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A Lifestyle Choice

Hostmark Hospitality Taps Kimpton Veteran Vlasic To Help Grow Portfolio

Thursday, February 21, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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With an eye on dramatically expanding its lifestyle hotel division and entering new markets, Hostmark Hospitality Group has named industry veteran Ronald Vlasic to the position of COO.

Vlasic brings more than 25 years of hospitality experience to the Schaumburg, IL-based management company, most recently serving as vp, operations for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. In his new role, Vlasic will be expected to oversee and grow the company’s third-party management portfolio of branded and independent hotels across the U.S.

Vlasic--who returned to his native Chicago in 2001 to head up midwest hotels for Kimpton--noted that he and Hostmark President and CEO Jerry Cataldo had been discussing the possibility of him joining the company a number of times. He had developed a relationship with the CEO, as well as with Chairman C.A. (Bud) Cataldo and Vice Chairman Robert Cataldo, largely through their work with the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association.

“I really wasn’t actually looking for a reason to leave Kimpton. I had 20-plus very happy years there and it was a wonderful company to work for. Things in the last couple of years had changed at Kimpton and they were looking at doing things in a different way. The timing seemed right so Jerry and I started talking again. I loved that Hostmark is still that family-owned type of entity where decisions are made right there in a collaborative way,” he said.

Vlasic was instrumental in helping build the Kimpton portfolio from 16 bay area properties to some 63 hotels nationwide. He acknowledged he sees a lot of similarities between the privately-held Hostmark and the earlier years of Kimpton, which had been private before being acquired by IHG in 2015.

“The way Bill Kimpton ran the company is a lot like how the Cataldo family approaches it. Be an entrepreneur, take a calculated risk and be nimble. Bill was always about do what you can to make the hotel a success don’t depend on somebody else making the decision for you and that’s how Hostmark is. If you’re the person running the hotel in Key West then bring out that local flavor and integrate the community to help make that hotel successful and Bill always preached that,” he said.

Vlasic also served as AH&LA Chairman in 2013 and Hostmark executives touted the value of his many relationships as being a key factor in the decision to bring him on board. He reflected back on his time with the AH&LA and reinforced what he brings to the company.

“I was with AH&LA when Joe McInerney was President and CEO. I never met anyone who was more connected than Joe was. He knew anyone and everyone in the industry and as I came up through AH&LA he introduced me to a great number of people. That’s the thing about the hospitality business; they’re not associates, they’re friends. You forge these relationships so there’s quite a few owners/operators and other entities that are looking to collaborate. We’re focused on trying to see what we can do to bring it all together,” he said.

Vlasic outlined some aggressive growth plans for the company suggesting Hostmark-- which develops as well as operates--could triple its portfolio of 17 properties over the next several years. He noted the company was preparing The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center in New Orleans--which is attached to the National WWII Museum and will be part of Hilton’s Curio Collection--for an October opening. “We’re taking hotels like this and using that as an example to leverage other opportunities,” he said.

He also cited two additional examples of Hostmark’s lifestyle properties in the 100-room Perry Hotel Key West and the Merrill Hotel & Conference Center in Muscatine, IA, which the company just took over last week.

However, Vlasic further suggested there could be plenty of opportunity ahead for the company to significantly grow its portfolio in large part as a result of his Kimpton past.

“We would love to be considered as a potential operator for Kimpton hotels down the road. Nobody knows that model better than I do that’s not inside the organization. Our goal is to align ourselves with Kimpton and say ‘hey let’s do some deals together if you’re looking for another operator to carry the Kimpton flag.’ I think we could do that in a precise manner. What’s important at Kimpton is the culture and its always been that way. Given that I understand that culture I could bring it alive at Hostmark and with some of those hotels that could potentially be flagged as Kimpton properties,” he said.

Nevertheless, Vlasic pointed out that as COO his impact on the company can be much greater than building its portfolio of properties. “I’m trying to bring a level of development for the staff there too. There’s a lot of long-term executives at Hostmark and they’re anxious to learn about what other things we could do to develop and grow and some of things that I’ve done in the past with Kimpton that we could perhaps implement there. I think employee development is huge for us right now,” he said.


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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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