Ace Hotel has finalized the consolidation of its ownership after years of disputes with the estate of late co-founder Alex Calderwood. Now that that's been settled, what will the boutique hotel chain concentrate on next?
Ace Hotel Group, the hip boutique hotel chain created in 1999, has finalized the consolidation of its ownership after some rocky years and legal battles.
The company is to be held by three active partners: Brad Wilson, Kelly Sawdon, and Stefanos Economou.
The estate of co-founder Alex Calderwood, who died in November 2013, will no longer be involved with the company after years of lawsuits.
“There were some disputes around that,” Ace Hotel Group President Brad Wilson told Skift. “Since then we’ve been able to clean everything up and come up with amicable agreements with all parties and structure the company really just within the active partners who are active in the day to day operation.”
“For us, I think it’s a solid moment to kind of take a breath and realize the company is now fully controlled by the people who actually run the company,” Wilson said. “This is an opportunity to really just focus on our growth. It’s a lot easier doing that when you have people who have shared goals.”
Calderwood founded Ace Hotels with partners Wade Weigel and Doug Herrick in 1999 with the opening of the Ace Hotel Seattle in what was once a maritime workers’ hotel. Ace’s style — with its bustling lobbies, art displays and guest room amenities such as guitars — has been replicated by other brands such as Mama Shelter and Freehand. Even large hotel chains such as Marriott International and Hilton have created similar design-forward brands to appeal to younger travelers.
The second Ace Hotel opened in Portland, Oregon, in 2007. From then, the company ramped up its development with hotels in New York City, London, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Chicago, and Palm Springs, California.
But Calderwood’s passing from an apparent overdose in the Ace Hotel London Shoreditch led to legal disputes with his estate.
His father, Tom Calderwood, took over his estate and majority interest in the hotel chain. The surviving Calderwood sued Ace Group International and Economou in 2015, arguing that as the majority stakeholder, the estate had the right to manage the hotel chain.
Calderwood then sued Wilson for allegedly conspiring to cheat him out of his 51.7 percent state in the company.
Economou, who has invested $10 million in the company in 2011, and Wilson denied the allegations.
Wilson said the company can now move forward with its objectives to grow, especially internationally. The company plans to open the Ace Hotel Kyoto in Japan in April, just before the Summer Olympics. Next year, it will expand with the Ace Hotel Toronto and Ace Hotel Sydney in Australia.
“It’s an opportunity for a breath, to breathe and refocus and just kind of reorganize and refocus for the future,” Wilson said. “We have the hotel in London, but we have been thought of as more an American domestic company I think we’re much more looking today to broader international growth.”
The company is also expanding with new brands. To celebrate its 20th anniversary last year, the company started two new brands. Sister City is what the company calls an “intimate and efficient hotel” in New York City. Maison de la Luz is a luxury guest house in New Orleans designed in partnership with interior design firm Studio Shamshiri.
Wilson said he sees more potential in the luxury guest house market and hopes to open more Sister City properties.
Photo credit: The Ace Hotel has consolidated its ownership. This is the lobby of the Ace Hotel New York. Ace Hotel