Vail Resorts offshoot to run Hotel Jerome | AspenTimes.com
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Vail Resorts offshoot to run Hotel Jerome

ASPEN An offshoot of Vail Resorts is in line to manage one of Aspen’s most iconic businesses, the historic Hotel Jerome.Vail Resorts announced Monday that one of the company’s subsidiaries, RockResorts, has been selected by Chicago-based Elysian Worldwide LLC and Lodging Capital Partners LLC, which are buying the Jerome from the Oklahoma Publishing Co.The management agreement, which one spokesman said is “long-term … as long as 15 years with extensions,” is contingent on the closing of the sale. David Pisor, head of Elysian Worldwide, said the closing should come within 45 days.Pisor, 42, and his partner, Steve Kisielica, 37, of Lodging Capital Partners, were in Aspen this week looking over the Hotel Jerome and meeting with staff. Pisor said “we’ve been here every other week over the past six months,” conducting what Kisielica termed “due diligence” on the deal.During an interview at the St. Regis Aspen, where the pair is staying, Pisor and Kisielica said they still do not know exactly what they will do with the Jerome since, as Kisielica said, “We don’t own it yet.” He said their only goal so far is to provide guests with “a high-quality resort experience.”Pisor said the deal to buy the hotel came up after “we found out they [Oklahoma Publishing Co.] were less interested in moving forward [with renovation and other plans], and we stepped in.” Pisor approached the owners; Kisielica said it was after the deal was struck that they decided to “partner up.”Pisor said he had been looking at Aspen for a long time. “This looked like it’d be perfect. It’s a spectacular building … a spectacular landmark,” he said.He declined to name the purchase price for the property, which has been rumored at more than $50 million, due to a strict confidentiality agreement written into the sales contract.Pisor and Kisielica hope that when the hotel reopens in late May, it will “become an integral part of the city again.” They are not sure, however, whether the hotel will be converted to timeshares, condos or another type of accommodations.RockResorts operates 11 hotel/resort facilities around the U.S., with more in the works; some properties offer condos and other nontraditional lodging uses in a variety of mixes.Tony DeLucia, general manager of the Jerome, first heard of RockResorts’ selection about two weeks ago.Reached by cell phone while he was traveling, DeLucia called RockResorts “a very reputable management company” and stated, “They’re into hotels. They’re familiar with resorts, have a great reputation … these hotels are all over.”Asked if he found it ironic that the hotel would be run by a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, often considered a business rival of the Aspen Skiing Co. and of Aspen in general, DeLucia said, “I don’t think that’s a big concern of ours at all.”He said that as far as he could tell, the company is planning to keep much of the hotel’s work force in place.”They’ve been talking to all of us,” he reported. “It’s been very positive for myself and the other management [staff] at the hotel.”Debbie Braun, president of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, first heard about RockResorts’ selection on April 22. When asked her feelings about having Vail in charge of the Jerome, she replied half-jokingly, “It’s horrible!”But she quickly added, more moderately, “There’s big picture and there’s small picture” when contemplating the news.”Vail Resorts doesn’t own us,” she declared firmly, “and that’s how I’m looking at it.” She said the new owner, who is not a hotel operator, chose a firm he believes will do the job well.But, she added, “It’s amazing to think that, with all the people who have owned it [the Jerome] and tried to do something with it … where we are now is disappointing.”Jeff Hanle, Skico public relations director, reacted similarly, saying, “They are just managing it. They didn’t buy it.”He added Vail Resorts also is a majority owner of the Aspen Sports retail chain, “So it’s only natural that they’d want to be associated with us again, right? Hopefully, the partners will respect the history and tradition [the Hotel Jerome] represents and do a good job.”It is “odd,” though, to have a rival ski resort in charge of a local lodging icon, he said, terming it a “cats and dogs sleeping together type of thing.”But, he added with a note of irony: “It’s in their best interests to promote Aspen now. We’ll all move together in a sort of odd little partnership.”RockResorts, according to its website, was founded in 1956 by the late Laurance Rockefeller, a grandson of Standare Oil founder John D. Rockefeller and a businessman whom The Washington Post called “an early leader in venture capitalism” in a 2004 obituary. At its founding, RockResorts reportedly embarked on development projects in numerous resort areas in the Caribbean, Hawaii and around the western United States. The Rockefeller family later sold the company and its holdings. The brand ultimately was purchased by Olympus Hospitality in 1999, and Vail Resorts bought a majority interest in Olympus in 2001, according to the website. The company now operates 11 resorts around the U.S. and is developing three more in Vail, Miami and the Bahamas.James O’Donnell, RockResorts’ regional director of operations, said the company has signed “a long-term hotel management agreement … as long as 15 years with extensions.” And both Pisor and Kisielica said the agreement might be extended further than that.O’Donnell said RockResorts plans to begin managing the property “right around when the hotel reopens, around May 23,” and that “our intention is to keep the majority of the personnel” who have been working there.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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