Exciting news for fans of boutique hotel group Thompson Hotels — they’ve announced a merger with Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a West Coast boutique brand, creating a new entity temporarily called JT Hospitality. The new group now manages 45 properties, and will be based in New York City.
Thompson Hotels CEO and co-owner Stephen Brandman will be CEO, while co-owner Jason Pomeranc will share chairman duties with John Pritzker, whose private equity firm Geolo Capital acquired a majority stake in Joie de Vivre last year and brings a $150 million fund dedicated to hotel acquisitions and co-investments to the partnership. We spoke with Pomeranc about Thompson’s next step.
How long was this merger in the works? We’ve been in talks for a little under six months — it was an interesting evolution. It’s a big deal for a privately held company to join forces with another because the founders are all very involved and very passionate. It took a courting period to be sure it made sense, so we’re very excite to have reached this point.
Thompson Hotels has a strong brand identity, as does Joie de Vivre. How do you merge the two without losing anything? We’ll certainly take this time to reinforce our own brand and help Joie de Vivre do the same with theirs. Ultimately, we’ll become more ourselves, not less, and there will most likely be one or two new concepts we create together as well.
Why Joie de Vivre ultimately? How does it help Thompson expand? We’ve always had a foot on both coasts with the Roosevelt, but this venture creates a truly national — and what’s becoming an international — company. California is a very creative community right now, and that’s where our focus has always been, on cities like Miami, New York, Toronto, Los Angeles. We’re really covering all the gateways corridors to the States, and London is the next step.
This certainly helps Thompson reach the resort community; what can your business travel clients expect from you now? With the evolution of our brands, business travel has evolved as well. Business travelers are much more independent-minded than they used to be, and they want to be in a more intimate, interesting setting. Plus, the way that we all work is very different, with smartphones and laptops and telecommuting; the big business center is really a thing of the past. We create spaces where you can eat, work, play, and sleep all under the same roof, and that is what really saves time and helps business travelers.
Was there anything unexpected in the merger? What’s been the best thing about the process so far? Pritzker really came along at the right time, and he really wants to grow. The plan we’ve laid out … we have the same vision. I think we’ve both seen three stages in the hotel business: the Hilton phase, where standardization guaranteed travelers a certain kind of experience anywhere in the world; the Schrager phase, where everyone was really deconstructing that, and being independent and unpredictable was aspirational and cool; now, we’re in this phase of blending the two, being unique and hyperlocal but still giving guests a guarantee of brand identity and quality throughout our properties.
While Pomeranc won’t give details, projects are in the work for after the new year: Two hotels and a development site have recently been acquired in Manhattan, and new management contracts have been signed for hotels in Scottsdale and Chicago, Joie de Vivre’s first properties outside of California. The new entity will also be formally renamed early next year as the result of a joint branding exercise that is currently underway. Meanwhile, look for a new Thompson property in London opening in January, and their takeover of the Victor in Miami’s South Beach even sooner.