Danziger talks his transition to Trump Hotels
13 AUGUST 2015 8:52 AM
Eric Danziger has big plans for the Trump Hotel Collection, which may or may not include new brands.
NEW YORK CITY—Eric Danziger started his career in the hotel industry working at a luxury hotel. And that’s likely how he’ll end it.
Effective 1 September, the former head of Wyndham Hotel Group, whose career includes other C-suite stays at Starwood Hotels and Carlson Hotels Worldwide, will become the Trump Hotel Collection’s first CEO.
Danziger will stay aboard Hampshire Hotels Management through 31 August. “I’m not talking much time in between,” he joked.
He described the move as “one of the toughest decisions of my life. I don’t start things and not see them through,” he said of leaving Hampshire, the company he helped jumpstart with the creation of Début Hotel Group, a collection of lifestyle hotel brands. “It was hard. Can I do this and not fully get this thing launched?”
But the opportunity at Trump Hotels was simply too good to pass up, Danziger said.
“You don’t get to pick your timing to have certain opportunities. For me, having started as bellman of a luxury hotel to end as a CEO of a terrific luxury brand, how do I not do that?
“It’s a little bit part fantasy and part American Dream,” he added.
All in the family
Danziger’s dealings with a certain Republican presidential candidate—namely, Donald Trump Sr.—will be limited.
“I had a brief meeting with Donald Sr., but all of my meetings were with (his children and Trump Hotel leadership team Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric). They really are running this business. Mr. Trump happens to be pretty busy these days,” Danziger said.
It truly is a family affair, he added. Developing that culture, that passion that can only emanate from putting your name on each building, is something every global hotel company aspires to, he said.
“The Trump brand itself is luxury, and done in a more meaningful and thoughtfully executed way than big companies because it’s their name on the building. … You have Ritz-Carlton, but there’s no Mr. Ritz. … It’s much more personal to them to be sure to have great hotels to be run well,” he said.
Danziger identified with that passion.
“I really felt a kinship with them and an opportunity to work with people who will work with me to accomplish their vision and their dream, which is to be major, global, 5-star hotel company,” he said.
That Danziger was the company’s first CEO only speaks to that drive.
“I don’t know how they can send any broader message to the deep commitment of the brand and its growth,” he said of being named CEO. “To the extent they’re saying the family will always be involved to the extent they will care to be, they also recognized that to be a global force it would be helpful to that force to have a global guy or woman.”
Their ‘global guy’
Danziger development experience will come in handy as the group looks to grow around the globe.
“I want to make it a wildly and widely successful luxury hotel company that may or may not have other brands as well that is always highly regarded by the employee, consumer and owner constituencies,” he said. “I believe we can at least double the size of the current company in the next five years. And then hopefully beyond that as well.”
Trump Hotels counts nine properties open with an additional four in the pipeline.
Danziger thinks there’s a need for another major player in the luxury hotel arena.
“Having done hotels in 40 countries at various tier levels, I see the opportunity, I see the need,” he said. “Owners want to do business with good people that are thoughtful, caring and communicative, not arrogant. These are the things that can separate this company in addition to its great design and execution.”
Handing over Hampshire
Danziger insists he’s leaving Hampshire in a good place.
“People didn’t know much about Hampshire, and Hampshire wasn’t really a management company,” he said of the company when he stepped in as president and CEO in April 2014. At that time, Hampshire was more of a developer, overseeing an eclectic mix of 15 hotels.
It didn’t take long for Danziger to put his own stamp on Hampshire. Within a few months, he set an initial growth target of 300 to 400 hotels, with the long-term possibility of stretching into the thousands.
“When we introduced the concept of Début and some new brands, I think it gave the people here a story to tell that they did not have before. Now they just need a new storyteller,” Danziger said. “We’ve opened some doors across the globe in several places as well as the United States. There’s lot of deals in the pipeline. …
“They are on a very solid footing with a strategy,” he continued. “You’ve got to have great people, great style and great execution. All they have to do now is have great execution, and then put the strategy to work.”