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The Loews Regency hotel in New York reopens tomorrow, January 16th, 2014. It does so after a year long programme of complete refurbishment to restore the grand old lady of New York hotels to its former glory, perhaps again becoming the leading business and society hotel in New York. Such makeovers don’t run cheap however, and the bill is coming in at around US$100 million without much change left over.
The hotel, which first opened in 1963, has 379 rooms including 58 suites, and was developed by the Tisch brothers, Lawrence “Larry” and Preston Robert “Bob” It was Bob who mostly ran the Loews Hotels side of the business for the family, who were at the same time then building up one of America’s leading industrial conglomerates the Loews Corporation.
Bob Tisch even lived in the hotel, and Suite 1521 there was where the current Chairman of Loews Hotels, Bob’s son Jonathan Tisch, actually grew up.
Loews Regency Hotel New York (photo courtesy of Property Shark)
About the Loews Regency Hotel
Located at 540 Park Avenue, at Park and 61st Street, the hotel has a severe but imposing granite façade that impresses all who come anywhere near it, and a superb art deco inspired lobby with enormous high ceilings and a mirrored reception area. If you were a kid growing up on the Upper East Side, then going home to supper at the Regency would have been no hardship, and certainly also must have brought to Jonathan intimate knowledge of how the hotel industry operates, on the ground and in the corridors, at an early age.
Loews Regency Hotel, restored 2014
In announcing the reopening Jim McPartlin, who is the Managing Director of the Loews Regency Hotel said, “For more than 50 years, Loews Regency has captured the hearts of guests from around the world through distinctly personalised attention to individuals.”
“By partnering with the city’s finest talents and experts, we’ve put the best of New York City at our guests’ fingertips, so that we can continue offering the sophisticated urban traveller an unmatched New York experience, ” he continued.
In reimagining the hotel they kept the art deco inspired original lobby true to its spirit, but brought it back to absolutely sparkling condition. And the designers have otherwise introduced a very healthy dose of modernity to shapes, fabrics and amenities everywhere in the hotel. From being a little bit musty all is now crisp, clean, elegant and beautiful.
Always famous for its business leaders eating their “power breakfasts” at the Regency, there is now a completely new restaurant, and separate new coffee shop, complete with famous chefs to entice business leaders back to their old haunt. For the year it was closed the power breakfasts had been “subbed” out to a nearby eatery under the Regency’s sponsorship – at the Park Avenue Winter restaurant.
Loews Regency Hotel
As a small footnote to history, Bob Tisch is said to have begun the power breakfasts during New York’s fiscal crisis in the 1970s. Political heavyweights and captains of industry were invited to meet to find ways to help the city recover from near-bankruptcy.
Jonathan Tisch is said to have closely tested all the new design arrangements for authenticity himself all the way through the process, and apparently also made many of the decision choices too. There is even a new spa to tempt those whose muscles are in sore need of treatment, after a hard and stressful day closing a new deal somewhere on the island of dynamism that we call Manhattan.
On the other hand, it seems Jonathan Tisch is also a good delegator of authority. The Lowes Hotels & Resorts subsidiary of Loews Corporation, which operates nineteen hotels in the United States and Canada is run by Paul Whetsell, who was brought on board as President and CEO in 2012, with 35 years of lodging industry experience outside of Loews.
The Loews hotel subsidiary has been adding more hotels too. It has in the last year acquired hotels in Boston, Los Angeles and Washington DC. It is also developing new ones in Chicago and Florida. As well, with the Regency upgrade and the upgrade of their hotel in Philadelphia, the expansion is all coming together at a good time now the United States economy has been recovering. Accordingly hotel demand is rising too – The recent Hilton Worldwide IPO success has been a good indication of this as well.
How the Tisch brothers Lawrence & Robert got started in hotels
The Tisch brothers, Lawrence “Larry” and Preston Robert “Bob”, were born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in the 1920’s. After graduating from New York University and Wharton, elder brother Lawrence bought a 300 room hotel in Lakewood New Jersey in 1946. He closed the deal with US$125, 000 in seed money from his parents; brother Bob joined him in the business two years later.
Together they learned the hotel business and bought several more of hotels. By 1956 they were able to build their first one from scratch, the Americana in Bal Harbour in Florida, which cost them US$17 million to develop. Later, they acquired the Loews movie theatre chain in 1960, which they then basically stripped for its real estate development value, demolishing many old theatres in the process and later sold the business again in 1985, but keeping the Loews corporate name.
About Loews Corporation
The two then went on to build one of the Untied States’ major publicly listed industrial conglomerates. Lowes today operates in insurance, owning giant property and casualty firm CAN; hotels, with the Loews hotel chain that their original business became, now holding 19 modern hotels in the United States and Canada; the natural gas pipeline business, with Boardwalk Pipeline Partners; oil and gas exploration, with Highmount Exploration; and, the offshore drilling rig business Diamond Offshore drilling.
With 387 million shares outstanding, the company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market capitalization today of US$18 billion. It still remains 21% owned, just in terms of those required to report their ownership, by various family members, including the wives of the two founders and three of their sons.
(L-R) Jonathan Tisch, James Tisch and Andrew Tisch
About the Tisch family
In his spare time Lawrence Tisch was also CEO of CBS broadcasting from 1986 to 1995 and owned 25% of it. He died in 2003, and his wife Wilma today still owns 5.1% of the company. They had four children together. At 86 years of age Wilma Tisch is still very active on the social scene in New York, and rather glamorous as well. Forbes estimates her own personal net worth at US$1.5 billion, at September 2013.
Bob Tisch moonlighted too, becoming Postmaster General of the United States from 1986 to 1988 and, in 1991, he bought a 50% interest in the New York Giants football team. He died in 2005, and his wife Joan today still owns 6.1% of Loews directly herself. They had three children together. Joan today is 88, and Forbes estimates her net worth at US$2.9 billion – which includes the stake in the New York Giants.
The next generation
Three of their children manage Loews Corporation today, Bob’s son Jonathan and two of Lawrence’s sons Andrew and James. The three operate the company together in a triumvirate with an “Office of the President” and share responsibilities.
James, 61, is President and CEO of Loews, and he holds a 3.7% share position. Andrew, 64, is co-Chairman of the Board and Chairman of its Executive Committee and he holds a 3.9% share position. Their cousin Jonathan, 61, is co-Chairman of the Board and also Chairman of the hotel subsidiary Loews Hotels. He holds a 2.3% share position.
The Office of the President seems to have been a good solution for the transfer of power to the next generation in a way that encourages them to work well together. Judging by results most people seem to be happy with it, though as a stock Loews Corporation certainly suffers to some extent from what is known as the holding company discount syndrome. As well, by consolidating the insurance company with all its results it becomes far from entirely straightforward for Wall Street to understand and analyze. Sometimes such diffuseness can be an advantage, especially if it means short-term raiders stay away and allow them to continue to build the business in peace. In any case the family holdings, and two significant institutional holdings who are probably long term holders and friendly to management, are likely enough to block any serious outsiders from taking much of a look.
All members of the Tisch family have been good citizens and major philanthropic benefactors, donating many tens of millions of dollars to their favourite causes.