office in Denver and regional offices in San Francisco, New York, Singapore, and Shanghai.”
In a press release, Leondakis said she was “thrilled to be joining Equinox” and “as a hospitality industry veteran, I am passionately committed to bringing the best possible experience to guests. This will be central to my role at Equinox, especially as the company diversifies its branded offerings to its members.”
While Equinox’s public announcement of Leondakis’ arrival didn’t specifically say she would oversee the growth and development of Equinox Hotels, it seems likely, given her extensive hospitality experience, that she will play some role in developing the brand, which hopes to debut its first hotel in New York City by 2019.
Last August, Equinox hired Christopher Norton, a longtime president of global product and COO for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, appointing him as CEO of its hotel business. In June 2016, the company appointed Generator Hostels co-owner and chief strategic officer Josh Wyatt to be president of Equinox Hotels. Wyatt has since become president of Related Hospitality, the real estate company that owns Equinox Holdings.
With each of these appointments, Equinox seems to have drawn from various sectors of the hospitality industry to develop the Equinox Hotels brand, combining the contemporary, lifestyle-driven expertise of Wyatt with the luxury experience of an executive such as Norton. And now, with Leondakis, it seems clear Equinox may want to apply her extensive boutique, lifestyle, and food-and-beverage experience both to its fitness clubs and perhaps, its hotels.
Balazs & Standard Hotels
André Balazs, in an interview with the Financial Times, said on March 9 that he was stepping down as chairman of Standard International, the management company that oversees Standard Hotels, which Balazs founded in 1999.
In 2013, Balazs sold his majority stake in Standard Hotels and separated it from his larger real estate company, André Balazs Properties, while retaining 20 percent of shares. He served as chairman of Standard International up until mid-March 2017.
Balazs told the Financial Times that he was “no longer involved with the design or any other aspect of the development of the London Standard,” but that his decision to leave the board remained a “friendly parting of ways.” According to news reports, he still holds a 20 percent stake in the company and Amar Lalvani, managing partner and CEO of Standard International will remain in his current role.
Balazs opened the first Standard Hotel in 1999 in West Hollywood, in California, just down the street from his first hotel project, the Chateau Marmont. Since then, he’s opened additional hotels, both under the Standard Hotels brand as well as other projects under André Balazs Properties. The first Standard Hotel outside of the U.S. is currently under construction.
“André has left a lasting mark on both The Standard and the hospitality industry more broadly, Lalvani said. “We have an incredibly strong brand, strengthened further by the most creative and innovative team in our space. We are building a global business and look forward to the many opportunities that lie ahead.”
Separately, Lalvani said this of Balazs for another Skift article, discussing Balazs’ impact and legacy on boutique hotels. Lalvani’s statement, which he sent to Skift on March 9, prior to news of Balazs’ departure, is as follows:
“André is a visionary whose artistry for creating remarkable spaces designed from the inside out, and whose attention to the finest details of each moment have made the hotels he has touched places not just to stay, but to enjoy life. His culture-first, throw-the-rulebook-out approach to hospitality, with which he infused The Standard, has been and always will be the core of The Standard’s DNA.”
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Photo credit: Niki Leondakis, who spoke at last year's Skift Global Forum in New York City, has left her role as CEO of hotels and resorts for Two Roads Hospitality to become CEO of Equinox Fitness Clubs. Daniel Peltier / Skift