Hotelier Jonathan Tisch Talks Hospitality, Business, Career Advice At Lynn University

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By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

Jonathan Tisch has sat in every chair in a Loews hotel. He has touched every fabric and selected each lamp.

The co-chairman of the board of Loews Corporation, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels and part-time Palm Beach County resident said there isn’t a job in the hotel industry he hasn’t done. He has worked as a housekeeper, a bellhop and an engineer.

“I have worked in a hotel since the day I could see over the counter,” he told an audience of Lynn University students, faculty and locals interested in hearing what Tisch had to say.

Tisch was invited to speak as a part of Lynn University’s CEO Speaker Series. In addition to running the hotel operation, Tisch is an author of three best-selling books, and co-owner of theNew York Giants.

The talk was moderated by his colleague and former employee, Bruce Himelstein, former senior executive of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and chief marketing officer of Loews Hotels. Tisch said it was Himelstein who introduced him to Lynn University. He said he had breakfast with Lynn President Dr. Kevin Ross and Himelstein over the holidays and they asked if he would spend some time with the students.

“I was thrilled to do it,” Tisch said.

The chat began with a history lesson on how the $16 billion corporation with $80 billion of assets began with a summer camp that his parents and aunt and uncle decided to lease in the 1940s as a way to get out of the “schmatta,” (Yiddish for rags), business in Brooklyn.

The same people who owned the summer camps, one for boys and one for girls, also owned the winter resort Laurel-in-the-Pines Hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey.

Eventually, he said his family figured if they could run a summer camp a hotel couldn’t be much different, so they bought it.

“It’s quite a story,” he said. “I’m still amazed. It all started with a summer camp.”

Now, the company has 24 hotels in its portfolio with plans to open five more in the next few years.

Tisch grew up in hotels, literally. He calls himself the male Eloise because he lived in the Regency Hotel. It was there were his father created the Power Breakfast in the 1970s. Tisch said there was a major financial crisis in New York City and his father would invite leaders to breakfast before their work day started to discuss important issues.

During his childhood he watched his uncle Larry, the financial genius, and his father Bob, the marketer, grow the business.

He watched how his father interacted with employees. He always knew their names and information about their personal lives.

The company stayed a family business and still is run by the Tisch family. He said the company is successful because they are opportunistic and value investors.

He said his family took a risk when they bought the Americana Hotel in Bal Harbour in 1956 because no one was going to Miami for corporate meetings. Now, the former tennis courts of the hotel are part of the Bal Harbour Shops.

The names Loews came in the late 50’s when the family began buying shares of Loews theaters.

They didn’t want to show movies. Rather, they wanted the land to build hotels.

He said they are able to compete with the big hotel names because they look for ways to exceed guests’ expectations and to make sure employees feel valued.

“We try to be an employer of choice,” he said.

Since the talk was held on a college campus, Tisch was asked to give advice to students about to enter the workforce.

Tisch’s tips:

Network and meet people because you never know where you are going to end up.

Take a job, any job and learn from every experience.

Put yourself in a position to learn.

It is easier to find a job when you have a job.

Listen, don’t do all the talking.

Remember everyone has a boss.

Don’t start every sentence with “I,” it shows you are more important.