Last year Joie de Vivre and Thompson hotels merged to form Commune Hotels and Resorts, with Niki Leondakis, formerly of Kimpton, stepping in as the new company’s CEO in November. Other big announcements included acquisition of the historic Chicago Athletic Association building and the development of a new micro-hotel concept that will debut in Manhattan. While it was difficult to leave Kimpton behind after being there nearly 20 years, Leondakis said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to assume leadership of such a dynamic and growing company. Here’s what else she had to say to us.
1. Lodging: As Commune’s CEO, what are your main objectives for the next few years?
Leondakis: Commune has a tremendously talented and motivated team. We are in high growth mode, with exciting new deals in development for both the Thompson and Joie de Vivre brands, in multiple key markets. My goal is to steer the course and enhance their efforts with a system, focus, and structure that will grow us into our target markets. My main objectives are to position our existing talent to be successful, to augment our team with strategic new hires, to refine the quality of our operations and guest relationships, and to build the foundation of and awareness for the Commune brand.
2. Lodging: In what ways will your background as the former COO of Kimpton lend credibility with hotel investment companies, as Commune seeks financial partners to expand its portfolio?
Leondakis: I think that my background reassures hotel investors that Commune will take a flexible and sustainable approach to profitability. This means an intense focus on top line revenues through sophisticated sales and revenue management leadership, an emphasis on building customer loyalty through the experience, a commitment to excellence in day-to-day hotel operations, and expertise on building the operating efficiencies required in boutique hotels.
3. Lodging: How will you ensure that Joie de Vivre and Thompson maintain their own identities while also building a strong reputation and identity for Commune?
Leondakis: While we’re focused on maintaining the integrity of each of the individual Commune brands, we are also strengthening synergies across the portfolio to leverage our expanding geographic reach, enabling developers and owners to benefit from the effectiveness and efficiency of our scale. At the same time, our guests can continue to rely on the imaginative and playful nature of JdV Hotels and the luxurious sophistication of Thompson, but they will notice a service philosophy, thoughtful amenities, and a commitment to operations excellence that will be consistent across all Commune brands.
4. Lodging: What management and acquisition deals are in the works? Can you give us an update on Commune’s new hotel concept?
Leondakis: Our development team has quite a few deals in the pipeline. Most recently, we announced our acquisition of the Crown building in Miami Beach, which we will renovate and brand as the Roosevelt. This project represents the first extension of what will be an independent Roosevelt brand within the Commune portfolio. This brand has its roots in Thompson’s Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles and will replicate the social vibrancy of that iconic property.
Additionally, we are in the process of developing one of our latest acquisitions, the historic Chicago Athletic Association building in Chicago. Along with Thompson Chicago launching later this year, this will be yet another iconic property added to our portfolio, which will put us in a strong position in this very important market.
The concept for our new brand is a new type of hotel that’s efficient, affordable, and beautiful. Complementing Commune’s existing brands, this “micro-hotel” concept will be Commune’s entry-level brand that will be defined by intelligence and simplicity, by responsible luxury rather than decadence. We are very close to announcing details regarding the first location in Manhattan.