October 2001/Global Update

Edited and written by Jeff Weinstein, Editor In Chief

Mankarios Takes Helm At St. Regis

DALLAS Who says it doesn’t pay to attend industry investment conferences? Not Atef Mankarios. The former head of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts and most recently CEO of Apollo-backed Foresthills Hotels & Resorts, Mankarios met Starwood Hotels & Resort’s Barry Sternlicht a few times at such conferences and in June started serious discussions about joining the company as the first president of the underdeveloped St. Regis luxury brand. By August, the deal was done and Mankarios was charged with growing the brand more aggressively and improving the quality of service and the guest experience to compete with the best ultra-luxury operators in the business.

“I have a base of hotels (nine today), capital to grow, my own team that has been with me since my days at Rosewood, great support from Barry and a huge organization behind me to convert great hotels into St. Regis hotels. You can’t find that formula anywhere else,” says the 30-year industry veteran Mankarios of this dream job that will allow him to keep his office in Dallas.

His first priority will be to grow the brand to a critical mass of 15 to 20 properties. Mankarios says initial conversions could include the Hotel Gritti Palace in Venice and Hotel Cala di Volpe and Hotel Pitrizza resorts in Sardinia. Three or four of 12 projects planned for Foresthills also have potential to become St. Regis hotels, says Mankarios.

Then he will look for 200- to 300-room third-party management contracts, joint ventures and development opportunities in the major gateways of Asia, Europe and North America. In the United States, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta and Dallas could take priority. With an excellent understanding of the Mexican and Caribbean markets, Mankarios also will look to those regions to build St. Regis’ resort base. “We will grow to 35 to 40 hotels. Then we will take a breather, re-evaluate what we have done and go forward from there,” he says.

Currently, construction is underway in San Francisco with delivery slated for 2003. A hotel is in the design phase in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Renowned throughout his hotel career as a consummate ultra-luxury hotelier, Mankarios also will focus on creating a brand culture that is passionate about delivering unique experiences for each guest, shunning the culture of a corporately controlled brand. “I will revise all standards so individual hotels create a sense of place and operate as a local hotel that reflects the local market,” Mankarios says. “We won’t have mundane, copied products. We are not in the business of selling rooms and F&B. It’s about creating an experience.”