Vail offshoot replaced as Hotel Jerome manager | AspenTimes.com

Vail offshoot replaced as Hotel Jerome manager

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – A subsidiary of Vail Resorts will be replaced this offseason as the management company of Aspen’s Hotel Jerome.RockResorts is being replaced Nov. 1 by Auberge Resorts of Mill Valley, Calif., both firms announced Tuesday. Auberge’s chief operating officer is Eric Calderon, former general manager of the Little Nell Hotel in Aspen for almost 20 years. Calderon left The Little Nell about six years ago to join Auberge.Calderon said he won’t be the general manager of the Hotel Jerome, but he will spend considerable time in Aspen helping the management team set a new course for the iconic lodge. The Hotel Jerome “is an old gem that is not realizing its potential,” he said.A primary goal will be to reconnect the Hotel Jerome with the community, according to Calderon. From an outsider’s perspective, that connection seems to have faded, he said. The hotel will resume its ballroom host numerous public community events and private ceremonies, like weddings. Calderon said he also wants the Jerome to recapture its popularity as a Friday Afternoon Club hangout.”I think the hotel needs another Tony,” Calderon said, referring to former Hotel Jerome general manager Tony DeLucia, who had a strong presence in Aspen while Calderon was at The Little Nell. DeLucia parted ways with the Hotel Jerome after it went through a series of sales.The hotel owner will move ahead with a long-planned renovation, Calderon said, but he emphasized that the Jerome will not transform into a five-star, five-diamond property with drastically higher rates.”The overall intent isn’t to substantially change the hotel,” he said.The Hotel Jerome opened in 1889 and has survived many ups and downs. The 94-room hotel has earned AAA’s four-diamond award.The property will remain a hotel. There will be no effort to turn guest rooms into fractional ownership units, Calderon said.The Jerome is owned by Jerome Property LLC, which has a principal address at 540 W. Madison St, Suite 2500, in Chicago. That’s also home to DRW Trading Group, whose founder and CEO is Don R. Wilson Jr. The company is a private trading group with its headquarters in Chicago and offices in New York, London and Connecticut, according to its website. It employees 450 people worldwide.DRW Trading Group didn’t respond to a request seeking comment on the Hotel Jerome management change.Calderon declined to disclose the length of Auberge’s management contract. The owners are making a “long-term commitment to us and to the hotel,” he said.RockResorts released a statement that said it had agreed to a short-term management contract with a former owner of the Hotel Jerome. That contract was extended with the new owners, and has now expired. RockResorts signed a management contract with the former owner in April 2007. At that time, The Aspen Times was told the management contract could be as long as 15 years, with possible extensions.Calderon said it was his understanding that Jerome Property interviewed several potential management firms before selecting Auberge. The process took several months. A hotel employee said workers have been aware for months that changes could be made with management.Calderon said Auberge wants to keep the staff of roughly 150 full- and part-time employees in place. They learned of the management change on Tuesday.Calderon said some minor changes will be in place for the ski season, such as the return of a ski concierge. The big step down the road will be the “refreshening” of the hotel, he said.The city of Aspen approved a $45 million to $50 million remodel plan in 2006 for the former hotel owners, the Gaylord family of Oklahoma City. After a somewhat contentious review process with the Aspen City Council, the Gaylords abruptly sold the hotel to LCP-Elysian Aspen Owner LLC in 2007 without making changes. Elysian allegedly defaulted on a bank loan and lost the hotel last year to Jerome Ventures, an affiliate of Jerome Property LLC.Mechanical systems are overdue for an upgrade and there will be a cosmetic remodeling of the rooms, according to Calderon. His team will meet with the architect and designers over the next few weeks to review the plans. Renovations could begin as soon as next year, at the discretion of the owners, according to Calderon. Once remodeled, the property will be even more attractive to a wider range of customers, he said. Auberge will try to increase group business.Auberge specializes in managing small hotels that have strong ties to their communities, according to Calderon. It is a small, hands-on company that manages eight properties: “There’s no corporate feel to us,” he said. The Hotel Jerome will be Auberge’s third property in ski country. It entered a partnership with the Aspen Club & Spa in March to design and develop luxury residences “offering affluent living and an unparalleled wellness lifestyle,” according to a company press release. Auberge also has a project in Telluride.scondon@aspentimes.com