Hotel Jerome: the end of an era
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” The former general manager of the Hotel Jerome said Friday he didn’t have a chance to keep his job after this week’s regime change.
Tony DiLucia, who worked at the Jerome for 19 years and was the general manager for 15 years, said he was simply “not retained” by the new owners, Chicago-based Elysian Worldwide LLC and Lodging Capital Partners LLC. The two LLCs bought the property for a reported $ 35.7 million Thursday, several weeks after hiring RockResorts, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, to manage the Main Street hotel.
“I was told two weeks ago that I wasn’t going to be retained,” DiLucia said. “There was no negotiation.”
Dick Butera, who, along with Jim McManus, owned the Jerome in the 1980s, was more blunt. “He basically got fired.”
Butera took on DiLucia as an intern and later encouraged him to become GM, which he did at the age of 29, DiLucia said.
“All of the wonderful things he did for the Jerome, and these people can him the first day. Welcome to town RockResorts; it’s going to be a rough ride,” Butera said.
DiLucia said the Oklahoma Publishing Co., the former owner of the Jerome, treated him as though he “had worked for them for 19 years,” not two.
While he expressed interest in staying on when the hotel changed hands, there was no discussion about the matter, DiLucia said.
“They asked me and I said ‘I would like to stay,'” DiLucia said. But when Oklahoma Publishing sold the Jerome, it was his last day.
DiLucia had no harsh word for the new owners and managers, adding he hadn’t really dealt with them much.
“I think they have a very different management principle and style,” DiLucia said. “Maybe they just wanted a fresh face.”
“I love this community,” DiLucia said, and he plans to stay; DiLucia is president of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. But, DiLucia added, there are only three hotels in Aspen “and they all have GMs.”
DiLucia is on a short vacation and said he has no plans for his next move.
“It’s going to take me a little bit of a while to regroup,” DiLucia said.
“The loser here is not Tony; it’s RockResorts, big time,” Butera said.
Butera likened ownership of the Jerome to “temporary custody of the heart and soul of Aspen,” and said DiLucia understood that. DiLucia gave the Jerome direction and will stand out as an important figure in the history of the hotel.
“When the first thing you do is fire one of the sweetest men in town, beloved by everyone, it says, ‘RockResorts you don’t get it,'” Butera said. “It’s not the way we behave here.”
“With Tony’s departure it’s really an end of an era,” said Steve Shotsberger, former director of operations who resigned the day of the management change. “Having worked with Tony so long, I can’t see myself at the Jerome without Tony.”
Shotsberger is taking a job at a hotel in the Caribbean with a similar historic and boutique character as the Jerome, he said.
“What stands out is the dignity and respect Tony has for people. He made the hotel what it is,” Shotsberger said.
And after hearing that both DiLucia and Shotsberger were leaving, Ann Fitzgerald, then human resources manager at the Jerome, accepted a position at the Little Nell the night before the change.
“I was very loyal to the old management, so it’s difficult to change,” Fitzgerald said. “Tony’s kind of the heart and soul of the Hotel Jerome and that was a factor.”
Former employees, from the executive offices to bellhops out front, say they’ll miss DiLucia.
“He’s a great leader and he’s an even better person. … The kind of person you can absolutely go to, and he’s always there for you,” said Julie Oliff, DiLucia’s former assistant, who stayed on with the new Jerome team.
“The word is ‘grace’ with which he handled everything that came his way. That’s how I remember him,” Oliff said.
“Steve was the manager that was hands on,” said Daniel Demirtas, a Jerome bellhop, who said DiLucia remembered everyone’s face and checked in with him at curbside most mornings.
“He was the heart and soul of the place for the last 20 years,” said Jim Jerome, a hotel security guard, who said employees loved working for DiLucia. “There’s not much anybody wouldn’t do for Tony.”
“Just walking out of there yesterday was a difficult day for me,” DiLucia said. “I’ll miss them all very much.”
Charles Agar’s e- mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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